Business / Billionaires

John Lam on How Sir James Dyson “became rich”

Some critics think James Dyson got rich selling vacuum cleaners and hair dryers for $700. Fact is, how Dyson​ became UK’s wealthiest man involves a quality that fundamentally, all of us possess.

Jul 12, 2019 | By LUXUO

In January, according to Bloomberg, James Dyson became the richest person in the United Kingdom after his technology firm reported earnings of £1.1 billion (US$1.42 billion)  in 2018 thanks to high demand on innovations of bagless vacuum cleaners, hairdryers and air purifiers. With those revenues, sole-owner of his namesake Dyson brand, became worth US$13.8 billion. Globally, he is 83rd on Bloomberg’s list of the world’s top 500 high net worth individuals.

He made recent news once again when Dyson, having plans to establish his electric car factory in Singapore, bought the city-state’s most expensive, S$73 million Wallich Residence penthouse prompting online commentators and critics to make light of how James Dyson managed to accrue this level of wealth during such a short period of time, prompting John Lam, a Vice President within the asset management industry, to opine on Dyson’s perceived “stellar rise” on Facebook.

The $73 million dollar question: John Lam on How Sir James Dyson “became rich”

One of the more common comments you encounter when reading about Sir James Dyson snapping up Singapore’s priciest penthouse is how the commentator would be able to buy a luxurious penthouse if they sold vacuum cleaners for $500 or fans for $700.

But this cliched attempt at humour ignores a very fundamental fact about how Sir James Dyson got rich.

He didn’t become rich because he sold “overpriced” vacuums. He became rich because he spent nearly a decade subsisting on just his wife’s art teacher salary so that he could create the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner. (Back in the 80s, the sale of vacuum bags was a £100m a year industry In the UK alone, so imagine the level of savings this product would have provided to customers.)

He became rich because he worked tirelessly for 5 years on 5,176 failed prototypes before creating a working model.

Mr James Dyson, inventor of the bagless vacuum

He became rich because despite creating a working model, no manufacturer wanted to carry his product and it took a decade before he managed to set up his own manufacturing company to manufacture his vacuum cleaners.

He became rich because even after his success with the cyclone vacuum, he continued to refine his product further and branch off into other product lines that displayed the same level of quality and attention that his customers loved.

It is easy to be envious of the success of a 72 year old man. But few people would be envious of failing 5176 times, getting the door slammed in their face by all the major manufacturers in the UK and spending a decade and a half living like a pauper because most of your savings are reinvested into your business.

If you want that $74m penthouse, don’t look at the $500 vacuum cleaner. Look at the 40 years of hard work it took to get there.

About Dyson

Fact is, though Dyson entered the market directly in 2001, the company was already licensing its household innovations to Japanese firm, Apex Ltd since 1985, US based Fantom Technologies and at one point, even Phillips in 1991 when Mr. Dyson eventually had enough capital to register the business – Dyson Appliances.

About Luxuo’s Guest Writer, John Lam

By day, John works in Institutional and Wealth Management Sales in an Asset Management firm peddling his wares to sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, government bodies and private banks. By night, John continues to work in Institutional and Wealth Management Sales because John works in Singapore, a country with one of the longest working hours in the world and where 1 in 2 residents feel stressed out by the thought of doing nothing. When he finds time though, John enjoys spending time with his family, commenting on social issues and travelling (particularly to other microstates).

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