It is not unusual for people who love sports to make money doing something they are passionate aboutÐÐprofessional golfers, ball players, and race car drivers to name but a few.

It is a bit unusual, however, when one runs a major company dedicated to the outdoors and still has time to enjoy the sporting life. Leigh Perkins is one such man. He bought a failing fly-fishing and bird-hunting company named Orvis and turned it into an enormously successful business.

Perkins was born to a wealthy family, which enabled him to taste the joys of outdoor life at an early age. His mother loved to hunt, and he often hunted with her. His mother was also a relative of Mark Hanna, the industrialist whose businesses were coal, iron mining, and shipping, so Perkins inherited a business gene along with a love of the outdoors. His first job after college was in the iron mines of northern Minnesota, where he started as an engineer's helper a tough and dangerous job. He left the mines and went into sales at a machinery company. At 37, he used his funds and promissory notes to buy Orvis, an outdoor products company which was languishing in stagnant waters.

Thus begins the story of a man on a mission to turn a company around and make it highly profitable. It was not an easy job. The company was stuck in its old ways. Perkins had to use all the skills he learned in the mines and as a salesman to change customs and teach his employees to regard the customer in a new light.

Perkins's initiatives to adapt to new technology, embrace innovation, and move Orvis into the future make interesting reading. He stumbled along the way. He made costly mistakes. He made social gaffes. That is precisely why his story is fascinating and a far cry from most how I made my millions chronicles. ¦ Lloyd Armour is a retired newspaper editor.

comments powered by Disqus