Stuart Redsun | Crain's Philadelphia

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Stuart Redsun


Columbia Sportswear Co. has been based in Portland for 70 years and started out as a hat company in 1938. Columbia owns seven other sportswear brands—including Mountain Hardwear, SOREL, Montrail, prAna and Pacific Trail—and is sold in more than 100 countries. It has 55 store outlets and manages 5,320 full-time employees.

The Mistake:

It doesn’t matter what department you work in, everyone has a point of view about marketing. 

I can think of coming into an organization where eight different divisions of the company all thought the deliverables as head of marketing were totally different. One group wanted a focus on their product. Another group wanted a focus on employee morale. Another group wanted a focus on a brand message. Another group wanted a focus on community relations.

Without clarity, you end up spending all your time trying to appease little buyers. At the end of the day, it’s nearly impossible to make any significant impact.

Come in with a very clear, agreed-upon direction of what success looks like.

The Lesson:

In my first discussion with Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle, I asked, "What is success for you?" Tim couldn't have been clearer that he wanted the Columbia brand's marketing efforts to match the quality of Columbia's products.

Knowing that was the case, I made sure to clarify that was the clear direction when I spoke to all the other members of the executive team—because I could have spent time focusing on SOREL or Mountain Hardwear or the other brands that we have. I was also very clear to the team of marketers what the mission was and how we were going to drive to that mission together.

My advice is to come in with a very clear, agreed-upon direction of what success looks like before you even start the job. 

Follow Columbia Sportswear on Twitter at @Columbia1938.

Photo Courtesy of Stuart Redsun. 

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