When Leigh Perkins bought the Orvis Company in 1965, the fly-fishing and bird-hunting outfitter was a sleepy business with annual sales that had leveled off at $500,000. Over the next thirty years Perkins built Orvis's annual sales to $100 million by revolutionizing the catalog retail industry and reshaping the company's tradition-bound culture. He achieved this by blending his love of nature with his business acumen and bringing the commonsense approach he learned in the streams and on his hunts to his boardroom decision making.
The basic principles he used to run his business include: The Customer Is Always Right. . . Even When You Know Damned Well He's Wrong: Perkins put such a high priority on customer service that he would personally man the phones at the height of the holiday season each year to keep in touch with his customers.Product Excellence: Perkins made sure that everything Orvis sold was of the highest quality--even if that meant he had to fight the US government to get access to embargoed Chinese bamboo for fly rods.Empower Your Employees: By promoting from within, and by empowering his employees to solve problems without manager involvement, Perkins built a loyal and talented team.
Living the outdoor life his catalog popularized, Perkins traveled all over the world to fish and hunt, from Argentina to New Zealand, while devoting his resources to conservation causes worldwide.
Leigh Perkins was CEO of the Orvis Company from 1965 to 1992. After 1992, he devoted his efforts to a variety of conservation causes and divided his time among homes in Vermont, Florida, and Wyoming. Mr. Perkins passed away in 2021. Geoffrey Norman is the author of nine books. He is currently a contributing editor at Forbes FYI and writes frequently about the sporting life for a variety of magazines.
"Leigh Perkins has combined a life of hunting and fishing with a notable career as CEO of Orvis. How he did this is a remarkable tale."—former President Jimmy Carter
"Few have done so well in business--and even fewer can say they enjoyed it as much."--William E. Simon, former Secretary of the Treasury