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Don't Get Customers ...Make Partners

Customers, clients, suppliers and vendors are more than just that - they are your partners. Treat them as such and they will become your best advocate.

As much as it is important to have the right culture within a business, it's imperative to have that type of synergy with the companies you work with, too. They aren't customers or clients or vendors. These other businesses with which you do business are your partners.

Partner relationships is an OtterBox core value that touches every piece of our business. From design to supply chain and sales to customer service, each Otter is responsible for developing a relationship with their key contacts.

Making partners rather than customers and vendors vests them in you, your company and your product. This core value has always been extremely important to OtterBox. As a start-up company, we depended on our partners to help us get the systems in place to produce high-quality products on time.

Building a name on quality, OtterBox grew quickly. As a company that is still experiencing rapid growth, we now rely on our partners to meet not only our quality requirements, but also our ever expanding demand. If a vendor does not align with our company's values, then a partner relationship will never truly form. Though it can be painful, a separation must occur so that the right partner can be found.

A perfect example is in supply chain. There are many suppliers out there that we could potentially work with, but a great amount of time and effort is spent finding the right partners - partners that we can trust to uphold our values of adaptability, accountability, integrity, and innovation.

Past, present, and future, the customer is the most important partner. The customer is at the center of everything because they are your best advocate as well as your most vocal critic. By creating a relationship with the customer instead of just selling to them, a company creates an extended sales force, quality control and product development team. With social media, this relationship is more important than ever.

Choosing the right external partners and forging those relationships, much as you would with employees internally, paves the way for success by ensuring that the right decisions are being made even when you are not there to make them.

Last updated: May 31, 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 columnists are their own, not those of

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