The Dyson vacuum cleaner story is an interesting case study about a man taking on the established vacuum cleaner industry by believing in a superior product. Dyson believed in making the world better through ingenuity and took on the giants. Dyson took on the role of the consummate protagonist (Carruthers, 2007).
Dyson grew up in a family in which he had little direction and he developed a distaste for conventional institutions. Dyson’s parents knew of his rebellious side and wanted him to take up teaching, become a doctor, or become a professional. Dyson gained an understanding of industrial product design through the art school he attended in London (Carruthers, 2007). Entrepreneurs typically have a disdain for the way conventional businesses do things and have it in their DNA to reject conventional wisdom. Rebellion is an integral part of the entrepreneur’s mold.
Entranced with the idea of improving the vacuum cleaner, Dyson began his adventure by stripping down the Hoover Junior to understand its poor performance. Dyson introduced the cyclone and clamber in developing his prototype. At first, Dyson had no fear, but balked when low-income, a big overdraft occurred, and he faced the uncertainty. Dyson experienced several brushes with bankruptcy (Carruthers, 2007). Entrepreneurs have to learn how to deal with their fear and overcome it by moving on. Keeping an eye on the opportunity trumps the original fear, but the entrepreneur faces failure each time he encounters a hurdle and has to deal with it in a positive way. Risk-taking is scary even to the most accomplished entrepreneur.
Jeremy Frey had mentored Dyson and provided the original funding for his venture. Dyson met Frey at college, and the millionaire and founder of Rotork served as an innovative person with whom he could identify. Dyson spent three years working on thousands of prototypes and testing them. Dyson found industry unwilling to accept or license his ideas, but Japan did eventually license the Apex and G-Force products. Dyson relied on inventing and marketing himself instead of the conventions of big business and its marketing tricks (Carruthers, 2007). Entrepreneurs are bold people who reject established mediums and want to improve on them, but fighting with the enemy has its risks.
Dyson decided rather than to license his work to produce the product himself. Self-manufacturing the products, obligated Dyson to raise capital by borrowing against his property putting his family at risk. Dyson decided to take this path and export directly to the to the United States (Carruthers, 2007). This experience shows entrepreneurs have to look danger square in the eye and have the confidence to deal with it.
The last challenge for Dyson is to bring the product to the United States, the world’s largest market, where he must beat Hoover, Amway, and Black and Decker. Although Dyson set up manufacturing in Asia, he must confront the Big Three on their own turf in the United States. To bring the product to the United States, Dyson has to distastefully import the product from Asia and play by the rules. Dyson successfully captured enough of the United States market, but faced intense competitive pressure from his rivals. Hoover infringed on Dyson’s patent rights and Dyson filed suit to protect his business. Despite the challenge, Dyson wins the battle and confirms his success (Carruthers, 2007). Entrepreneurs often want to create the rules they play by, but sometimes have to conform to win the larger battle. The Dyson story shows how entrepreneurs can persist and improve existing products. David beat Goliath!
What have you learned from the Dyson story? Please let us know your thoughts. If you need help getting started I urge you to seek our help now. Learn more.
Carruthers, I. (2007). Chapter 5: The Entrepreneur’s Story Great brand stories Dyson: The domestic engineer: How Dyson changed the meaning of cleaning (pp. 85-99). London: Marshall Cavendish Limited.