All of us have heard about the monarch of the vaccuming industry- Dyson. You might be blinded by the successful rise of the company, but have you ever pondered about all the work that the founder must have put toward being successful ? You might be saying to yourself "James Dyson was a born genius, he was destined to become rich and successful". Today you will be reading the backstory and the hardships experienced by Dyson, in order to stand where he is today.
James Dyson, named after his grandfather, was deemed uselss in school by the headmaster. His academic counsellors advised him to pursuse a career related to the exosystem, they vehemently stated that by no means should he go anywhere near the stream of art. So that's exactly what he did after graduation- he attended the Byam Shaw School of Art for a year before going to study interior designing at the Royal College of Art; it was here that Dyson was inspired with the idea of integrating design with engineering.
Dyson went to work for a company, Rotork Controls Ltd, where James and the vice-chairman of the company designed an agile and durable fiberglass landing craft for military usage. Dyson felt that he wanted freedom, to express his own ideas, thus he left Rotork Controls and set forth to start his own company.
Dyson's very first project was the Ballbarrow- a plastic wheelbarrow-like bin that rolled on a ball that uniformly spreads the weight of the load, rather than converging it all onto one wheel. Dyson was rejected by all the retail sotres and companies, so he set up a mail order company and sold the Ballbarrows to customers without a third party in the middle. This method proved to be successful, and the company began expanding, with a board of directors and a sales team. The sales manager insisted on shifting the sales model from direct to wholesale, which resulted in rapid expansion but significant debt, as the company made less money per unit than they had by selling direct.
After the poor decision made by the sales manager, Dyson hoped to expand his company to the United States in hopes of pulling his company out of debt, but was betrayed by his sales manager who sold the design to Glassco plastics who portrayed Dyson's work and design as their own. Outraged and angered, Dyson was determined to fight for his invention, and spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting patent lawsuits. He lost, and the company sank even further into debt.
After the failure of the Ballbarrown, Dyson's own company fired him from the company that he had made through blood and tears. Dyson learnt a valuable lesson and stated that he “had no rights at all to the invention I had created and labored over for so long. It was not a mistake I was ever to make again. To lose my invention was like losing a limb. No it was worse than that. It was like giving birth, and then losing the child. And I was completely shattered by it.”
Shattered and heart broke, James and his wife moved into a home with wooden floors, they invested in a leading vaccum cleaner, and Dyson found that he was often unsatisfied with its performance. He stated that the result it provided initially was bad but the product became completely useless after the bag was worn out. Having disassembled the vaccum, Dyson realied that the bag got clogged with a fine layer of dust and became useless. He came to this realization while he was still with his first company, and ran the idea by several colleagues, none of whom were remotely interested. One of the board members even said “James, your idea can’t be any good. If there were a better kind of vacuum cleaner, Hoover or Electrolux would have invented it.”
Dyson's rejection didn't deter him, he let go of all the negative feelings and began experimenting on his idea of making a bag free vaccum cleaner with extremely high efficiency. He didn't just design and make the final product, in fact it took him THREE years and over 5,127 prototypes to finally produce a design that he was satisfied with.
He produced dozens of prototypes every week in his garage, took a loan of 1 million euros from a bank, and nearly went bankrupt several times. In retrospect he said that there were many times that his “doggedness and self-belief, in the absence of any real evidence that they were justified, were beginning to look more and more like insanity.”
For Dyson, however, things did not go as expected as big manufacturing companies like Hoover looked at his invention as a threat making him fail to find a licensee in the US and UK
This time, when he set out to sell the vacuum cleaners, he was much wiser and more experienced thanks to his heartbreaking Ballbarrow experience. He had a hard time selling them at first, but eventually came to an agreement with a company to manufacture and sell one model in Japan. Post the deal, he was able to start his factory, research and development center in England.
The company is now worth many billions and employs over 4,000 people, Dyson himself still owns 100% of the company and proceeds to hold the patent rights for the designs. Had he not learned so many lessons from his first invention, there’s a good chance that the Dyson vacuum cleaner would either not have been produced or would not have profited its inventor.
There is no such thing as a quantum leap,” says Dyson. “There is only dogged persistence – and in the end you make it look like a quantum leap.” Finally, after over five thousand attempts, Dyson succeeded in creating a bagless cyclone vacuum cleaner.
More inventions by James Dyson:
In 2000, Dyson’s company came up with the ContraRotator, a washing machine with two drums rotating in opposite directions. The characteristic bright Dyson colors, rather than the traditional black, grey or white on most other machines, were used to decorate the range. The machine failed to impress, though, and the company stopped manufacturing it a year later.
In 2002, Engineer Derek Phillips from the company created a water sculpture in which water appears to flow up to the top of four ramps before cascading to the bottom of the next ramp in cycles. The creation was named ??Wrong Garden’ and was a realisation of optical illusions in the lithographs of Dutch artist M. C. Escher.
In 2006, Dyson invented the Dyson Airblade, a hand dryer that uses a thin sheet of moving air to remove water rather than use heat to evaporate it.
In 2013, the company produced the "Air Multiplier", a fan with no external blades.
Recently in 2014, Dyson was in Tokyo to launch his company’s "360-eye" robotic vacuum cleaner which features 360 degrees mapping and scanning for navigation, a full width beater bar, user interface through Android app or free iOS, tank treads for traction, a high suction digital motor and cyclonic dust separation.
Dyson was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1996. He received the Prince Phillip Designers Prize in 1997 and was awarded the Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran Award in 2000. In the same year, the University of Bath awarded Dyson a Engineering degree. He was appointed a Royal Academy of Engineering Fellow in 2005, and made Knight Bachelor in New Year Honors of 2007. He has been Royal College of Art provost since 2011.
His latest honor came in 2015 when he was elected a Royal Society of London Fellow.
If you guys have read till here, good work, I hope you learnt a thing or two from the above post.
Until next time!