- CompanyColumbia Sportswear
Boyle has spent the better part of his life in what was originally a family business. As a boy, he tested new products for his mother Gert— matriarch of the company—before they went on the market. In 1970, as a senior at the University of Oregon, Boyle’s recruitment into the company came earlier than expected when his father died of a heart attack. Since then Columbia has endured tough stretches—and enjoyed some highly successful ones. Initially, the mother-son team struggled as the company teetered on bankruptcy before they refocused the brand from formal work attire to outdoor clothing. Decades later, the company weathered another stormy period after a poor production decision caused sales to stall from 2005 to 2009. Boyle brought in a new team of scientists to develop gear that would set the company apart from its competitors. The result: After obtaining one patent in the company’s first 68 years, Columbia now has more than 200 global patents for products such as a space-blanket jacket and a cooling T-shirt. After continued struggles, he brought in new managers in 2013. Boyle’s strategic decisions are finally paying off again: The company achieved record sales of $2.1 billion in 2014 and shares have risen 25% this year. The company is back in the limelight with its recent global campaign “Tested Tough,” which features 91-year-old Gert—still chairman—in ads that conjure up the company’s successful “Tough Mother” campaign in the 1980s.