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Lead by Example: The Best Decisions Made by CEOs in 2015 editorial staff editorial staff

Which entrepreneurs and thought leaders made the news for positive reasons last year? Start 2016 with inspiration from these trailblazers.

Mark Zuckerberg decided to create a charitable LLC. He promised to donate 99 percent of his Facebook shares.

It was a move that garnered a lot of positive attention. What else did leaders do that wowed us in 2015?

Here are seven impressive business decisions that made us smile this year.

Closing REI on Black Friday

“A decision I really admired in 2015 was when REI CEO Jerry Stritzke decided to close on Black Friday and encourage customers to go outside instead of participate in the retail circus that Black Friday is,” writes Jerry Rackley, Chief Analyst at Demand Metric Research Corporation, headquartered in London, Ontario, in an email to

Rackley feels it was a great decision on many levels because it was consistent with the company's identity, brand and values of getting people outside, and it garnered REI a lot of publicity. Also, Stritzke gave his employees paid time off on Black Friday, which was wise, and created customer loyalty.

“I'm sure it attracted new customers as well who wanted to do business with a company whose values were expressed in this way,” continues Rackley. “In a roundabout way, I think REI also created a unique customer experience. Those who took Jerry's advice went outside, and I'm sure they gave more than a passing thought to REI's campaign to get them there on Black Friday.”

Pledge to Help Refugees

After visiting Greece to learn about the conditions facing those fleeing Syria, Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya set up a foundation to help refugees—and is encouraging other CEOs to hire them. He feels that refugees are not burdens but rather an opportunity for the companies and societies that welcome them to grow.

In addition to his pledge to help refugees, Ulukaya also committed to The Giving Pledge created by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, which asks billionaire to give away more than half of their wealth.

$70,000 Minimum Salary

“I thought the CEO from Gravity Payments who upped the minimum salary in his company to $70k was someone who really stood out in 2015,” says Adam G. Dailey, founder of Beer Marketing. “I felt this way because he was making a statement about the type of company he wanted to have. I also thought it was intriguing how polarizing this move was. But even more importantly, I thought it was a brilliant PR move. The guy put himself on the map. He has gained so much media/PR its crazy! A paid campaign would have cost tens of millions of dollars!"

It is worth mentioning that although Dan Price’s decision did lead to a lot of publicity, industry watchers are now questioning if the move will be practical long term. 

Taking Paternity Leave

In addition to making the announcement about his charitable LLC, Mark Zuckerberg was also in the news for explaining his decision to take two months of paternity leave to mark his daughter’s birth in December. The move is part of a larger trend in the tech industry to offer better paid maternity and paternity policies to attract and maintain talent.

Facebook offers its employees up to four months of paid leave.

Offering an Alternative to Daraprim for an Affordable Price

CEO Martin Shrkeli's Turing Pharmaceuticals and his 5000 percent price gauge for Daraprim will likely go down in history as one of the worst decisions made by a leader in 2015. But another CEO used the opportunity to step forward in a positive and savvy way.

“My vote for a fast thinking CEO this year would be for Mark L. Baum of Imprimis,” notes Graham Onak, a marketing consultant in Chicago, and owner of GainTap. “He took advantage of a major opportunity to disrupt Turing Pharmaceuticals and gain positive brand awareness by offering an alternative to Daraprim for the original low price. As a result, Imprimis received coverage in major news publications and their stock price increased 10.6 percent.”

According to Onak, marketing is often thought of as strategy, planning and execution. But it's also about taking advantage of an opportunity in the market and moving quickly. Mark L. Baum did that.

The Creation of Alphabet

Google, led by CEO Sundar Pichai, re-organized itself into a holding parent called Alphabet, and all other businesses into subsidiaries in 2015.

“This is a clever way of making all of their somewhat unrelated businesses transparent without losing control over how resources are allocated,” says says Vacit Arat, CEO & Founder of PeeqSee

Paying the Tuition of Every Boxed Employee

CEO Chieh Huang wowed people with his recent decision to pay the college tuition of the children of each of his staff members at Boxed, no matter what their position was with the company.

“It inspired me because there are many concerns and burdens in life,” says Shawn Fludd, the founder of Bear & Boo Children's Boutique in Mission Viejo, California. “One that many parents face is wondering how they will put their children through school in order for them to have equal, if not better, opportunities than they have had in life. It was an honorable and impressive move to make to better countless futures.”

Image via Wikimedia

Image Credit: gorodenkoff / Getty Images editorial staff editorial staff Member
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