At Allen Hall Public Relations we are often presented with opportunities that would not have come our way were we not a part of this agency. Two weeks ago, I had one such opportunity land in my lap.
I am the account supervisor of our New Venture Championship (NVC) team, along with account executives Nic Corpora and Tara Gremillion. The three of us work in conjunction with Allen Hall Advertising (AHA) to help NVC put on a successful business plan competition for graduate students in April. The competition takes place in Portland, and is widely recognized as one of the top competitions of its type in the country.
The sponsors of NVC are crucial to the competition’s survival. This year several students from AHA and I were approached with the task of presenting to the CEO of NVC’s title sponsor, Columbia Sportswear. That’s right, folks—we jumped on a bus and strutted into Tim Boyle’s conference room at the Columbia headquarters in Portland, Oregon.
Mr. Boyle had not been given a personal update about his investment in NVC in three years, and since the competition is experiencing a rebrand this year the timing was perfect. We were informed of the presentation about a week in advance, which put our communication skills on the spot. The designers at AHA worked tirelessly on an aesthetically pleasing PowerPoint while AHA members Joe DeFever, Matt Casey and myself perfected our public speaking skills. By the time Friday, January 7 rolled around we were perfectly polished for Mr. Boyle.
Walking into the headquarters of Columbia Sportswear, we were greeted by a wall-sized portrait of Mrs. Gert Boyle, Tim Boyle’s mother and Columbia chairman of the board, alongside the slogan “Ma Boyle Country.” Right off the bat we knew this was no joke—we were in Boyle territory. The office itself had a very open feel, and with Columbia gear around every corner there was no question these people lived and breathed the brand. We were led to a conference room where we were left to prepare ourselves and take it all in.
When Tim Boyle entered the room, the mood instantly changed. A friend of Tim Gleason, Dean of the UO School of Journalism and Communication, who accompanied us on the journey, his presence was friendly yet demanding. One would think that the CEO of a company such as Columbia would show little interest when some undergraduate students showed up in their cheaply tailored business attire from a sales rack, but Mr. Boyle commanded our eye contact throughout the presentation. He took notes and nodded, and even interjected at the appropriate times to give his input. When we were finished, he asked insightful questions that we had not even prepared for—luckily we all knew the account well enough to hit a few curveballs out of the park.
I was simply taken aback by his interest and willingness to listen to our presentation. At the end of our talk he gave us a few moments for the sweat on our palms to dry before handing out passes to the employee store around the corner. Then it was off to the BCS National Championship for Mr. Boyle and back to Eugene for the NVC team. Talk about living in a different world—Mr. Boyle’s ability to command that much respect and interest from a room is a learned ability we can only hope to achieve.