Jeremy Weisz

You know, in 1987, you joined WD-40. What were you thinking? I want to be CEO someday. What was your thought process when you entered in the company?

Garry Ridge

No, I never thought that at all. I thought two things. My dad, you know, he worked for the same company for 50 years from when he was 15 to when he was 65. And dad always said, a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. So I wanted to give a fair day’s work. And I’ve always had the belief that you know, get in the team and play your best game, and there’s a chance you would be maybe picked on the team one day. So I never joined WD-40 with any any ambition to be the CEO. In fact, that was probably the last thing on my mind.

Jeremy Weisz

Hmm. So talk about some of the positions and what you did leading up to CEO.

Garry Ridge

Yeah, well, you know, I had the privilege of opening an Australian subsidiary. So on July 4 1987, I joined the company. I think they had a holiday here in the US that day, and I opened the company with a fax machine under my bed. That’s where It all started and for six months, you know, I got the opportunity to, to start a corporation from basically Ground Zero pulling it up from the, from the bootstraps, if you will. So we, we set up the corporation, we found office space, I employed people. And on January 119 88, we opened WD-40 company Australia, and from 88 through to 1994. Actually, I spent most of my time in Asia, one of the reasons WD-40, wanted to open a subsidiary is back then they were starting to get really in, in curious and, and serious about how they could take the the WD-40 brain to the world. Back then the majority of the sales of WD-40 were in the United States, but at the leadership back then had the foresight to believe and that you know, there were a lot of squeaks around the world and maybe they could do that. Yeah. I started to work in it. I probably took the first can of WD-40 into China back in, you know, in the 80s. And in 1994, or there abouts, I was having a conversation with my then boss, who eventually was the president of the company, and I said, Is there anything else you’d like me to do? I could, I could do some more work. And he said, Would you like to move to the United States? And I said, To do what? These? Well, you know, I think you’re pretty passionate about global business. You want to take our brand to the world. You’ve been curious enough and tried a lot of things. Why don’t you come here and help us take the brain to the world? Well, why not? So we packed up our toys and moved to San Diego, and from 94 to 97. I really spent a lot of time in Europe, and in Latin America, we we had a subsidiary in Europe at that time that and we needed to get that more focused on what we believe the success vectors were so we did that. And then in 1997, then President Jerry retired. And for some reason, I guess the board of directors felt that a guy who’d never been to Wall Street might be a good person to lead a US public company. And, and that’s where I really, really learned that I was consciously incompetent. And the journey started. I really, you know, worked out a couple of things. micromanagement wasn’t scalable. We’re, we’re about a quarter a little less than a quarter of the size in revenue than we are now 90% 80 to 90% of our businesses in the US. And if we were going to set up this organization to be globally successful, I had to become a better leader. So I went back to school, and I went back to the University of San Diego. That’s where I met my dear friend. Now, Ken Blanchard, as you mentioned, we wrote a book together. He was my professor. Oh wow. And and we And I did a master’s degree in leadership. And my objective was to confirm what I thought I knew and learn what I didn’t know. And that’s where I started to learn the power of empowering people. And I, what became real clear to me is that, you know, I was probably wrong and roughly right about most things, and the three most important words that I’ve ever learned in my life became really meaningful. And those three words were I don’t know. And that’s where we started. And it’s been a I’m just so grateful. It’s been a wonderful journey so far. So

Jeremy Weisz

how did the book come about? Helping people when at work, when How did that discussion lead to buck with Ken Blanchard? Well, you can check those other books. I mean, he’s sold like 20 million books. The One Minute Manager there you know, he has so many other books. How did that come about?

Garry Ridge

Ken was my my a certain class and he was telling a story about how, when he was a professor at University, he used to give out the final paper at the beginning of the class. And he got into all sorts of trouble from the administration about hate Blanshard. What are you doing about giving out the final paper? He says, not only am I going to give it the final paper out, what I’m going to do is I’m going to help them learn the answers. And I when you know that one of the biggest problems we have in corporations is there is not a clear understanding of what the expectation of an A looks like. So if we were able to describe what an A is, and then if the leaders job or the coach’s job was not to map their paper, but to help them get an A, then we may have something that’s really, really powerful. So that was really the basis of the book around. You know, how do we set up a system within an organization where the leaders job is absolutely focused on helping those baby step into the best version of their personal self on a daily basis. So that’s how the book came together.

