His brand of vacuum cleaners became a trusted household name, and now Oreck sweeps onto the how-to scene with timeless, common-sense advice for business startups.
At 90 years old, Oreck still loves flying planes. He’s also excited by the new business ventures he has created since selling his successful vacuum company over a decade ago. That enthusiastic energy reverberates throughout his debut, which combines applicable recommendations for the novice with anecdotes of his own business experience, beginning with his first entry-level job in the RCA wholesale distributorship after World War II. Times may have changed since Oreck worked his way up to sales manager and then struck out on his own with the direct mail marketing of his vacuums, but he stresses that human nature remains constant. With an affable tone, he shares vital ingredients for his brand’s success, such as knowing—and literally visualizing—his target demographic for a lightweight vacuum cleaner (older, wealthier females), offering optimal customer service (a 21-year guarantee) and marketing to educate consumers about the benefits of his product. Black-and-white photos from Oreck’s life and sample advertisements are sprinkled throughout the lively narrative. One memorable ad shows a gray-haired hotel maid holding an Oreck vacuum above her head with one hand. During an era when lightweight products were thought to be less powerful—the competition even used this misconception against him—Oreck procured contracts with hotels, thus validating his vacuum’s strength and durability. As a self-made man who didn’t graduate from college, Oreck eschews business theory in favor of real-world practicality, and there’s no jargon in his easy-to-read book. “Knowledge is not talent and theory is not practice,” he says. In another key bit of advice, he suggests maintaining control of distributorship and avoiding the sale of products to large chains. While it may be tempting to place product with Wal-Mart, Oreck writes, the small business owner ultimately has little say when dealing with the giants. Though there is some intentional repetition of ideas, it doesn’t disrupt the book’s flow or its uplifting message. Readers who wax nostalgic for the days before faceless big-box stores will appreciate Oreck’s homespun adages and emphasis on customer service.
Practical inspiration for hardworking entrepreneurs.