Why Evolution is Important in Business


Change is never easy, but it's often essential. OtterBox founder and CEO Curt Richardson, found this out the hard way on several early endeavors.

I am the founder and CEO of OtterBox, a Fort Collins, Colo.-based company that makes protective cases for handheld devices. OtterBox celebrated its fourth year on the Inc. 5000 ranking of America’s fastest growing private businesses in 2011, coming in at No. 70. During the three-year period tracked, OtterBox grew revenue by more than 3,000 percent on a base revenue of $5.1 million.

Revenue growth is a concrete and definite measure of what, for many, is considered success. For me it is only the end result of what makes OtterBox successful. People often ask how we’ve achieved exponential growth, and for us it’s simple: adhere to a very specific set of core company values (we call Otter-tude) and be ready to accept change in everything else.

I’m what many would consider a serial entrepreneur—it’s in my DNA. I started or purchased a number of businesses before OtterBox, mostly in the tooling industry. We had successes with these companies, but in the end they just didn’t last. When change was needed, it wasn’t occurring. There was no system for it and, in many ways, I wasn’t allowing it to happen. By recognizing this fundamental weakness—thanks to great minds like Michael Gerber and Peter Drucker—I was more prepared than ever before to launch a business for success.

Today, OtterBox is a leader in protective cases for handheld technology but the company was founded on a very different type of product. The original OtterBox is a waterproof, crushproof container—great for keeping all sorts of personal items safe and dry while in or around the water. It’s a product that I was personally passionate about (passion happens to be one of the OtterBox core values).

While the dry boxes were a hit, the market was somewhat limited. Customers were soon clamoring for tweaks and enhancements: “How about a dry box in which I can actually use the touchscreen on my PDA?” Those first evolutions in the OtterBox product line up were just the outward facing element of the business evolution. Internally, things were evolving too.

In the weeks and months ahead, I hope to give you an overview of the OtterBox core values and how they have steered the company toward success. It hasn’t always been easy. It still isn’t, and I’m certain it never will be. But by keeping Otter-tude as our ‘center-line,’ I know we’ll always get where we want to go.

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