Business owners tell me they have two scarce resources: time and money. In order to create a business that provides both revenue and time, the owner needs an arc reactor that powers the vision of the business and gives life to every staff member. For the owner, keeping her arc reactor in good working order is like being an Iron Man, both the triathlete and the Avenger hero.
What if, however, you’re hit with the “stagflation” of capped revenue (stagnation) and infinite time consumption requirements (inflation)—like one business owner I recently met with?
This kind of stagflation hits hardest those who find their deepest joy from a Big Why that is separate from the work they do and the business they own. These two spheres of life are compartmentalized and, therefore, often in conflict. At some point, they feel their business takes them away from their Big Why of what brought them into business, whether that be caring for their family, for a cause, or for an avocation. For these owners, the challenge is to allow work to become the “romance of the everyday.”
A business coach colleague shared one of the best examples of a company, OtterBox, that has enabled the founders’ arc reactor—their core values—to power their business. It has transformative power for every employee, as well. In 1998 Curt Richardson, together with his wife Nancy, founded OtterBox, a Ft. Collins, CO based company, to make waterproof cases for phones.
In 2010, Nancy Richardson launched the OtterCares Foundation to champion innovative education to inspire a movement of young entrepreneurs and philanthropists and to advance their mission of innovative education through several outlets–including grant funding, employee engagement and innovative programs.
The Richardsons found a way to harness their arc reactor to power their passion in a symbiotic way for both their for-profit and non-profit entities. OtterBox creates protective cases for klutz technologists; OtterCares provides a vehicle for employees to connect their work with a way to give back to the community. This is an excellent symbiotic relationship especially attractive to Gen X and Gen Y employees. While the scale of what the Richardsons have accomplished is unique to their firm, the steps they have taken to create people who feed energy back into their arc reactor “grid” is remarkable.
What the Richardsons and their firm have done well:
1. They hire for cultural fit.
Their employees, called “Otters,” beget more Otters. Otters are playful, fast-moving and adaptable. You either are or you are not an Otter. In order to keep the arc reactor healthy, Nancy Richardson started the OtterCares Foundation. Rather than being an outsourced philanthropy, the Foundation, like an arc reactor, provides vital power back into the energy grid of the culture.
OtterBox gives every employee time and money to give back to the community. For example, in 2012 they gave each employee $200 to multiply to give back to the community in some way.
2. They have living systems to keep the symbiosis alive.
OtterBox has grown rapidly especially through the Great Recession. Their growth demands that they rework their supply chain every few months to create the capacity to deliver waterproof boxes to their customers. Employees have to be adaptable to thrive and contribute.
The OtterCares Foundation also has ambassadors in every work team within the for-profit company; this keeps community contribution a living part of Otters’ jobs, work teams and even corporate business objectives.
3. They create an environment where employees get to live and tell their own stories.
Employees are Otters–not just cogs in a machine. They joined the company so they can live and tell a meaningful story both in their work and in philanthropy that impacts the community in which they live, work and play.
Owners of any size firm can apply principles of what the Richardsons have done.
They have found a way to put their Big Why at the heart of their company and create a power source and power grid for the company. The owners’ purpose and core values attract other baby Otters to join the firm. Their constant growth and values-grounded culture provide opportunities for those Otters to grow and contribute.
What ideas do you have about how to keep your arc reactor powering your own firm?