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14 Quotes for Small Business from Inventor James Dyson

Sir James Dyson Small BusinessSir James Dyson is perhaps best known for his paradigm-shifting vacuum cleaners—vacuums that work using mini cyclones to suck and separate dirt, while never losing suction as it fills up. He formed his own company to make and sell his invention after other manufacturers saw and rejected his unique design. Today his brand of vacuum cleaner is the most popular in Britain and the best selling in the United States (by revenue).

But he wasn’t an over-night success. Supported by his wife, Dyson took more than five years and thousands of failed attempts to perfect his invention. And it wasn’t until ten years later that he broke through to the general market with an advertising campaign that emphasized the advantage of a bagless vacuum. So Dyson knows a little something about perseverance and hard work. Here are a few things he has said and written that will inspire other budding entrepreneurs and small business owners:

“I could buy companies, tart up their products and put my name on them, but I don’t want to do that. That’s what our competitors do.”

“I made 5,127 prototypes of my vacuum before I got it right. There were 5,126 failures. But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.”

“The key to success is failure… Success is made of 99 percent failure.”

“We’re taught to do things the right way. But if you want to discover something that other people haven’t, you need to do things the wrong way. Initiate a failure by doing something that’s very silly, unthinkable, naughty, dangerous. Watching why that fails can take you on a completely different path. It’s exciting, actually. To me, solving problems is a bit like a drug. You’re on it, and you can’t get off.”

“Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.”

“Anyone can become an expert at anything in six months, whether it is hydrodynamics for boats or cyclonic systems for vacuum cleaners.”

“You are just as likely to solve a problem by being unconventional and determined as by being brilliant.”

“I learned that the moment you want to slow down is the moment you should accelerate.”

“Everyone gets knocked back, no one rises smoothly to the top without hindrance. The ones who succeed are those who say, right, let’s give it another go.”

“It is said that to be an overnight success takes years of effort. So it has proved with me.”

“We always want to create something new out of nothing, and without research, and without long hard hours of effort. But there is no such things as a quantum leap. There is only dogged persistence—and in the end you make it look like a quantum leap.”

“In business you will be wrong, by and large, 50 percent of the time. The trick is to recognise when you have gone wrong and correct the damage—not to worry, at the moment of making the decision, whether it is the right one.”

“In order to fix [something], you need a passionate anger about something that doesn’t work well.”

“Risk aversion is a hapless approach for a company that’s hoping to develop new technology. It’s tempting in a downturn. But long-term research and development, expensive and often filled with failure as it is, is the only route to discovering it. By taking the cautious path, companies risk a drought of ideas.”

—Sir James Dyson, Inventor and Founder of The Dyson Company