Wd-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (a)

9 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008

See all articles by James G. Clawson

James G. Clawson

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Marcia Conner

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

In the fall of 1999 Garry Ridge, the newly appointed CEO of WD-40 Company, wanted to rejuvenate the company and stimulate its employees to look beyond the firm's relatively narrow focus of the last 43 years. The very nature of WD-40 Company's success in capturing the market had created its own limited growth opportunities. The A case describes the company's one-product business success, and Ridge's background. The B case reveals some of the challenges Ridge faced in implementing change. The B case tells how the new CEO helped WD-40 company achieve growth in both new products and markets through related acquisitions. Despite these purchases, though, the company's earnings failed to climb in the years between 1998 and 2001. Ridge concluded that he needed to do more than just buy more companies, so he framed a model of strong leadership and "learning theory" that he thought would enable the company outsmart its competitors. He built a framework that was demanding, yet forgiving, when individuals fell short. Ridge held employees responsible for their results, but he encouraged everyone to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them. The company's financial results suggest success for his leadership model. This case set lends instructors a valuable tool to conduct conversations in the classroom about leadership and leading strategic change.

Excerpt

UVA-OB-0764

WD-40 COMPANY:

The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (A)

In the fall of 1999, Garry Ridge, the newly appointed CEO of WD-40 Company, was plowing through his homework. In addition to running the company, Ridge had enrolled in the first class at the University of San Diego's two-year graduate program in executive leadership. The class of 27 included students from Cymer, Kyocera America, Amor Ministries, and the United States Marine Corps, working nights and weekends on their master's degrees in leadership. Ridge had enrolled in the program with the hope that it would help him usher in change to the highly successful but now somewhat static WD-40 Company. He wanted to find ways of rejuvenating the company and stimulating its employees to look beyond the firm's relatively narrow focus of the last 43 years. The very nature of WD-40 Company's success in capturing the market had created its own limited growth opportunities.

. . .

Keywords: change, change management, competitors, change agent, change from the outside, learning, learning theory, learning culture, mistakes

Suggested Citation

Clawson, James G. and Yemen, Gerry and Conner, Marcia, Wd-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (a). Darden Case No. UVA-OB-0764. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=911096

James G. Clawson (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/clawson.htm

Gerry Yemen

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

Marcia Conner

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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