Jeremy Weisz

So there’s 12 simple truths. In the book. One of my favorites is Servant Leadership is the only way to go on talk about that for a second.

Garry Ridge

Well, you know, one of my other mates is Simon Sinek, and Simon says, leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of the people in your charge. And I absolutely believe that it is just deplorable that 70% of people who go to work every day are either disengaged in acting or actively disengaged. And I wrote an article called Our Soul Sucking CEO. And I talked about the attributes of Owl and it’s these attributes that are actually at servant leadership, they create this type of a toxic environment, you know, where if you don’t love up there people, you know, they’re adding too much value, you know, they always have to be right. One of them that I really think is sad is where ego eats empathy instead of empathy and ego. So if you think about all of the elements of servant leadership, it’s about you serving your people to help them be the best they possibly can be. And yes, you go, and you know, this hierarchial You know, I’m the king of the hill, because I’m the CEO, type of toxic environment that creates these cultures that are not creating great outcomes. You know, I have an algorithm for culture, and culture equals values plus behavior times consistency. So in an organization, our role to create cultures, make sure we’ve got a clearly defined set of values. We We were brave enough and loud enough out loud that people enough to recognize good behavior and redirect behavior that needs to be redirected. And we have to do it consistently, day after day after day after day.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah, yeah. I mean, I was listening to one of your talks, Garry, and he said, ego, when ego is more dominant than empathy, there’s huge, huge problems. What do you suggest people Suppose, you know, everything needs to be practiced. And we need to continuously you know, stress that muscle, if someone feels like, Well, how do I become How do I have more empathy? How can they start, what many resources should they look at? Or what things should they do on a daily basis to think about that more or actually practice it?

Garry Ridge

Firstly, they have to be committed to the fact that it is all about the other people’s love about them. You know, the word ego means self. Empathy means others. So stop thinking about yourself and stop thinking about others. In fact, There’s a wonderful process that Marshall Goldsmith uses. That’s called The Life Plan Review, where you have six questions, and you ask yourself at least six questions every day. And they’re active questions, not passive questions like I did my best to. So one of them you may get into this process is I did my best to show empathy today, I did my best to be thankful today, I did my best to whatever today, but it’s just repetitive when I finished my MSCL program, which is the master’s degree I had. I for a number of weeks, months had written on the palm of my hand recognize and praise. I used to write it on my hand every day, because I had to remind myself that, you know, I have to be mindful, you know, and being mindful is hard because we forget right? Yeah. You know, it’s about discipline. One, but it’s really about here. You know, if your heart really is about helping people be better today, then you’ll get it. But if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll never get it.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah. So step one, right on your hand recognize and praise. Yeah. Who are some leaders you respect out there?

Garry Ridge

Um, I think there’s a number of people, you know, Charles Schultz from Starbucks, certainly a giver, not a taker. When you look at what they’ve done, you know, leaders across different aspects of life, either academically, you know, Marshall Goldsmith, Simon Sinek, who are doing a bit to tell people about leadership. Bob Chapman, who is a an unbelievable servant leader. He’s the CEO of Barry-Wehmiller He, he doesn’t, he says you have heart counts, not head counts and organization, which I really love. I think that’s really strong.

Jeremy Weisz

Um, you know, you mentioned employee engagement. I’m wondering what are some of the things you do to infuse values in the whole organization and, you know, improve employee engagement?

