Who among us doesn't have at least one blue-and-yellow can sitting on the shelf near the tools? WD-40 and its secret formula has been often imitated, but the small San Diego firm long resisted the temptation to spread itself thin with too many other products. Under the leadership of one John S. Barry, the company took a single product – one that had taken 40 tries to get right – and built it into the Kleenex of lubricant products, good for $317 million in sales last year. The man who kept his focus firmly on making the best single product of its type has passed away at the age of 84.

John Barry's demeanor as the top dog of WD-40 Co. is an admirable example for fatcat CEOs that are so addicted to costly perks. Barry himself acknowledged that his style was that of "breaking all the Harvard Business School rules." He answered his own phone. He flew coach. Meetings were sometimes held at Denny's. The proof of Barry's keen instincts can be seen by the myriad of copycat products laid to waste by WD-40's dominance.

Despite the assertions that a single-product company would never make it, WD-40 is very much still around thanks to John Barry's refusal to tinker with his product and its ever-increasing list of unique uses. The company now has other highly regarded products in its porfolio, such as Spot Shot carpet cleaner, Lava soap, and 3-in-1 Oil – perhaps the only other lubricant that's nearly as universal and also has a delightfully distinct aroma, just like its blue and yellow shelfmate.

[Source: The Los Angeles Times]

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