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By the Book

By Tom Branna, Editorial Director | September 9, 2011

Method's co-founders detail how they created an empire that's re-invented the concept of cleaning and reinvigorated the entire industry-all in just 10 years.

Attention all you would-be entrepreneurs! Looking for step-by-step instructions on how to create a winning business plan? Look no further than your local bookstore or online for The Method Method: Seven Obsessions that Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down.

If the title seems a bit unwieldy, rest assured that the contents are laid-out in a more streamlined fashion. In fact, authors and Method co-founders Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry spell it all out in an easy-to-read format broken down into seven “obsessions” that have helped turn Method into a household name in the household cleaning category:

1. Create a Culture Club. Use culture as a competitive advantage by branding from the inside out.
2. Inspire Advocates. Create advocates behind a social mission rather than just transactional customers.
3. Be a Green Giant. Personalize the green movement to inspire change on a grand scale.
4. Kick Ass Fast. If you're not the biggest, you'd better be the fastest.
5. Relationship Retail. Deliver retail differentiation by creating fewer but deeper relationships.
6. Win on Product Experience. Be product-centric and deliver remarkable product experiences.
7. Driven by Design. Build design leadership into your DNA.

For the uninitiated, these obsessions may sound an awful like strategies, but as the authors note, “strategy is a tired corporate word for something you do for your boss. Obsessions are bigger. Obsessions are something you take home with you, something that drives entrepreneurs to think deeper, work longer and change entire industries.”

Although Lowry insists that each obsession plays a pivotal role in a company’s ultimate success or failure, he said that it is imperative to build a culture in a company around the things that you do differently and then keep feeding that culture.

“Creating the Culture Club is the glue that ties together all the other obsessions,” he told

The publication of The Method Method comes just as the company celebrates its 10th anniversary and is intended to share lessons learned with other entrepreneurs and intrepreneurs who are trying to create a business that has a positive impact on the world.
“Whether it is intrepreneurs in a big business or entrepreneurs, if we can reach them maybe more businesses will integrate sustainability in a meaningful way,” said Lowry.
Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry.
In its brief history, Method has done just that, according to Lowry, by rolling out products that have a lower environmental impact than competitive products on the market. Lowry said he is most proud of Method Laundry Detergent with Smartclean technology, which is eight times more concentrated than conventional laundry detergents and is packaged in a smaller bottle than other detergents. For example, the 25-load version comes in a 10fl.oz. bottle and the 50-load size is in a 20fl.oz. bottle. Moreover, the detergent is biodegradable and 95% natural and that it can be used in both high-efficiency and standard washing machines, according to Method.

“(Laundry) is a stodgy category that is slow and staid and it is dominated by players that have a disincentive to be innovative,” he insisted.

No Overdose

For example, one of the dirtiest secrets in the laundry category is product overdosing. According to Lowry, too many consumers fill their laundry cap to the brim with product, which can lead to 33% too much detergent per load. In fact, he insisted that the traditional laundry jug and cap clearly demonstrate that the interests of business are misaligned with the environment. In contrast, Lowry says the Method pump eliminates overdosing and notes that aesthetics and scents play a big role in the company’s success because they are part of the design elements from the beginning of the process.

“We do all design in-house. (That way) we can start the design process using key elements, rather than wait until the consumer test segment.”

That 360° approach to product design is helping Method drive more innovation into the categories where the company competes—laundry, cleaning and hand care segments. Lowry said Method will continue to innovate in these key areas rather than expand into new categories.

The Changing Consumer

During the past 10 years, the Method co-founder said he’s seen many changes in consumer attitude, but product quality will always remain most important. However, in recent years, value has become important to people and is even considered “hip,” according to Lowry.

“That wasn’t always the case,” he explained. “So where can the consumer find true value? We focus on quality. If we can provide quality for a modest premium we will grow in the larger categories and pursue our mission. That’s what allowed us to grow through the depths of the recession. We have a lot of loyalty. Not everybody knows about it, but those who do keep using it.”

Method’s innovative ways are focused on ingredients, too. Working with an outside partner, Method developed a natural solvent, based on corn stover, that does not release volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere. Too often, household products that claim to be green or natural don’t perform as well as traditional products because the solvent system is lacking, according to Lowry.

“We wanted to reinvent the solvent system and make it better,” he explained.

Today, Method is working with outside vendors on new molecules that are very early in development. It’s all part of the company’s goal of accelerating the rate of innovation in the household cleaning category.

“Most innovation is incremental. If business is to be a true positive force, we need breakthrough innovation. That means taking more risk,” explained Lowry. “We are proving it is risker to take less risk. We have to move faster to find sustainable solutions.”

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