Do you long for the good old days when billionaires were heroes? With dot com moguls and hedge fund tricksters running the brave new economy, it would be refreshing to unearth an old-fashioned tycoon, an industrialist who earned billions selling real products in the real world. Meet John Dungpyle, the throwback America needs during this double-dip recession.
It’s an early Monday morning, and Mr. Dungpyle is set to open a staff meeting with his executive team at corporate headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. He starts every single one with the same introduction: “I love the smell of rubber dog shit in the morning.” Not one manager raises an eyebrow. That’s because their paychecks flow from the stream of fake feces that is the foundation of his corporation, Excreta Enterprises (NYSE: EXCR).
With humble beginnings in 1986, Mr. Dungpyle has grown his company into a worldwide juggernaut, the top of the heap when it comes to imitation excrement. “You wouldn’t believe it,” says Mr. Dungpyle, “but the inspiration for all this came from the movie Top Gun. I was fresh out of college and kind of aimless when I saw it in the theater. There’s this great line from the captain on the aircraft carrier when he’s berating Tom Cruise: ‘You’ll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong!’ Well, that line got me thinking. Maybe, just maybe, the rubber dog shit market was big enough to need cargo planes and retired naval aviators. So I did some looking. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. But I saw the potential and got right to work.”
Mr. Dungpyle began knocking on doors all around his native New Jersey, seeking scatological scientists, rubber experts, and potential investors for his enterprise. “Mostly, people laughed at me, but I learned some good lessons. I should have listened more carefully to that captain in Top Gun, though. By 1986, America no longer had the manufacturing base to produce rubber dog shit. I used all my savings to take a 5-week trip to Hong Kong and China. I found what I was looking for in Shanghai — an under-utilized plastics factory with an attached warehouse. Long story short, I went home, found some investors, bought some assets, and started a poop business.”
That poop business has turned into a dookie dynasty. With total revenues of $383.221 billion in 2010, no one is laughing at Mr. Dungpyle anymore. In fact they line up to hear him speak. In a commencement speech earlier this summer at a prominent business school, he offered graduates sound advice from his career. “The key to business is growth. We gotta have it. Businesses either grow or die. But as long as I can keep growing Excreta, it will never die. When you go out into the world, you’ve got to do your part for growth. At the end of your career, you don’t want to regret having worked for a small business or a sustainable enterprise.”
Mr. Dungpyle’s philosophy is spreading from commencement speeches to the classroom. Would-be executives, studying at the most prestigious business schools, learn Excreta’s 4-pronged TEAM approach (Timing, Efficiency, Adaptation, Marketing):
(1) Timing. Excreta floated to the surface at the moment when three serendipitous tides were rolling in: banks began lending money to anyone regardless of creditworthiness, people became comfortable accruing massive debts, and consumers universally desired homes filled with plastic doo-dads (especially doo-doodads). In short, consumers and the financial industry were both seeking novelty when Excreta’s rubber dog shit plopped into the marketplace.
(2) Efficiency. Excreta grew and continues to grow exponentially because of its relentless pursuit of efficiency. The company has made brilliant cost-cutting moves. For example, managers have almost eliminated wages at the factory in Shanghai, exceeding standards set by the most efficient sweatshops. Mr. Dungplyle says, “I’m so proud of the fact that we can pay our factory workers cents on the dollar and keep prices down for consumers — it’s a real service we can give our customers, many of whom need extra money to pay for a fourth flat-screen TV, sheets with really high thread counts, SkyMall orders, and other necessities.” The company also achieves cost-savings with other efficiencies, such as its “bloat boat” shipping method, an innovation that is being imitated by dozens of other corporations. According to Mr. Dungpyle, “The Plimsoll line is a dinosaur. We don’t need such stifling regulations. We figured out how to stack our cargo ships so high that they look like skyscrapers on their voyages from Shanghai to Oakland. An entire shipment did wash overboard once, but that just proved to be another growth opportunity.”
(3) Adaptation. Excreta’s rubber dog shit has evolved with the economy, becoming a useful tool for the information age. Ever the optimist, Mr. Dungpyle says “Most companies would have seen it as a disaster when all that rubber dog shit went overboard. But I say when life gives you dog shit, make dog shit soufflé. As our product began floating all over the Pacific, we saw an opportunity. We could use the drifting rubber dog shit to map the Pacific Trash Vortex. Not only did we get an insurance payout that covered our lost revenue, but we also secured a huge government grant for research. News of the grant sent our stock soaring. And even though Excreta’s products make up a significant chunk of the Trash Vortex, we were able to use the mapping research to score points with environmentalists. We won the Good Corporate Citizen Award from the Ocean Protection Society, and that sent our stock even higher.”
(4) Marketing. Mr. Dungpyle attributes much of his company’s growth to his marketing department. “Our marketing gurus keep finding ways to create demand. Whether it’s added smells or more authentic textures, they attract customers just as effectively as real dog poop attracts those green flies. It’s amazing to witness imaginative people applying their talents in such productive ways. I think our biggest problem is figuring out how to keep up with demand. We’ve exhausted the soils at 97 percent of our rubber plantations in Malaysia and Indonesia, and we’re having trouble securing the cheap oil resources we need for our plastics division. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that our marketing guys will overcome resource problems and maintain our growth. Our plan is to double production every 10 years, so we’re working on making our rubber dog shit out of ideas and information.”
Beyond the classroom Excreta’s TEAM approach creates jobs in the real world. Mr. Dungpyle notes, “When you get right down to it, the economy is really about jobs, and no one creates more jobs than us. Just look at the all the workers crowding into our factories. We can barely count them. And we have even more marketers on staff. We’ve also created jobs for hundreds of toxicologists. If we hadn’t developed the product, how could they have studied the way it dissolves in bathwater and releases carcinogenic compounds?”
Industry analysts are nearly as optimistic as Mr. Dungpyle about the future of Excreta. Bill Bowers, a former analyst at Lehman Brothers, says, “As long as they can keep manufacturing demand, they’ll keep manufacturing and selling product. The money will keep rolling in, and that’s all that really matters, isn’t it?” John Dungpyle, however, has even higher aspirations. “I won’t rest until all Americans — no, all people on this planet — have more rubber dog shit than they know what to do with.”