STRATEGY

4 Tips for Inspiring Passion in Employees

Passion is easy for an entrepreneur, but keeping that spark alive as a company grows is another story. Here are four tips for keeping the fire burning.
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Entrepreneurial passion. It's the cornerstone on which a successful business must be built. As a company grows, that passion must remain intact and infiltrate the entire organization.

Passion is what really made OtterBox stand apart from my numerous other entrepreneurial flare-ups. In the early days of my serial entrepreneurship, I had purchased or started a variety of businesses in tooling and manufacturing. There were successes, but ultimately I ended up back in my garage-a helpful euphemism for not making it pass the small business bump.

It wasn't that I didn't have passion for all of those businesses. The passion was there, but it wasn't focused. The trick is to harness that passion and focus it into a vision. With OtterBox, I had decided to get out of the business of manufacturing products for other people. Instead, I focused my passion on designing and marketing a product that was of personal interest to me -waterproof, crushproof boxes. That product has evolved and changed as has the passion within the company.

Passion is one of the core values of OtterBox and one that gets special attention. OtterBox has grown from my garage to a company with more than 600 employees and offices around the globe in a 14-year span. Maintaining passion within the company, with all employees, has been of utmost importance.

These four elements have been key to keeping the spark alive:

1. From the top-down

It all starts here. The leadership team must be passionate in order for the rest of the organization to be passionate. Who wants to come to work for someone who is just going through the motions and working for the next professional advancement? When hand-picking company leaders, passion must be top-of-mind. If you can't feel it, neither will the rest of the company.

2. From the bottom-up

Just as the leaders are responsible for setting the example, every employee must be involved in fanning the flame. Employees are the frontline to business partners, the community and customers, so their passion is what bleeds through. Build passion into the hiring process. Recognize and celebrate employee acts of passion as a company.

3. To the farthest reaches

Passion doesn't start and stop at headquarters. Ensuring that remote employees are experiencing and exuding passion can be difficult. We bring all employees to the OtterBox home base of Fort Collins, Colorado for training when they are hired and bring them back for quarterly company meetings. Online meeting and training tools keep people face-to-face daily.

4. In everything we do

Passion must be injected into every part of the business: the product, the company, coworkers, community, etc. From research and development to sales to customer service to shipping, every department must show passion in what they do and how they do it. By empowering employees to get involved in strategy, showing them how their work impacts the organization as a whole and letting them get involved in making a difference in the community, passion becomes a given.

Passion is easy in the early days of a business. Everything is new and shiny. The world is your oyster. Maintaining passion, especially as an organization grows, is the tough part. It's what keeps employees engaged and business partners 'wowed.' Passion is what customers feel when they engage with the brand that makes them advocates.

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: May 8, 2012

CURT RICHARDSON | Columnist | Founder and CEO of OtterBox

OtterBox founder and CEO Curt Richardson created the first prototype of a waterproof case in his garage in the early '90s. OtterBox evolved into a leader in protective cases for mobile technology.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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