Site Logo

Who We Are

Johnson Outdoors turns ideas into adventure with innovative, market-leading outdoor recreational products. The Company’s unique network model combines the strength and efficiency of a large organization with the creativity and agility of its entrepreneurial beginnings. Founded in 1970 by Samuel C. Johnson, the Company has delivered double-digit compound annual revenue growth over its history, evolving from a single brand into a nearly $400 million global enterprise with nearly 1,300 employees across 16 countries. 

What We Do

Johnson Outdoors designs, manufacturers and markets many of the world’s best known outdoor recreation brands. The Company’s award-winning innovation is fueled by a unique passion for the outdoors, coupled with sophisticated market research and cutting-edge technology, to advance a continuous pipeline of successful new products across four categories: Marine Electronics, Watercraft, Outdoor Gear and Diving. New products have represented a third or more of total company revenues over the past six years, helping to sustain market-leadership positions in nearly a dozen categories, and garnering “best of the best” recognitions from major industry institutions and publications, like Field & Stream, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Popular Science, Women’s Health and Paddler magazines, among others. 

Johnson Outdoors is moving forward on a four-point plan to transform the Company to strengthen competitiveness for sustained profitable growth. Significant reductions in costs and infrastructure, as well as dramatic improvements to efficiency, have enabled the Company to continue to invest strategically in innovation and position Johnson Outdoors’ unparalleled portfolio of market-leading brands for continued successes. As a result, in Fiscal 2011, the Company’s financial performance outpaced its markets, competitors and benchmark peer group further demonstrating Johnson Outdoors’ on-going commitment to enhanced shareholder value.

Our Products

At Johnson Outdoors, we believe creating value goes beyond creating great products into creating the ultimate outdoor experience for our consumers. Our portfolio of premier, marketing-winning brands is known the world over for delivering on that promise, and includes, among others:

 

Watercraft:

Old Town® canoes and kayaks; Ocean Kayak™ and Necky® kayaks; Carlisle™ paddles; Extrasport® personal flotation devices

Diving:

SCUBAPRO® diving equipment; SUBGEAR® diving equipment

Marine Electronics:

Minn Kota® motors and accessories; Humminbird® fishfinders; Cannon® downriggers; LakeMaster® maps and charts

Outdoor Gear:

Eureka!® tents and camping gear; Silva® digital instruments; Jetboil® personal cooking systems

 

SamSamuel C. Johnson believed business should serve a higher purpose and be managed for the next generation. The man known by all as simply “Sam” leaves a legacy of visionary leadership, remarkable success and great humanitarianism.

When Sam Johnson joined Johnson Wax in 1954, all the company’s products were wax-based. With a passion for innovation and a willingness to take calculated risks, Sam expanded the family business to new products in new markets, turning a small wax company into a multi-billion-dollar family of international companies. 

As part of that growth, Sam established Johnson Outdoors in 1970—and soon created the plastic boat industry through Old Town Canoe®. Though the world economy was in disarray, Sam knew there were always consumers looking for higher price value. He knew more affordable, more convenient plastic boats would be just what they wanted. Today plastic boats are a half-billion dollar market, and Johnson Outdoors is the number one seller.

In the 35 years since our founding, Johnson Outdoors has grown into a leading provider of innovative, top-quality recreation products that make it easy for people to have fun in the great outdoors. We continue to employ the quintessential new product development model Sam created. We take to heart his innovation-driven business strategy: “New products, new geographies, and every few years, an acquisition.” We pursue his commitment to serving employees, customers, the environment and the communities where we do business.

“I believe that making a better place goes beyond providing jobs,” Sam once said. “It means being a worthy neighbor who cares about the neighborhood. It means adding an unspoken dimension of decency and consideration to the community.”

Though Sam’s consideration may have been unspoken, it did not go unrecognized. Fortune called him “corporate America’s leading environmentalist” when he was inducted into the U.S. National Business Hall of Fame. He held seven honorary doctoral degrees and received numerous international awards recognizing his business, environmental and philanthropic contributions, including the Charles A. Lindbergh Award for balancing technological advancement and environmental preservation; the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Freedom of Flight Award for his contributions to aviation; and the Lifetime Environmental Award from the United Nations Environment Programme.

Sam was a founding member of the World Business council for Sustainable Development, and was named in 1993 to the U.S. President’s Council on Sustainable Development. From 1990 to 2000, he served on the Board of Governors for The Nature Conservancy, acting the last two years as Chairman of the Board of Governors. Most recently, he was a director of the World Resources Institute.

In his book The Essence of a Family Enterprise, Sam wrote, “A good leader builds an organization infused with sound principles and values, indelibly locked into the intellect and soul of all.” His focus on innovation continues to guide Johnson Outdoors toward leadership in the global outdoor recreation industry. His strategic vision continues to fuel our drive toward sustainable, long-term growth and profitability. And his overriding principle — “Do the right thing” — is indelibly locked into the soul of our enterprise.

2012 Women of Influence Award Recipient

Women of Influence LogoThe Business Journal
Mark Kass


Spend a few minutes talking with Helen Johnson-Leipold and she is bound to tell you a story about her father, Sam Johnson, who grew Johnson Wax from a $150 million business into a $6 billion family of companies based in Racine.

"He was something special," said Johnson-Leipold, who as chairwoman of Johnson Financial Group is the fifth generation and first woman of her family to lead one of the family businesses. "He had a way to lead and inspire his employees that was amazing to watch."

The 55-year old Johnson-Leipold grew up watching her father build the family business, but said it was a hard decision to return to Racine to help lead it. She spent seven years in marketing with Foote, Cone & Belding in Chicago after graduating from Cornell University in 1979.

"It was the most difficult decision I ever made, but it was also the best and most important decision I've ever made," she said. "It was huge shoes to fill with big responsibility and high expectations. It took a significant effort to get beyond 'she only got the position because of her last name.'"

She has been with the company for more than 25 years and currently is chairwoman and chief executive officer of Johnson Outdoors Inc. and chairwoman of Johnson Financial Group, parent company of Johnson Bank.

Johnson-Leipold said the last couple of years have been tough as both Johnson Outdoors and Johnson Financial were impacted by the severe economic downturn, but she believes both companies emerged stronger.

"A lot of our competitors in both of the businesses I run did not make it through," she said. "We did for one reason – strong, dedicated, talented people. It's always about the people."

Sally Smith, senior vice president and director of marketing at Johnson Financial Group, said Johnson-Leipold remembers how her father ran his business every day.

"She lives and leads by her father's principle that the greatest personal rewards are those that come after making a positive impact outside of yourself," she said.

Johnson-Leipold is active in the community, serving on the board of The Prairie School, a K-12 college prep academy. She also started Next Generation Now, a child-development day care center serving at-risk children from Racine's central city neighborhoods.

She and her husband, Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild of the National Hockey League, have five sons, a granddaughter and five dogs.

"As a family, we're all about the outdoors and anything to do with sports," she said.

Helen - Women of Influence Photo