Curt Richardson: ‘Failure is Just a Change of Plans’

Last Thursday evening, Curt Richardson was honored by BizWest with the Bravo! Entrepreneur Lifetime Achievement Award in a ceremony at the Embassy Suites.

It was a fun evening overall with a Master Class of successful area entrepreneurs answering audience questions, finalists of the Innovation Quotient Awards Innovation Challenge pitching their ideas, then the Bravo! Awards honorees being recognized.

It was all great, but Curt was especially fun to listen to because of his rags to riches story and insights he gained on the way to creating the spectacular success that is Otter Products.

There’s a nice story about him and the evening in the August 23 BizWest morning e-news brief plus a special print edition of Bravo! Entrepreneur. Both are worth reading.

A few notes I took that evening:

  • People think Otter was an overnight success. It was decades in the making.
  • Curt said there are arsonists and firefighters, and he said he’s an arsonist. He provides the fuel and the spark and hires smart, accomplished ‘firefighters’ to keep his compulsion to start new stuff from burning everything down.
  • Family, family, family came up time and again in his remarks. And as fearless as Curt is as an entrepreneur, his wife Nancy Richardson may be the most courageous person around! She must have strong faith and nerves of steel knowing that the next great idea might send them ‘back to the garage.’ That’s a Richardson family phrase for when things go sideways with the business and dad heads back to where it all started – the garage – to figure out the next idea.
  • And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As Curt says ‘Failure is just a change of plans.’ As one of the presenters said that evening about Curt “He’s … obstacle-blind.”
  • Systems grow companies.
  • Culture is everything. You treat others as you want to be treated.
  • You have to ask the hardest question of all: “What do you really want? It’s not a head thing, it’s a heart thing.”

Few people reach the level of success of Curt and Nancy Richardson. Making the story even more special are his humble beginnings growing up in a house in southern Colorado with an outhouse and a woodstove.

A huge congratulations to Curt, the Richardson family and the Otters!