In 1962, David Oreck was selling heavy upright vacuum cleaners to hotels all across the United States. During his many business travels, he noticed hotel housekeepers struggling to drag big, heavy vacuum machines all over the hotel property. The drudgery of it was clear as they pulled and pushed their way from one floor to the next. One day, he had a radical idea: What if someone were to design a lightweight, yet powerful, vacuum cleaner to relieve the physical stress of hotel staff all over the world? He approached his employers and tried to convince them to do just that.
As he tells it, he was laughed out of the room and told, “No one would ever buy a lightweight vacuum cleaner.” The Oreck Corporation began as a manufacturer of upright vacuum cleaners for the US hotel industry in 1963. It was a huge success. Bigger than he'd anticipated. Not only did hotels eagerly start buying them, but the hotel staff members themselves started buying these vastly-improved vacuum cleaners for their own use at home. So, David's original idea evolved as the Oreck Corporation began selling its unique products to residential consumers as well. As they say, now you know the rest of the story. Well, not quite.
In 2005, I was dating a woman who sold her candle company to none other than Mr. David Oreck himself. One weekend shortly after the purchase of the candle company, she and I were invited to spend a day on David’s private ranch. The property is breathtaking, with longhorns grazing along the side of his personal runway and an airplane hangar that houses over fifteen restored vintage aircrafts. During the early part of the day, we took turns flying with him in various aircraft around Louisiana and Mississippi. Once the keys to the various planes were locked away, Mr. Oreck proceeded to break out the scotch. That afternoon, he introduced me to fine whiskey and began to ask about my business. I explained to him that we were operating in thirty-seven states and two providences in Canada and that we were in the business of putting our hands into your pockets and legally extracting as much cash as possible.
I remember his response like it was yesterday. “Oh, you are in marketing? What type of business do you think I own?”
I immediately responded, “The vacuum cleaner business, of course!”