What You Can Learn From a Vacuum Salesman.

vacuum salesman




Thankfully, perseverance is a good substitute for talent.

— Steve Martin


James Dyson, founder of the company that bears his name, is fond of failure. That may seem odd considering the fact he’s upended multiple product lines and industries ranging from wheelbarrows to vacuums to mechanical hand-dryers.


The only hand dryer worth talking about.

The only hand dryer worth talking about.


In a recent Wired Magazine article Dyson noted he spent 5 years building 5,127 prototypes of his bagless vacuum.

Yeah that’s right.




That’s nearly 3 prototypes per day.

Every day.

For 5 years.



That’s passion and perseverance.




It’s also a glaring indication of someone who is not afraid to fail. Lord knows somewhere around Prototype 2,349 his sister-in-law said, “You know James… Maybe it’s just not meant to be. I mean, how many prototypes do you plan to build?


His answer, presumably, would have been this: As many as it takes.


Wired asked Dyson about failure.

“It’s when something fails that you learn. If it doesn’t fail, you don’t learn anything. You haven’t made any progress. Everything I do is a mistake. It fails. For the past 42 years—I’ve had a life of it.





When bridging the language gap on the jobsite, fear of failure is a killer. Saying nothing to someone working incorrectly right in front of you kills Productivity (someone will be back to fix it; you will be back to check on it) and Profitability (no one makes money on Rework).


Try this on for size….


¿Hay Problemas?

(eye  proh-BLAY-mahs)

Are there problems?


When you see Hispanic workers, ask them this. If the answer is No… congrats. Keep moving.


If the answer is , respond with this one-word question.






Practice these two phrases for a week and you’ll be an expert. And you’ll start eliminating frustration and rework.


Fear of failure is the single biggest obstacle in learning a new language. Overcome that fear and you’ll find you won’t need anything near 5,127 attempts to get it right.



Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a  training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish language gap in the construction industry.


Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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