Household appliances aren’t the most exciting items on the market, but brilliant inventors still manage to turn them into big hits. James Dyson introduced his first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1993. Fifty models and millions of sales later, Dyson is the leader in innovative and creative household appliances. Here are seven valuable takeaways from how the British inventor went from being a guy frustrated with his vacuum cleaner to one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs.

1. Figure out what frustrates you.

Dyson invented his trademark vacuum cleaner because, while every manufacturer claimed that their vacuum cleaners were the world’s most powerful, he was dissatisfied with the performance of every single model on the market. He saw an unmet need and stepped up to fill it. When you’re looking for your next big idea, take a page from Dyson’s book. Look at what frustrates you and ask yourself: how could I make this better?

2. Let frustration drive your sales pitch.

Dyson told The Guardian that frustration doesn’t just drive his process of invention–it drives his sales pitches. "I usually sell from the point of view of frustration," he says, "hoping that other people feel the same way." When you’re sensitive to what frustrates people, you’ve got an instant marketing angle: you can play to the frustrations and needs of your target market.

3. Learn from failure.

If you think that Dyson got it right on the first try, you’re wrong. It took 5127 prototypes before he reached a model that worked. But Dyson didn’t let failure get him down. To the contrary: he treated it as a learning opportunity. "There were 5,126 failures,” he says, “but I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution, so I don’t mind failure.”

4. Let rejection motivate you.

The major vacuum manufacturers rejected Dyson’s prototypes over and over again, prompting him to go out on his own. Far from seeing rejection as a setback, Dyson thought it pointed to an opportunity. "Rejection after rejection from these big companies suddenly made me realize there was a wonderful opportunity here,” he said. “They’re not advancing, they’re not changing things for people at home every day."

5. Don’t expect instant gratification.

It takes a long time to cycle through 5127 prototypes, but Dyson persisted, and that’s what made him a success. When you’re building a company and a brand, don’t expect overnight success. Instead, be patient and stick it out. As Dyson says, "We admire instant brilliance, effortless brilliance. I think quite the reverse. You should admire the person who perseveres and slogs through and gets there in the end."

6. Get some sleep.

On top of running his company, Dyson manages to maintain a fairly sane work-life balance. He claims that he doesn’t check his email or phone when he’s at home, and that he sleeps ten hours a night. When he’s at work, he works hard--but he doesn’t sacrifice his personal needs or peace of mind.

7. Invest in innovation.

Running a successful company and revolutionizing the market for household appliances wasn’t enough for Dyson. He’s paying it forward, and investing in the future of engineering and innovation. The James Dyson foundation encourages students to become inventors through learning opportunities and invention competitions. It also sponsors the James Dyson award, given annually for outstanding designs by college-level engineering students.

Published on: Sep 2, 2015
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