WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (B)
14 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008
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 (UVA-OB-0764) 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 the company achieve growth in both new products and markets through related acquisitions. Despite these purchases, however, the company's earnings failed to climb 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 to 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 series is a valuable tool for conducting conversations in the classroom about leadership and leading strategic change.
Keywords: corporate culture, leadership, organizational change, organizational development, organizational management
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