From cyclonic to iconic
How Dyson's quiet revolution is filling the loss vacuum
What goes around comes around, or so the saying goes.
"Revolution" is a word meaning dramatic or forceful change, but it also simply means to revolve or rotate a full cycle. Revolution can be used in both senses to describe the iconic and cyclonic story of James Dyson who captured the zeitgeist of a new engineering era during the 1990s that has left the world spinning ever since.
Dyson's very English revolution sparked a new choreography around the perpetual and cyclical process of cause and effect, action and reaction, that has fired our imaginations and created a new energy that drives our curiosity, ambitions, competitiveness, creativity, and genius. Cyclical means rotation, rapid and perpetual turning in the same way the spiralling winds of a typhoon or cyclone converge to change landscapes forever. Harnessing that cyclical and cyclonic energy in a creative rather than a destructive way has been the life's work of James Dyson, one of the UK's most inventive minds.
Dyson is synonymous with British engineering at its best and the invention and reinvention of cyclonic power-from vacuum cleaners using the centrifugal separation of dust and allergens to hand dryers and lighting. He was the man who "bagged" the bag in vacuum cleaning technology, stealing a lead over the previous market leader, Hoover. In addition, he has driven the cordless and battery revolution across a wide range of everyday household products, a revolution driven by concern for the environment that predates the current political climate.
Like its vacuum heads, the Dyson name is interchangeable with descriptors such as "stylish" and "innovative, ergonomic products" covering a wide range of business and domestic uses. Apart from vacuum cleaners, Dyson has also reimagined a range of haircare products including dryers, stylers, and accessories; air treatment technology such as purifiers, humidifiers, fans, and heaters; and state-of-the-art lighting systems and hygiene products including hand dryers. All combine the aesthetic design that delivers both the style and substance demanded by today's insatiable consumers who demand quality and longevity from their aspirational and fit-for-purpose products.
In three short decades, Dyson has exported its UK-engineered reputation all over the world, making it a global phenomenon and a highly coveted brand literally touching the lives of millions of people every day. Dyson products were traditionally sold through carefully selected resellers and concessions in department stores. All had to be trained in the Dyson way by gaining a depth of product knowledge beyond what many other manufacturers would require. This was because these revolutionary machines were engineered to be completely different to anything else on the market, and retail partners had to understand how they worked in order fill the knowledge vacuum and act as ambassadors for the values of the company.
Now, Dyson is embarking on a new growth strategy by opening its own showcase retail outlets in prominent locations. These Dyson Demo stores will have the power to draw crowds in with the magnetic suction of their product range and to showcase the scope and broad benefits of the products. This approach, which is built around nurturing loyalty through product knowledge, was described by one Dyson executive as "where we demonstrate, we win."
Now a truly omni-channel brand, Dyson has seen global sales skyrocket from £800 million in 2010 to £4.4 billion in 2018, up almost a billion pounds on the previous year. More than half of these sales came from demand in the burgeoning middle classes in the Asia Pacific region where Dyson has established its manufacturing headquarters in Singapore. However, growth is not restricted to one region of the world and has been experienced in all of the brand's other markets, including the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East.
With this success and expansion, however, comes another less welcome form of attention in the unmistakable shape of theft and the blossoming black economy in fake or counterfeit goods, for which Dyson adopts a zero-tolerance approach. On its website, Dyson has posted a series of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about what to do if, as a customer, you believe the items you have purchased are not genuine products and about social media posts signposting unsuspecting customers to fake websites selling its products. This is not simply trying to strangle the sales channels profiting from selling fake Dysons, but really highlighting the safety aspects of these black-market products that operate with different power voltages depending upon the territory in which they are sold.
Blank Sheet of Paper
Like its range of products, designing problem-solving solutions is the Dyson way, and its approach to global product and brand protection was not created in a vacuum but meticulously researched and developed before being implemented.