Garry Ridge

Well, firstly, you have to have a clearly defined set of Values, then you have to have a description of what those values mean. And the values need to be hierarchical. And what we talk about in the book is our values are actually embedded as part of our communication process with between our coach, the coach and our tribe member. We don’t call people in our organization managers, their coaches, and we are not employees, we’re tribe members, one of the biggest desires we have as human beings is to belong. If you think of Maslow’s hierarchy to self actualization, the first two steps aside survival and security The third one is belonging. And we don’t create belonging in organizations because of these toxic environments. So in our, in our, in our development program in our ongoing feedback program we talked about in the book, we actually have our tribe members, discuss with their coach, how they have lived our values in the last 90 days. And we only have two measurements of values. You either live them or you visit them. And we don’t like a lot of visitors. So the way that you embed that news is you describe the behaviors, you you have conversation around the behaviors and the outcomes of those behaviors. You, you reward, applaud and cheer on the people who live the values and you help redirect those that don’t. So remember I said culture equals values plus behaviors times consistency. It’s the consistency around them. That’s important and leadership leadership. has to walk the talk all the time. Our number one value is we value doing the right thing. And number two values, we value creating positive lasting memories in all of our relationships. And I’ll give you an example of how you can put values into action. And I’ll reference our number two value on this. That was in a meeting some time ago, it out TP we call out our offices that teaching although I haven’t been there for I think, 15 weeks, we’ve been remote for that period of time, which has been a wonderful learning experience. Anyhow, I was in a meeting and there was a leader in the meeting, who was actually having obviously a bad day, that leader was kind of pumping out these emotional toxins that were terrible. And of course, that was permeating those that were in the room. And as those people probably left the room, they probably took that with them. So because our second value is we value creating positive, lasting memories that gave me the permission to be able to open up conversation around the behavior. So when the meeting was over, I said to this person, let’s call up Joel for it. Let’s go for a walk in the parking lot. So we went walked out into our parking lot. And I’m looking behind a car, I’m looking in a trash can. And I’m looking in the area with big air conditioning unit is, and I can see this person kind of really getting a little agitated. And they said, What the hell are you doing? I said, I’m looking for you. What do you mean, you’re looking for me? The you that I know and love was not in that room this morning. You will not create positive lasting memories. What’s on your mind? Can we talk and the person started to share that they actually had a pretty uncomfortable morning, you know, they got up, kicked their foot on the bed, spilled some coffee, you know, someone flicked them off on the way to work. There were a number of instances that it’s put them in a really bad frame of mind. So we talked it through and you know, we came to the conclusion Matt in this coaching session that, you know, he had, or she had no right to bring that into our environment because it violated one of our values. And at the end of the meeting, this was pre COVID. Obviously, you know, we kind of had been, and he said, she said, Thank you. And he or she went off then I noticed that he was going around visiting the people that were the leading kind of apologizing and at setting the scene and interesting enough, Jeremy, the next morning, I observed something really interesting again, the people that who are in that meeting, are actually seeking this person out, just checking on to see if they’re okay to that. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that just such a wonderful thing. So that’s how you make a value come to life and how it creates through our behaviors and interactions, the type of cultures we

Jeremy Weisz

Thanks for sharing that story. Yeah. I mean, it’s oftentimes that happens, and then it just goes unsaid and then things fester internally, you know, so, you know, addressing it head on, you know, for I’m curious, you’re a as far as an employee, you know, the hiring process is important. It kind of goes in the foundation of bringing on the right people, some of the things you do in the hiring process that are important. And then the onboarding process itself. What are some things people should consider in the hiring process to make sure you have the right people there that have the right attitude that are going to embody that?

Garry Ridge

I think Firstly, you have to be very, very clear around what it is that’s important to you in the organization. And if you were there for going, if you were to go onto our website, and go to our careers page, the first thing that pops up is these are our values and it basically says, if you don’t align with These values don’t call us so don’t advertise for what you’re looking for. Now, when we start the process, we actually employ for values, number one, and competency number two, which is really important to us. And then you will go through a number of interviews and interactions without without tribe members as you go through the process of being selected or not. Yeah, interestingly enough, you we have our Director of first impressions of the person that’s on our front desk. We asked them how were they treated when someone comes for the interview? The onboarding by the time they get to be in the company, the onboarding process is pretty amazing in that it would not be unusual for someone who has been announced to become a tribe member to get hundreds of emails from people all around the world welcome them to the tribe. So in the meeting as well. And then they go through a year they have a coach and mentor a body that they rely on as we go through the process. So, you know, it’s I think it’s before they enter the door is really important, and really being very, very, very clear on what it is that you’re looking for in your to join the organization.

Jeremy Weisz

Is that mentor there to go over anything specific? Are they just there as a support to the company for that person?

Garry Ridge

Now that there is a support? Yeah, of course, their direct coach is the one that’s absolutely responsible for bringing them into the organization that, you know, we have a number of development programs. One is called Leadership Lab 1.0 2.0 3.0. And in Leadership Lab, you know, that’s a program that everybody in the company can go through. And particularly as people come on, we encourage them to enroll and go through this overall development process that we do where we actually teach leadership. We teach the value of personal interactions, conflict resolution, and all of the things that get in the way of building great relationships.

