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AutoBlog: John Barry, the man behind WD-40, dead at age 84


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Filed under: Etc., Technology


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]

John Barry, the man behind WD-40, dead at age 84 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 24 Jul 2009 09:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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see i was told NASA invented it during the space race and sold it off. Water Displacement trial 40 for the atlas missions to reduce oxidation

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The guy who came up with the Smart Straw on WD-40 is brilliant and deserves oral sex.

If you are speaking of the built in straw on the can that flips up maybe, but if its the one taped to the side of the can then i'll have to disagree, on the basis that its too close to resembling a coffee straw. he can have credit for sticking one on there though hehe

On topic, its getting rough in the news with all these people passing away that either invented, sold, or contributed to society in big ways.

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The Smart Straw is brilliant.

Quite brilliant... I wish PB Blaster would license it.

My only wish for the Smart Straw is that its a little large. I preferred the thinner old straw and its higher spray velocity. The Smart Straw tends to drown things a bit faster... good for selling WD40, bad for painted surfaces.

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