OtterBox: Profit in Protection
“In time, the consumer even comes with us and starts to say ‘OtterBox was a case company; now they are an integrated technology company.’”
Like many startup success stories, OtterBox began life in a garage. It was there that Curt Richardson crafted the first in a series of water- and crush-proof dry boxes. These boxes were in demand by water-sports athletes, who needed them to protect various electronic devices.
As the fledgling company’s sales shot past $2 million in annual revenues, a recent college graduate named Brian Thomas joined the company. From then on, OtterBox evolved rapidly from a producer of generic dry boxes to device-specific protection products. It was Thomas who recognized the potential in the burgeoning consumer-electronics space and set about forming relationships with industry players Hewlett-Packard, Palm and Apple. Soon appointed director of sales and marketing, he continued leveraging OtterBox’s product innovations with advances in personal computers, smartphones and tablets. After nine-plus years of mentoring, Richardson turned the corner office over to Thomas.
By creating a high value, protective product, OtterBox established an industry category. The company is now the No.1 selling case for smartphones in the U.S., according to NPD Group, a global market-research company. Going forward, OtterBox is focusing on international growth with an EMEA facility in Cork, Ireland and an APAC headquarters in Hong Kong.
Viewing his role as spurring OtterBox’s associates to work at optimal performance, Thomas focuses on a two-step development process. First, he looks to bring employees to at least 80 percent of optimal performance. Once there, the task is to get them to 100 percent. Within the confines of OtterBox’s state-of-the-art headquarters, Thomas has created a Leadership Academy to help aspiring associates hone their management and leadership skills.
At Otterbox, viewing current and future product lines through the eyes of the end user is paramount. When you view your customers with empathy, you add value to the equation, says Thomas.