The North has produced — and attracted — top talent in business, culture and beyond.

By Anne Roderique-Jones

 pam borton president ceo borton partners coach

Pam Borton
President and CEO of Borton Partners

Most Minnesotans know Pam Borton as the University of Minnesota women’s basketball coach. Indeed, she spent 12 years with the Golden Gophers and became the winningest coach in the team’s history. Today, she’s still coaching, just not for a college team. As president and CEO of Borton Partners, she acts as a senior executive coach, taking already successful people to the next level.

“I did this as an athletic coach for 27 years, and I’m still coaching people,” she says. Although she recently moved to Pennsylvania, Borton still considers the Twin Cities home and returns here twice a month. “Minneapolis is a vibrant community where I take responsibility and enjoy being a community leader,” she explains. “I continue to give back and develop leaders in this community because it’s a place that has given me so much.”

This includes heading up TeamWomenMN, whose mission is to inspire, encourage and support women in reaching their full potential. Borton cofounded the nonprofit to impact the lives of women and make a difference in their development as people and as professionals. “The most important thing I did was surround myself with very talented women who have given so much of their time, leadership and energy to this organization,” she notes. “I would never have been able to do this without my board members, all the members and our community partners.”

But being a leader isn’t always easy, as Borton knows from experience. “The challenges I faced in my career were mostly when I faced adversity and was under fire publicly,” she says. “I learned very quickly to develop thick skin, surround myself with the right people, always do the right thing and believe in myself. And I would remind myself why I was doing what I was doing: It was always about impacting lives, making a difference and developing people to reach their full potential.”

This has surely helped prepare her for her role today. “With my female clients — I also see this in men, but they just hide it better — a lack of self-confidence seems to get in their way and hold them back from being great,” she notes. And if anyone would know about achieving greatness, it’s Pam Borton.

chris lindner president footjoy winter 2017 influencer Chris Lindner
President of FootJoy

If you’ve ever sported a pair of Keds, it’s Chris Lindner you have to thank for looking so cool. He was the genius behind the marketing campaigns featuring brand ambassador Taylor Swift, giving the century-old company a fresh face. The president of FootJoy certainly seems to have a knack for building lifestyle brands (think Converse, Nike, Saucony, Sperry and the aforementioned Keds).

But before he was a Massachusetts marketing guru, he was a Minneapolis kid who grew up a few blocks from Lake Harriet. “We used the lake year-round,” he notes. “Whether sailing, canoeing, running, swimming or ice skating, there was always plenty to do every season. We were always outside.” This love of sports jump-started Lindner’s long-standing career in iconic performance branding.

“Growing up in Minnesota just might be a real advantage for all of us,” he muses. “We’re taught these amazing Midwestern values to be hard-working, honest, enduring, open-minded, grateful and respectful. How can you not when it’s 20 below zero late into the winter months?” He adds that his North roots instilled four core values he thinks about every day as a business leader: authenticity, compassion, creativity and humility.

It’s likely he gleaned some of these traits from his parents. Lindner’s mom owned a boutique, and his father ran a successful dental practice. “When I think back, they really encouraged us to get involved and try different things,” he says. “I always had a job: mowing lawns, shoveling snow, delivering papers, working the retail floor of a sporting-goods store, even being an usher at the Edina movie theater. My parents encouraged us to experience working.”

He also attributes his success to the Twin Cities’ dynamic creative community — and a few key individuals. He says marketing guru Matt Majka is the best boss he’s ever had. As for branding expert John Marinovich, Lindner explains: “He hired me at an agency when I frankly didn’t have any experience for the role. He literally took time out of his busy day to teach me the business. It was like a crash course in advertising and consumer marketing. He inspired a real passion and provided a springboard into the business. I still carry those lessons with me today.”

greg hoffman marketing officer nike winter 2017Greg Hoffman
Chief Marketing Officer at Nike

Greg Hoffman started his career at Nike 24 years ago as an intern in the design department. He recalls driving 27 hours from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon, in his parent’s loaner van then sleeping in it for a week to get the gig. That journey ultimately led him to become the company’s chief marketing officer.

