Bio: Brian Thomas, OtterBox President and CEO
OtterBox President and CEO Brian Thomas' curiosity of the world began at a young age with interest in the work of Albert Einstein, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking. Thomas was born as the middle child of five in Chicago, Ill. and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Mich. by a hard-working, automotive executive father and a mother who was a nurse and a rock for many.
Thomas took his curiosity to Western Michigan University, where he received an undergraduate degree in industrial marketing and manufacturing engineering technology. He began his professional career at Buck Forkardt in Portage, Mich. and later became an account executive manager for Honda Manufacturing at global automotive giant Magna International. Thomas left Michigan in 1999 to pursue a second undergraduate degree from Colorado State University in secondary education and biology. He taught high school classes in Loveland, Colo. before joining OtterBox in 2003.
At that time, OtterBox was a niche business providing waterproof boxes and cases for PDAs, tablet PCs and iPods. The product line also included Cigar Caddy—travel humidors for cigar aficionados.
"I started as a Cigar Caddy sales representative, but it didn't take long for me to see the potential for OtterBox to expand into the growing consumer electronics market," Thomas said. "The key was building relationships with Hewlett Packard, Palm®, Apple®, Fujitsu, Motion Computing® and the U.S. Government to promote the concept of OtterBox." Thomas became director of sales and marketing and with the help of a hard-working team, led expansion into the smartphone markets of RIM, Nokia®, Samsung, HTC and others.
"In my eyes, founder Curt Richardson's wisdom, risk-taking and belief in me to 'run his baby,' have helped shape OtterBox into the company it is today," Thomas said.
"I started as a Cigar Caddy sales representative, but it didn't take long for me to see the potential for OtterBox to expand into the growing consumer electronics market."
As the company grew, so did Thomas' role in directing daily operations. He was promoted to chief operating officer for a short time before becoming president and now president and CEO. Today, Thomas is responsible for leading the global expansion efforts of OtterBox into Europe and Asia.
Thomas credits his father for his business and common sense and his grandfathers for humor, humility and family leadership. His moral and philosophical influences include Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffett, Aristotle and Tom Paterson, among others. He credits his mother, wife and son for teaching him love, forgiveness, introspection, the meaning of life and unconditionally caring for others.
"It was so important to have such great support around me from the very beginning," Thomas said. "Seeing OtterBox grow from just a handful of employees into an operation that extends overseas has been very rewarding."
Thomas' leadership has proven to be a vital asset for OtterBox as the company continues to grow. In March of 2010, Thomas' vision for overseas expansion became a reality with the opening of an office in Cork, Ireland. As he continues to explore options in other national and world markets, the possibilities for OtterBox are endless.