Jeremy Weisz

Talk a little about managing remote teams now that we’ve kind of shifted to virtual. What have you seen maybe is working better now that we’re in virtual environment? What are some challenges with the virtual environment?

Garry Ridge

You know, what I think is working better is what I call The Brady Bunch meeting. Okay. And if you think about it, how many Brady Bunch of meetings have we all been in recently where there’s a whole bunch of little squares on our, on our screen? And what became very clear to me is no square is bigger than any other square. So it’s an equalizer. I’ve noticed that virtually we’re coming together, we’re on time. We’re probably better organized with our genders. There’s not an opportunity for anyone to really come on the meeting. If They’re not entitled to because you do have a mute button. I think it’s a really interesting, I suddenly became very clear to me at the early parts of this adventure of COVID was in times of great and real need, we can pivot around fear. And what do I mean by that? We had all of this technology in our company, we had zoom, we had WebEx, but people were afraid and come around March 7, right? They had to pivot around that fear because if they didn’t get comfortable with it, nothing was going to work. And you know, but couple of things we shared was, you know, forgive everyone for being human and forgive yourself for making mistakes because it would not be unusual for on this podcast for my dog to bark in a minute. You know, I was on something the other day and the guy was sitting in his little office and we were having a an interview similar to this. The door back behind Open these daughter walked in, she had all curly hair. She went and got some paper off the printer and kissed her dad on the cheek and walked out. And it’s like, that’s what happens these days. Yeah. So I think we’ve got, but but again, you know, Jeremy, we’re social animals. So we do miss each other. And I’m looking forward to the point. But I think what will happen, when we get back to the office environment, we will be overall better communicators. Because in the times when we’re not personally together, we will be better at communicating using the types of tools that you and I are using right now.

Jeremy Weisz

I want to Yeah, I want to go to the you know, going global, WD-40. going global. So what do you do? So you want to expand into Europe and other countries? So you show up in Europe? What I’m just so curious, what do you do at that point, we want to go and expand into Europe? What is some of the strategies you’re thinking about when you’re expanding in other countries?

Garry Ridge

Thank you some simple questions, the first question we need to look at is, do you need me? Do you need me as a brand? And I’ll give you an example. It wasn’t Europe, it was China. When I first took WD-40 into China, to look at that market, I asked the question, do you need me? And I, I didn’t necessarily ask any people individually, I asked the market, you know, observing do you need? And the answer was no, I don’t need you. Because the problems that you so a currently being so by dirty diesel oil, ignorance and a hammer, and I am I am being the end user or the market and satisfied with that solution. So the first question you ask is, do you need me? And if the answer’s no, you come back later and ask it again. The second question is, if the answer is yes, then the next question is Can I have you know me? So how can I can I? Is there a business case for me to make the end user aware of our product? And then finally, is there a business case where I can make it easy for them to buy the product? So if those if you get positive answers on all of those, you now have an opportunity to create a business unit to make all those things happen. And then you get into the hiring, the developing or whatever, but you know, our job, where are the memories business? If you ask me, you said, Everybody has a can of WD-40 Thank God, No, they don’t. There’s lots of squeaks in China and lots of rusting Russia, and we’re still the boys and girls to solve those things. However, you know, we’ve got to make sure that we have got a business case that we can develop and you’re out we’re in the memories business. So if you look at our our just cause is to make life better. At work, our Why is we create positive lasting memories, solving problems in factories, homes and workshops of the world. Problem solved. Job done, right. That’s what we do. So, you know, people ask me, What do I do I say, I create memories with brands. It’s much more purpose driven than saying I stopped sweets or I sell oil in the came selling all accounts pretty for the members is pretty exciting.

Jeremy Weisz

Yeah. Garry, what is one story that sticks out like a customer story of someone using the product that sticks out as a memory? Maybe it’s been told down from, you know, the decades from someone using WD-40? What’s a favorite WD-40 story that lingers amongst the culture of you always talk about this story.

