WD-40 Company: The Squeak, Smell, and Dirt Business (A)

Case Solution

Gerry Yemen, James G. Clawson, Marcia Conner
Darden School of Business ()

In the fall of 1999, Garry Ridge, the new CEO of WD40 Company, wanted to rejuvenate the company and encourage his employees to look beyond the relatively narrow focus of the company of the past 43 years. The WD40’s success in conquering the market had created its own limited growth opportunities. Case A describes the commercial success of a single company product and Ridge’s background. Case B shows some of the challenges Ridge faced in making changes. Case B shows how the new CEO helped the WD40 company grow in both new products and markets through appropriate acquisitions. Despite these purchases, however, the company’s profits did not increase between 1998 and 2001. Ridge concluded that it needed to do more than buy more companies, and developed a strong leadership model and “theory of business.” learning “that, in his opinion, would allow the company to outwit its competitors. He built a framework that was demanding but forgiving when people fell short. Ridge blamed employees for their results, but encouraged everyone to acknowledge mistakes and learn from them. The financial results of the company indicate the success of his leadership model. This set of cases is a valuable tool for educators to have classroom conversations about leadership and strategic change.

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