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Posted: March 01, 2011

CEBA winner: OtterBox

The Fort Collins maker of cases for smart phones and other devices lives by the golden rule

Maria Martin

PPR_CEBA_Richardson_Mar11rev.jpg

It's advice many of us heard from our parents when we were young.

"Treat others as you would like to be treated."

Curt Richardson, CEO and founder of OtterBox, runs a company based on that simple philosophy.

"It's our golden rule," Richardson says. "If you decide to buck it, you'll be in trouble."

That the company has earned a Business Ethics Award attests to the fact that the nearly 300 employees at OtterBox stick to that golden rule.

The Fort Collins-based company, which makes cases to protect smart phones and other handheld technology, was founded in 1996. The quirky name came from the waterproof quality of an otter's fur. Plus, otters are fun and tough, much like the people who make up the company, Richardson says.

What the company has, Richardson says, is "Ottertude."

"We say that doing the right thing is the right way."

And doing the right thing means giving back to the community.

The OtterCares Foundation is mostly focused on youth in Fort Collins.

"We try to help them, especially those who are struggling to make good decisions," says Richardson, whose wife also works for the company, as does one of two grown sons. "We have entrepreneurial and arts scholarships, and we work with other nonprofits that focus on everything from respite care for parents with disabled kids to mentoring groups."

Recently, the company gave every employee $200, and everyone was challenged to grow the money and give it back to the community, Richardson says. "Many of our ‘Otters' said, ‘Wow, I really want to keep doing this.'"

Several elements also make up the mission statement of the company, Richardson says.

Innovation, adaptability and partner relationships are also woven into the culture of the company.

"We stress to everyone that you can control your attitude," he says. "I go back to my mantra, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.' That's what it's all about. We've been given much. We need to give back."

At the end of the day, Richardson goes back to his basic philosophy of treating people well.

"It's what I stand by. That's my measuring stick," he says. "Do we always live up to that? No, but if we come back to that, and we can say ‘We were wrong, but we can make it right,' we're doing the right thing."
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Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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Readers Respond

I'm wondering what this article had to do with the title on the Website, "High Price of a Cheap Bookkeeper". I mean, its a great article, and I highly subscribe to similar tenets in my dealings with employees, customers, and vendors. But I was expecting information on how to avoid bookkeeping problems. By Elliott Arthur on 2011 03 31

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