Increasing revenue at a progressively rapid rate is not easy, but hiring the right staff to keep pace is even more difficult. The biggest issue we faced as a fast-growing company in 2012 was finding the right people to evolve with us.

OtterBox was No. 75 on the 2012 Inc. Hire Power ranking, which honors the private companies that have added the most jobs during the past few years. Because the past three years were generally difficult in terms of national job creation, there are a lot of really good people out there who are looking for new career opportunities. But just because they are good does not mean they are right for your company.

Hiring at a growing, changing organization is a big deal, and it can be a bit scary. It's sort of like flying. You get onto an airplane with a bunch of strangers who all have the same destination. The problem is that some of them will have colds. Hiring the wrong person is like spreading a cold within the organization--it can make others sick as well. Hiring mistakes must be corrected quickly for the health of the company.

Some of the "wrong" people are more like cancer than colds. They get ingrained and are around for a while, and you are totally taken by surprise by the time the illness is exposed. Though not necessarily contagious, these are much harder to treat and recover from.

If a company has a solid culture, "wrong" employees will not last long. They will be miserable in a setting that is not conducive to who they are, but some will stick around longer than necessary--content to collect a paycheck. The key is having a system in place to deal with the issue quickly:

Watch for Patterns and Trends

Identifying a "cold" or "cancer" is usually the most difficult part of getting your organizational composition healthy. A pattern of behavior or trend in work production issues is a good indicator.


I prefer a three-strike system. This gives employees an opportunity to grow and improve and leaders a chance to coach. Some "wrong" employees are actually salvageable if they have the right attitude.

Courageous Leadership

It comes down to the courage of managers to identify and deal with issues. Without a leader who not only has a good grasp on the composition of his or her team but also the gumption to identify and deal with problems, a poor hire can hide out for a long time to the detriment of all other employees.

Having someone at a company who truly doesn't belong is a failure of the company--we didn't hire right and/or we didn't develop right. These issues are nearly unavoidable when you're more than doubling employment every year, but a system for identifying and remedying organizational illnesses will limit the damage.