"The company began with a blank sheet of paper when it started looking for solutions to protect its brand on a global stage," said Aimee Regan who joined Dyson in 2017 as global head of retail profit protection. The search for the bespoke team was commenced by Adam Honor, global security director who reports into the group council, which in turn is answerable to James Dyson himself.
"From this blank canvas, Adam has built a global security team based upon Dyson's "centres of excellence" model, which includes profit protection, cyber, information, and corporate security as part of a root-and-branch approach.
"They needed someone with a global background, which is why I was approached," said Aimee who has previously led international profit protection teams. "I needed to understand how the business worked from the ground up - how we operate, how we sell both physically and online, and into which markets, which is why I have taken so much time to build the team."
Aimee's approach and direction of travel reflects her thinking and where she has come from - starting her career in retail at Homebase as an LP officer before becoming a divisional security manager and investigator and then moving to the food service and global facilities management giant Compass Group in 2007 as head of profit protection for the UK and Ireland. Never one to shy away from a challenge, the straight-talking Aimee was moved into the global profit protection role of the £14 billion turnover company, which has a presence in more than fifty-five countries where she clocked up air miles travelling across the world in a bid to troubleshoot Compass's shrinkage issues.
"The role I had at Compass was road testing the UK view of LP all over the world, which was really interesting, but I spent a lot of time away, and I started thinking about what was next. I knew I wanted to get back into retail, but as what, I did not know. It did not matter to me if I was protecting a tin of carrots or a tin of paint; the principles are the same."
If you thought the coordinates of her career trajectory were fixed or easy to predict, Aimee surprised everyone by taking a role as a regional director for London and the south-east with First Security, the manned guarding arm of the Interserve Group.
"My CV was lacking commercial experience and client management, and the opportunity to have day-to-day strategic control of a manned guarding operation was a real eye opener. For most people, the world of manned guarding was a bit staid. It is cost driven, and you are only as good as your worst-performing guard, so to me the industry was like a bird with a broken wing that needed to fly again. I wanted to do something different, and this provided the missing piece for me," Aimee said. "It was a big career change but a valuable experience in a brutal industry where it is very much survival of the fittest. A lot of women would look at this and walk away because they canÕt be bothered with all the politics, but for me ignorance of this was a plus. I could ask all the obvious questions in my mission to kick down some of the walls and barriers that had built up.
"It was challenging, but I am so glad that I did it. My team was great and very knowledgeable, and I learned a lot of valuable lessons from them. It is all about respect and delivering a good service when it is extremely tough to get it right. However, we practiced an open-book approach, which introduced transparency that forces all parties to the contract to have an honest relationship."
Three years at Interserve also introduced her to the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals (WCoSP), the 108th livery organisation within the City of London that seeks to build the profile of the security sector, support new and old members, and carry out charitable work. A period as head of profit protection at fashion brand Arcadia Group gave Aimee the experience of working with entrepreneurial businesses ahead of her move to Dyson where her forensic ability and people skills have proved as effective as the brandÕs iconic vacuum cleaners in attracting the right talent.
Aimee continued, "This is by far the most complex role I've had in retail. It's a broader risk profile than I have ever encountered. I am having to deal with a wide range of issues from physical stores, colleague safety, online fraud, counterfeit, and supply chain challenges to parallel trading where people are buying our products in bulk in one market and selling them in another, which throws up its own safety issues around different voltages.
"Since I joined Dyson, I have taken my time to learn, and that has meant going around the business kicking hornets' nests and trying to understand the boxes that needed to be ticked in order to identify the team that I needed to assemble. This is a global remit which requires a multi-disciplined approach. A year on, I am confident that I am getting there with the right people and tools to do the job."
Aimee's first appointments were in 2018 when James Wilson was recruited as the global profit protection analyst and Curtis Junior, "CJ", came on board to look after the Americas from his New York base, joining the fraud lead Georgina (George) Nash who has worked at Dyson in a number of different risk roles for the last twelve years.
