Posted: November 01, 2011

Top Company 2011: OtterBox

Winner in the manufacturing category

Maria Martin

TopCO_Otterbox028.jpg

Oh, how the pup has grown since its birth in 1998.

In the last three years alone, OtterBox enjoyed a three-year growth rate of 3,179 percent. It's gone from a small company with only a handful of employees to a Colorado success story that employs more than 350 and had 2010 revenue of $168.9 million.

The business, which has been honored both locally and nationally for its business practices, placed 70th this year on Inc. 500 list.

"When people ask about the recession, I respond, ‘Ah, we decided not to participate this year,'" says Curt Richardson, CEO of OtterBox.

The Fort Collins-based company, which makes cases to protect smart phones and other handheld technology, faces many challenges with such rapid growth, Richardson says. "Planning is incredibly important when you're growing so quickly."

It all starts, he says, with a very pure vision.
"You have to be aware of what you want in a business an

 where you're going with it," Richardson says. "To back up that vision, you have to have a strategic way to move the company forward, as well as the infrastructure to implement it."

In the past two years, OtterBox has built a new headquarters in downtown Fort Collins. Another building holds the engineering and design groups, and the distribution center has enlarged. The company also expanded globally, with offices in Ireland and Hong Kong.

Around 50 consultants help the OtterBox team move forward. Most important, Richardson says, is that the company hires the right people.

"They can have all the qualifications and know everything they need to know, but if they don't fit into our culture, they aren't going to work out," he says.

What every employee needs, Richardson says, is summed up in one simple word: Ottertude: "This has to do with our core values."

Some of the values he holds dearest are passion and integrity, which he says are measured very simply: "Treat others well."

Once the best people are in place, it's on to strategic planning, which means looking at the organization as it is, then looking to the future.
Planning, action, structure, management and renewal, or looking at what must change, are key components to moving forward, Richardson says.

"Every area of Otter plans every six to eight weeks," he says. "Things change so fast that if you're only planning once in a while, you'll be in trouble."

Also key to the company's philosophy is to give back to the community.

Richardson's wife, Nancy, heads up the OtterCares Foundation, which focuses on helping youth.

"If we can give them a hand, that's where we're really making an impact on our communities and the future," he says. "Giving back is a big part of our culture and belief system. We live by the saying, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.'"
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Maria Martin is a freelance writer.

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