Hoffman grew up in Tonka Bay, where he worked at Meadowbrook Press book publisher during his high-school days. “This taught me at an early age that you could make a living at something you were really passionate about,” he says. “In marketing, if you are passionate about what you are creating, it will show up in the solution and the consumer will feel that passion.”

He went on to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, where he “really learned the importance of mastering your craft, never being satisfied with mediocrity, and having high standards.” And like most highly accomplished people, he attributes his success to his mentors, “the coaches, professors and managers who know the difference between good and great, and did the right things to put me in a position to achieve it,” as he puts it.

For Hoffman, inspiration comes from four main areas: design, nature, sports and travel. “I have had the good fortune to see a lot of live sporting events around the world, such as the Olympics and the World Cup,” he says. “I draw inspiration from these moments, from witnessing the highest level of athleticism and competition. Those are the stages where we put our products to the ultimate test.”

He’s also inspired by North notables with a “dream-big” mentality. As Hoffman explains, “We have a saying at Nike: ‘Lead from the front.’ This is embodied by individuals who really defy the status quo and set the trends for others to follow. I mean, Rod Carew stole home seven times in one season. And Prince was one of the greatest innovators in any field.”

He considers himself fortunate to live in Portland, with its many natural wonders. “It always seems that Oregon and Minnesota are up for the award for best place to bike,” notes Hoffman. “I think it’s a tie.” Which is partly why he and his family visit his parents in Chanhassen every autumn, which he considers the state’s best season. “Each trip, we try to include a walk around Lotus Lake, a trip to the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, and a Twins or Vikings game if possible,” he explains. “I will always have a strong connection to the Land of 10,000 Lakes.”

olga viso executive director walker art center winter 2017Olga Viso
Executive Director at the Walker Art Center

If you don’t know her by name — and, let’s face it, you probably do — you’ve likely graced the halls of her museum. Olga Viso is the executive director of the Walker Art Center, one of the most distinguished multidisciplinary art centers in the world. She’s got an impressive résumé, having served on the board of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and as a trustee at the American Association of Museum Directors. And in 2013, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the National Council on the Arts.

Viso in 2008 came to Minneapolis, where she received a warm welcome. Today, she oversees the artistic program and operations of the entire Walker, working closely with its board of trustees to ensure that the museum is well-supported and well-funded. “While I may periodically curate an exhibition, my job is to ensure that the Walker’s talented team of curators and programmers has the resources it needs to bring the most exciting, adventurous new art and artists to audiences in the Twin Cities,” says Viso.

And her accomplishments at the Walker are many. “I am immensely proud of the campus transformation that is currently underway,” she explains. “It is not only renovating the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden for the next generation of visitors but also expanding its footprint by five acres on the hillside surrounding the Walker.” Some 20 new sculptures and outdoor commissions will be brought to the campus, joining the 40-plus works returning to the space in new locations. The objets d’art will be unveiled in June 2017, when the upper and lower gardens reopen. Viso notes, “I am also proud that the new sculptures represent the voices of artists coming from seven different countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America, as well as important artists from Minnesota, including Frank Big Bear and Aaron Spangler.”

Viso has worked on a number of collaborative projects with her colleagues at other Twin Cities cultural institutions, most notably serving on the steering committee for the West Downtown Cultural District, which is breathing new life into the Hennepin Avenue cultural corridor, as well as playing an instrumental role in the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, in which nearly 30 arts and educational organizations collaborated to bring the feminist pioneers to town for a city-wide festival. Adds Viso, “A few years ago, I also launched a monthly consortium of the directors of the 10 large cultural organizations in the Twin Cities committed to advancing diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

When she’s not at the museum or attending to one of her many extracurricular projects, she and her husband, who live in Northeast Minneapolis, often host visiting artists in their guesthouse. Now who’s welcoming whom?

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

Share this Post