Putting the squeeze on them

His name was Robert R. Taylor, and you may have one of his creations in your house: Taylor, who had numerous successes (and the occasional flop) as an inventor/entrepreneur, gave us SoftSoap, the hand soap with the pump sprayer. And apparently the key to its success was that little pump:

Before launching SoftSoap, Taylor had made a crucial observation — there were only few companies in the United States at the time that actually made the kind of pumps needed. Of these companies, only one produced enough pumps suitable for mass-production on the scale envisioned here. And since there also wasn’t much in the way of a suitable international company that would be able to provide what was needed here quickly and at a competitive price, in effect, this left only a single choice for anyone wanting to sell liquid soap en masse using such a pump system. Thus, Taylor’s idea was quite simple — buy literally every pump the company had available for the foreseeable future. How many would he need to buy? It turns out about 100 million to keep the company (Calmar) busy at full capacity for about a year.

The problem was he didn’t have the required $12 million (about $37 million today) to place such an order. So he had to wait until after the product was launched and hope that it was a massive hit to give him the money he needed before his competitors decided to make their own copy-cat product.

Outrageous as it was, the plan still could have backfired:

[W]hen the time came, he also had no way of knowing whether Calmar would agree to the contract. If Calmar didn’t, there was a very real risk that one of the bigger companies would eventually sign a contract with them that would do to Taylor what he was attempting to do to everyone else — stop them from getting the needed pumps for a little while.

And while you might think agreeing to a massive contract that would see them working at full capacity for the foreseeable future would be a no-brainer for Calmar, consider that this would force them to get rid of all their other business contracts to service one, relatively small, company.

When the time came, however, Calmar agreed. Naturally, this sequence of events has gone down in history as one of the most ballsy “bet-the-company moves” ever.

And, just as Taylor had planned, when the larger companies tried to release their own take on SoftSoap, they quickly realised that they couldn’t at first because some mysterious, freshly smelling, large penis owning individual had called dibs on almost every suitable pump in the United States set to be produced for the next year.

In the States, the financial industry has been known to refer to a person who pulls off a stunt like this as a Big Swinging Dick, so the penis reference is not gratuitous, or not too gratuitous anyway.

And there’s a bottle of Taylor’s soap beside my bathroom sink, and another in the men’s room at the office. I assume there’s also one in the women’s, but I am disinclined to take a look for myself.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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