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A Sportsman's Life: How I Built Orvis by Mixing Business and Sport

Perkins, Leigh, with Geoffrey Norman

ISBN 10: 0871137577 / ISBN 13: 9780871137579
Published by Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999
Used Condition: Near Fine Hardcover
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About this Item

First edition, stated; first printing, full number line. Inscribed and signed by the author on the half-title page: "To C-- D-- / a fellow angler and conservationist / Leigh Perkins." Quarterbound in yellow cloth-covered boards with a green paper, gold-lettered spine. The book is tight, square, and unmarked; corners sharp, spine ends bumped. The dust jacket is not price-clipped (original price $24); the title on the spine has sun-faded from green to blue. Brodart protected. Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 005652

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Bibliographic Details

Title: A Sportsman's Life: How I Built Orvis by ...

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Near Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good +

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: First Edition

About this title


Imagine if you could live a life in which there were no boundaries between work and play, if you could blend the job you love - running a company that is committed to excellence - with the outdoor pastimes that are your greatest passion. This is the life that Leigh Perkins has lived, and it is A Sportsman's Life.

In 1965, when Leigh Perkins bought Orvis, the fly-fishing and bird-hunting sporting goods company, it was in serious trouble. Since its founding in 1856, the Manchester, Vermont-based company had pioneered mail-order catalogs and built a loyal following among outdoor enthusiasts, but its annual sales had stagnated at $500,000, and it was losing market share to Eddie Bauer, L. L. Bean, and others.

Over the next thirty years Perkins would revolutionize the catalog retail industry as he successfully blended his love for the outdoors with his business acumen. During his tenure as CEO, Orvis's annual sales grew to $200 million, and it became a company with a connection to its customers that transcended the products it sold. With a commitment to customer service, a willingness to adapt to new technology, and innovations in catalog sales and marketing, Perkins realized his vision for making the sporting life - and sporting style - accessible to everyone. Most important, he accomplished this while living the lifestyle he popularized, spending nearly half the year fishing and hunting around the world, from Iceland to Argentina to New Zealand.

Perkins begins his memoir with his fond memories of learning to hunt and fish alongside his mother and how his experiences working as an iron miner and sales manager for an international welding equipment manufacturer shaped his dedication to excellence. He takes you through his early years at Orvis, and the decisions he had to make along the way to change the company's parochial culture into one that embraced new initiates to the sporting life, and through its fantastic growth as catalog retail sales exploded in the eighties and nineties.


In A Sportsman's Life, Leigh Perkins tells a vivid and passionate story about how he turned Orvis into one of the country's most noted fly-fishing and sporting companies. A pioneer in the mail-order business, Perkins boosted sales of the Manchester, Vermont, company from $500,000 annually to nearly $200 million. Perkins believes he succeeded by building a superior product and selling "a lifestyle" in his catalogs--an appreciation of fishing, bird hunting, and country living. "We found not just a niche but an identity," he writes. "It was an exciting place to work." Perkins said he was never afraid of trying something new. Long before the concept became standard, for example, he traded mailing lists with competitors. He also grew Orvis by launching fishing and hunting schools, expanding into women's clothing, involving customers through an Orvis newsletter, offering odd items like bean bags for dogs, and turning out high-quality fly rods and reels.

Perkins, who recently retired, lived the life he sold. Orvis united his love of sales with his love of the outdoors. The book is packed with gripping adventure tales about fly fishing for bonefish off the Florida Keys, hiking the backcountry of New Zealand, Argentina, and Mexico, encountering bear in Alaska and tiger in India, and once almost getting poisoned to death in Africa. He even includes chapters on his favorite bird-hunting dogs and his efforts to protect open space. Written with Geoffrey Norman, the book should appeal to both business and outdoors types. --Dan Ring

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