When planet-friendly cleaning product brand Method began selling in Target stores two years after the company's launch, co-founder Adam Lowry thought they'd make it big. He didn't suspect one of the company's proudest design innovations would almost break the business.

The Method team had designed their bottles so the product would be dispensed from the bottom, meaning consumers wouldn't have to turn bottles upside down. It seemed to Lowry like an innovative solution that would make the soap bottles easier to use. However, 
consumers wanted to smell the soap in the store before they bought it. Because people weren't accustomed to this type of bottle, many improperly resealed them when they put them back on the shelf, causing them to leak everywhere. The displays were a mess.

"The details matter, and the curve balls come when you don't anticipate those little details. This was a failure on our part," Lowry says in a new Inc.com video. "We thought we had designed this better product, and in someone's home, it was a better product, but it wasn't working the way it needed to work to get through the retail channel."

It was a gut punch. Lowry and his team spent an enormous amount of time designing the bottles and the displays, only to see their hard work wrecked within a matter of hours. They thought it might be the end of the business.

To fix the problem, Lowry, his co-founder Eric Ryan, and a handful of their unemployed friends drove around to each Target where their products were sold with a handful of paper towels and cleaned the displays themselves. They made these rounds twice a week. "The routine was, go in there, talk to a store manager, say, 'Hey, I'm from Method, I'm here to clean up our dirty display,' Lowry says. "And you spend an hour just wiping down every single bottle one by one, getting the stickiness off."

Eventually, the Method team was able to redesign the bottles with a more traditional nozzle, and they began selling quickly. 

"It's easy to get lost in everything that needs to be done on a business," says Lowry, who is now co-CEO of pea-protein dairy alternative maker Ripple Foods. "But I woke up every day and thought, What can I do today that's going to improve the business? And that was my way of cutting through the clutter and figuring out, little by little, how to create that success."

Published on: Aug 26, 2019