By Tim Pate
Though Fort Collins offers a small-town feel, the city is also a great place for businesses. In fact, Forbes recently named Fort Collins the third best on its list of “Best Places for Businesses and Careers.” Perhaps that is one of the reasons companies such as New Belgium Brewing, Wolf Robotics, and OtterBox have chosen to establish headquarters in the city of only 306,200 people.
I had the chance to speak with some employees of OtterBox, a leading manufacturer of protective cases for technology. I sat down with Kristen Tatti, PR specialist, and Tricia Lemmer, OtterCares Community Advocate, to understand what has made OtterBox so successful and why the company places such high value on giving back to the Fort Collins community.
With the dramatic increase in smartphone use, OtterBox has seen an equally impressive rise in demand for its cases. However, OtterBox was not always such a large business, and the company makes sure to pay homage to the community of Fort Collins, where it grew from a garage into an employer of more than 600.
In the spirit of returning the favor, OtterBox created OtterCares, the charitable arm of the company. Nancy Richardson, wife of OtterBox CEO and founder Curt Richardson, founded the organization under the principle that “To whom much is given, much is expected.” OtterCares provides a number of community outreach programs, including the G3 Challenge, an employee giving event, and Pack2School, a program for donating school supplies to children in need.
“Any company can give money,” said Kristen Tatti. “But when employees get involved, that’s when you see a real ripple effect.”
Employees at OtterBox are highly encouraged to get involved in community service activities in Fort Collins. Each employee is given 24 hours of paid time off per year to volunteer, and OtterCares has volunteer ambassadors in every department to educate and get employees involved in the program.
This culture of giving is just one way that OtterBox maintains high employee morale and creates an environment of “working and playing hard.” Inside the company’s headquarters, one is immediately immersed in the atmosphere of OtterBox. With a self-service latte bar, foosball tables and pinball machines, an employee gym, and an indoor slide, the interior of OtterBox’s headquarters makes it perfectly clear the attitude of the company. The IT department even has a life-size model of C3PO and the entire Star Wars series playing on a continuous loop to satisfy the workers’ obvious obsession.
“We understand that employees spend a lot of time at work, sometimes more than they might at home,” said Tatti. “They wanted to make the building as much like home as possible.”
Both Kristen Tatti and Tricia Lemmer, as well as Brian Thomas, president of OtterBox, attended Colorado State University. The company acknowledges that CSU is a huge research facility and a great resource for top talent, for which OtterBox is always looking. OtterBox also offers a paid internship program each semester, and students can learn more about that opportunity here.
OtterBox is the perfect example of what ethical business practices and positive employee relations can do for a company. When a large business has successfully created an environment in which employees want to come to work and also want to give back to the community, you know somebody’s doing something right.