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The future of Leatherman is in the hands of the customer

We recently sat down with Leatherman CEO Ben Rivera to discuss why the legendary company is “the benchmark for performance, quality and design.” (Spoiler alert: This is a “maniac dedication” to the multi-tool.)

While entertainingly explaining the complexities and challenges involved in creating and evolving an iconic product, Rivera spoke in depth about: leatherman garageis the company’s new innovation incubator dedicated to small batch prototype tools. Most importantly, Rivera thought candidly about the critical role customer feedback played in Leatherman’s design process and future success.

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Somewhat counterintuitively, many of Leatherman’s innovations Its generous 25-year warrantyRivera explains that the warranty informs “how we run our business, even in the manufacturing process and how we sell our products.” The information, complaints, and insights collected through the warranty returns process are “very irreplaceable in practice,” he says Rivera. “[For 39 years, we have been] We incorporate that knowledge generously into our products. We want our products to be better, and we want our users to feel safe. Don’t be afraid to break your $100 Leatherman tool knowing that the Leatherman will fix it. “

It launched earlier this year (and in honor of its founder Tim Leatherman’s original workspace), leatherman garage You are responsible for trying new and bold ideas and retrying others. In fact, Garage is headed by Lee Leatherman, the company’s director of special projects. Each year Garage releases several Moonshot products. Then, when the team collects customer feedback, “we can see if people like it and if we like it,” Rivera says.


Ultimately, only a few goalie light designs will be produced in limited numbers. While the concept alludes to a mad scientist’s machine shop, Rivera quips, “It’s actually an office with a sticky note that says ‘Garage’ on the door.” You-have Authenticity fits perfectly with his DIY ethos of the brand.

Rivera lights up when he gets even more geeky. “We’re also experimenting with new materials,” he says, adding, “Coating is another thing we’ve been experimenting with.” His second product for The Garage dark side, with diamond-like carbon (DLC) coating. “I love making these products. I think [the Garage is] It’s really the heart of the brand. It’s creative problem solving. ”

Feedback from Garage customers is invaluable as Garage is a new and important part of Leatherman’s future. Because of this, ownership insights gleaned from a relatively small cohort of garage superfans will help brands determine whether their limited prototypes are truly successful. Regardless, Garage’s main purpose is to bring incredible tools into the hands of avid Leatherman enthusiasts. If Rivera wasn’t leading the company, it’s clear he would have been first in line at the upcoming garage drop.

leather man tool


Garage innovation Iconic Leatherman ‘folding pliers’ form factor, Rivera didn’t cut short: “The short answer is no.” But non-pliers are no exception. “We want to be able to develop and offer additive products that extend the appeal of Leatherman,” says Rivera. He excitedly talks about what might appeal to the next generation of ‘problem solvers’ (those who aren’t necessarily young and who aren’t yet Leatherman users). “I think we’re going to need a higher level of design or a different level of design. We have to balance weight and size very carefully. As we launch new things, we have to evolve the aesthetic look. What I’m looking for is really groundbreaking innovation, relevant to the consumer.”

In fact, there are already many on the table.Leatherman’s very extensive custom shop Everything from your initials to an overall image can be engraved on your product. This is a truly scalable product, offering a massive landscape with endless possibilities, especially in gifting (and self-gifting). An essential tool engraved with a meaningful message is a solid first step for beginners and customers who want to share the world of Leatherman.

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Rivera’s chosen Leatherman Free P2, and he tells anecdotes about using it during fishing trips, off-roading, and home improvements. I test its limits before I get a regular tool.”) He reads me a play-by-play list that I keep track of every time I use the Leatherman during my recent workday. (Highlight: Use one Leatherman to fix another, then open the locked engineering department door for Jimmy hours later). As a finale, Rivera lifts his FREE P2. This is the piece he’s been fidgeting with off-camera since our calls began.

Man holding leatherman tool in workshop


Leatherman’s catalog evokes a strong candy store kid vibe, but a pre-customized Wonka bar never costs more than $180. on the websiteoffers 67 non-garage multi-tools, 8 knives and 78 accessories. Rivera is fully aware that shoppers are spoiled for choice. “I wish I could buy four tools for camping and four tools for cars. But really, you can do so much with one tool.”

To that end, Rivera’s commitment to innovation is partly focused on staying true to the brand’s core ideals while focusing on Leatherman’s product range. Four ‘Leatherman Guiding Principles’ guide our decision-making and culture, including the ‘Dominate Multi-Purpose Tool’ segment, ‘Be the best place to work’, and ‘Make what we sell in Portland, Oregon.’ (He emphasizes the importance of leatherman perfection. in Portland, Oregonfrom enterprise to design to manufacturing, “brings coils of steel to the east end of the building, and ships Leatherman’s tools to the west end of the building.”)

The fourth principle is a commitment to “always be private,” says Rivera. “We don’t want investors or anyone else telling us how to run our business.”

Rivera runs a business and he clearly values ​​his job. But in reality, there are many other people who influence the direction of the company: customers. As with his first 39 years, Leatherman’s future will be guided by feedback from those who love the brand as much as Rivera. Whatever the innovation, whatever the task at hand, Leatherman’s products, pliers or otherwise, always give customers the power to try them out.

learn more The future of Leatherman is in the hands of the customer

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