Barry Meguiar's Biography - 2006
Barry Meguiar is the third generation owner of Meguiar’s, Inc., originally founded by his grandfather in 1901. Born in Pasadena, California, where the company was located until 1970, Barry grew up working in the family business. Summers during grade school and junior high were spent working in the mixing room and on the production line. He moved to part-time during high school and became the one-person accounting department during college. His first car was a black, '57 Chevy Bel Air hardtop, which he still takes to shows on occasion.
When he graduated from college, total sales for the family business, known at that time as Meguiar’s Mirror Bright Polish Company, remained stagnate at $600,000. Barry had a decision to make. Go where the money was, or stay with his family, roll up his sleeves, and go to work building the business. He made the right decision and stayed with the family business.
Barry recognized that while few people knew of Meguiar’s products at that time, those that did were fanatic users, primarily car manufacturers, car dealers, body shops, custom painters, detailers and serious car enthusiasts. More importantly, Meguiar’s earned these loyal users without any type of advertising program or great packaging…just great products.
In the early days of rod & custom shows, most of the custom painters across the country gave a bottle of Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze No. 7 Sealer & Reseal Glaze with each custom paint job to make sure that it always looked its best. As the popularity of car shows grew, masses of people began seeing the performance of Meguiar’s products on all of the best show cars and then became frustrated when they couldn’t find them at their local retailers. Barry saw this burgeoning, grass roots demand for Meguiar’s products as a golden opportunity to enter the mass consumer market without the advertising he couldn’t afford.
The defining moment for Barry came when he realized that the car hobby could be the key to his business future, while satisfying his personal passion. So he began spending volumes of the only thing he had to spend on car shows, his time. And, he’s been doing it ever since. Barry and his wife, Karen, still spend most of their weekends at multiple car show events. Few people have been to as many car shows. Only now, rather than promoting their products or showing cars, they spend most of their time and resources promoting the car hobby. The presumption is that if someone truly loves their car, they are probably using Meguiar’s products to make it look its gleaming best.
This philosophy has seemed to work. Still out advertised by most of their competitors, Meguiar’s enjoys the highest brand loyalty out of all the brands of appearance car care products on the market. As Barry explains, “It's more than a business for us because we’re primarily car guys following our passion. This is what sets us apart. It is our passion for creating perfect, show car finishes that has made Meguiar’s the top selling brand of appearance car care products in America.”
From being on the outside looking in, to becoming the top selling brand in chain stores and mass retailers across America, is an amazing feat that required enormous amounts of Barry’s time and energy. The confirmation of the relationships that he built with the retailers across America came in 1981, which was before many of them actually put his products on their shelves, when they voted him “Man of the Year” in a survey taken by one of the automotive trade magazines.
It was in 1973 that Barry first began traveling the globe to connect with car manufacturers and serious car enthusiasts from Europe to Asia. This is yet another story of perseverance and hard work paying off. Now, thirty years later, Meguiar’s products are sold in 92 countries, coordinated entirely through their international headquarters in Hong Kong.
Over the last few years, Barry has become the cheerleader for the collector car hobby by sponsoring more than 5,000 car show events, hosting his own top-rated television show, Car Crazy on SPEED Channel, and co-hosting Car Crazy radio, which is syndicated nationally. On both shows, Barry loves to interview his friends who have become leading personalities in the car hobby, capturing the essence of why they are so car crazy. All of these activities are carefully crafted to attract more people into the hobby.
The Meguiar’s Award, which honors the Person of the Year for the Car Hobby, may be Barry’s crowning achievement. Recognizing that all of the trophies, plaques and ribbons were being given to the cars, he decided to create an award to honor the people behind the cars whose efforts have significantly impacted the car hobby. Taking on the task of selecting one person to honor each year as the person of the year, out of the 30 million people in the collector car hobby, is a responsibility that Barry has taken very seriously.
To ensure the integrity of the award, the recipient is chosen by an independent panel of leading automotive journalists and serious car enthusiasts who serve as the Meguiar’s Award Selection Committee. The 2005 award gala was held in the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California. With three balconies and private boxes filled with 3,500 car enthusiasts who consider their self to be certifiably car crazy, this was the year’s ultimate celebration of the car hobby, honoring William H. Smith as the Car Hobby’s Person of the Year.
For Barry, it’s been quite a ride. When he made that first decision to stay with the fledgling family business back in 1964, he viewed the sixty-three year old business at that time as a great foundation on which to build a great company. After 40 years of hard work and spectacular growth, he tells his employees today the very same thing. One can only imagine what lies ahead.