Garry Ridge

This story this quite a lot. I’ll give you one. Yeah. There’s a there was a lady in there. west of the US would love to feed the she had a bird feeder out in her backyard. It was that kind of a dish on a pole. And the squirrels used to climb up the pole and eat the bird thing. So she wasn’t getting the joy of feeding the birds. So what did she do? She spray WD-40 on the pole. That knee was reasonably difficult now for the squirrel to get up the pole. Once the memory the memory is she now has the joy of feeding the look at all the memories that have been created with dads and sons, dads and daughter’s doing stuff. You know, I’ve got wonderful pictures. My grandson sent me a picture the other day. And here he is out in his backyard with his bike up like this is you know, eight years old and he’s got a can of WD-40 and it’s like hey, pop on. Thanks for the can I’m you know, preparing my Bible that’s I’ll never forget that. Yeah life. Life is about memories at the end of that The day it all goes back in the box. It’s the memories that are so important.

Jeremy Weisz

To me the memory that sticks out is Yeah, the birds seeing the birds is cool, but I want to see the video of the squirrels trying to get up the pole and then slipping down. I want to see that video. What’s Garry, what’s the toughest part about your job? You have so much to manage so much to keep track of what’s what’s the tough part about what you do.

Garry Ridge

I’ve never looked at a thing tough. Hmm. If I look at it looked at as being a job. It might be tough, but this is not a job. I don’t have a job. I have a purpose. And my you know, I have a why statement. You know, I wake up every morning to help people create positive lasting memories. The most exciting part of that is finding all the new and different ways to do that. So sure there are things in the work that I would prefer to do less of and things in the work that I I would prefer to do more. But this is not a job. This is a, I have a purpose. You know, and I keep saying, imagine a place where you go to work every day, you make a contribution to something bigger than yourself, you learn something new, you’re protected, and you’re set free by a compelling set of values and you go home happy, happy people create happy families, happy families, create happy communities, happy communities, create a happy world, we need a happy world. We need and we as leaders of organizations have the biggest opportunity ever to make a positive impact on people, but we let out let them down by not doing that. Because the ego eats the empathy instead of the empathy eating the ego. And it’s all about me, me, me. And it’s all about short term instead of the infinite game. Everybody wants to play the finite game. Wall Street tells you what are you going to do for me tomorrow? You know, it’s not about what we’re going to do tomorrow. It’s about building an enduring company over time. There’s so much working against us. But you know, it’s worthwhile. It’s worthwhile work.

Jeremy Weisz

I want to read your next book. I don’t know what’s going to be called, but I know the subhead. It’s like when ego eats empathy or something like that. So I hope

Garry Ridge

you all have a soul sucking see. Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Jeremy Weisz

Okay. I’ve two last questions. Garry, I just want to first of all, thank you, thanks for sharing your your wisdom, your knowledge, your leadership principles, so we can all learn from them. Everyone should check out Helping People Win At Work, you can find on Amazon audible and check out WD-40Company.com. And in some of their values, and there’s a great video talking about their values, you know, doing the right thing on the on one of the pages. I always ask Garry since inspired insider what’s been a low moment or a challenge point in your career and how you push through and then on the flip side, what’s been a proud moment for you.

Garry Ridge

I think both To deliver. A low moment for me is when I see people who truly have the potential to be great. Don’t see it in themselves. And I high moment is when I see people who have the potential to be great, and they do see it in themselves. And I think our job as leaders is to work on both of those, you know, a wonderful story that I’ll share with you. As I said, we have an operation in mainland China. We opened a subsidiary there 14 years ago, our first national employee, Chinese employee, the lady by the name of Grace, she joined us as our office manager, if you will. She from there had an interest in human resources. As we started to grow, she went into human resources. She then had a passion for supply chain we sponsored her and could help to go through a master’s degree in supply chain management. Fast forward, that two years ago, Grace was appointed out country manager of China, one of our biggest copper opportunities in the world. There you go as first employee 14 years ago, now the leader of the China operation and that gives me goosebumps. I mean, that truly gives me goosebumps.

Jeremy Weisz

Garry, I want to be the first one to thank you everyone check out the book, check out WD-40Company.com any other places we should point people towards to learn more.

Garry Ridge

I have a website www.thelearningmoment.net because you know, as I’ve often said, We don’t make mistakes, we have learning moments. And then you and I also publish articles from time to time on LinkedIn. So I’m also there.

Jeremy Weisz

Thelearningmoment.net check it out. Garry, thank you so much.

Garry Ridge

You’re welcome.