Meet Jeffrey Nightbyrd, a marketing maven for our time. Some executives may see drug testing in the workplace as a thorny management issue (see Executive Forum: "Why Drug Testing Is a Bad Idea," page 152). Nightbyrd sees it as a niche. Let others pursue the multimillion-dollar markets creating and analyzing the tests. He'll work the opposite side of the street, selling a way to beat them -- human urine, dehydrated. Two small, drug-free samples are packet, $19.95.
"A year from now," the 36-year-old Austin businessman optimistically predicts, "I'll be driving a yellow Mercedes."
Nightbyrd, a self-described "child of Watergate," once started his own newspaper and later turned to producing music videos and starting two low-power TV stations (see Insider, July 1985). Inspiration for his latest venture struck when stories about drug testing began making news.
"It came to me right then, bingo! The middle class is not going to like these urine tests. They're humiliating and an invasion of privacy. It's also terrible management. Testing pits employer against employee, but any decent manager should be able to tell if someone is stoned on the job."
Last November, he launched Byrd Laboratories, whose only problem has been supply. Originally, Nightbyrd got his product from a group of elderly Bible students at a local fundamentalist church, but they backed out when he first attracted the media's eye. Armed with a new, this time secret, source -- and a rigorous testing policy that guarantees effectiveness -- he was ready to begin a national rollout.
So far, however, success has been modest. The company sells about $2,000 a week in dehydrated urine, and has published the third 1,000-copy pressrun of Success in Urine Testing, the booklet he sells for an additional $5. Although for now the business is mostly mail order, fueled by ads in 25 metropolitan entertainment weeklies across the country, he has started to set up distributorships as well, and hopes to expand quickly before the window of opportunity closes.
"This business is a fad," Nightbyrd admits. "In about a year it will be dead, because people will begin to file civil damage suits against companies for wrongly accusing them of drug use." But before that happens, he predicts he can corner the market and become "America's first urine millionaire."