Next to join the team was Juan Guerrero, who is based at Dyson's US corporate offices in Chicago. Both CJ and Juan, who had also worked together at Ralph Lauren, are at the vanguard of protecting the Dyson brand as it goes through exponential growth across the Americas region, which includes the Dyson service centres across the US.
Kieran Cotter, fraud and investigations manager, is the latest recruit to join this intelligence-led team based in the UK.
Service centres are a hybrid of a store and repair location where brand owners can bring their machines for maintenance and advice or simply upgrade to the latest model. These are currently represented in twenty-nine states in the US and growing. CJ looks after the service centres, while Juan takes care of the moving components of risk in the US supply chain.
Next, as part of Aimee's top team, was the appointment of Marco Alongi, the profit protection manager for Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). An experienced practitioner, Marco joined Dyson from Waterstones bookstores and operates across the region's forty-two territories along with Desmond Heidt who joined Dyson from luxury brand Michael Kors.
The Asia Pacific (APAC) region, which includes the Far East and Australia, one of Dyson's biggest growth markets, is looked after by James Teo who is based in Singapore and Aleck Jin who is located in Shanghai. Both men will focus largely on the massive threat from the counterfeit market, which is active across the APAC region.
"The counterfeit market is a huge issue, and much of it is very realistic," said Aleck who joined the other ten members of the profit protection team for their first global face-to-face meeting in Malmesbury, the small Wiltshire market town that is also the home of Dyson's research and development centre and UK head office. Spread out across the world, regular contact is maintained through Skype calls, so the team-building session, which included sessions in archery, was an important bonding exercise for the newly formed team.
It also came ahead of a visit to the latest Dyson retail outlet, two-storey super flagship in the heart of Paris's Opera District. It includes a demonstration area encompassing a hair salon to highlight the brand's personal care range, which includes dryers that self-check the room temperature six times per second in order to automatically adjust the heat produced and protect the hair from damage. A lighting space also showcases the range of luminaires that automatically adjust in accordance with the time zone and the time of day so as not to put a strain on the users' eyes.
Across the globe Dyson currently has 100 demo stores, but this will grow two-fold in the next twelve to eighteen months as part of its ambitious expansion plan, which includes growth in the emerging markets, one of which is Turkey. Covering so much territory in such a short space of time creates risk, including cultural and regulatory challenges not to mention staying one step ahead of any supply chain vulnerabilities and the ever-morphing threat of cyber-crime in the omni-channel. This is because as much as legitimate and loyal customers covet their Dyson products, so do opportunistic and organised criminals.
Here, Dyson follows Transported Asset Protection Association (TAPA) warehouse, trucking, or air cargo certifications. These are completed by independently approved audit bodies and demonstrate that an approved company has met the criteria in an open, transparent process.
"Our partners have been amazing. Dyson is a very agile brand, and it is important that they understand what is required of them," added Marco.
The fast pace of the business is also part of the excitement for the newly formed "A" for Aimee team. "You come to work, and you often do not know what is going to come at you day to day. It really keeps it interesting," said Marco.
Kieran Cotter, the latest addition to the team, has his eyes firmly on the changing face of fraud. "Where we grow markets, we are constantly reviewing the risks, and this journey of understanding will continue as we go into new locations where every market works independently. This of course creates its own challenges whether it be different types of crime or simply different and emerging payment method challenges," he said.
But the team is sanguine about the task of protecting the Dyson brand. Desmond added, "If the business wants to do it, we are there to support it and make sure we have the right controls in place. Aimee gives us the right amount of freedom to make decisions in our territories, but with this team, I know the support is there if and when I need it. We are building great relationships that are opening doors across the business. It is a very exciting time."
That excitement is set to continue as the Dyson brand continues to expand in the near future. Aimee already has her sights firmly set on recruiting additional expertise to support the risk team as it looks to the road ahead and the continuation of the quiet revolution in the brand's iconic and cyclonic technological journey.