What if I told you you could earn nearly half a billion dollars just by thinking about what you're already doing in new and surprising ways? To see what I mean, consider the amazing success story of John Osher.
Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Osher and three business partners conceived of an idea for an inexpensive electric toothbrush. Designing and manufacturing the device himself, they successfully convinced Walgreens and Wal-Mart to carry it in their stores.
With surprisingly strong initial sales, Osher was able to attract the interest of Procter & Gamble’s Crest division — selling the rights to his so-called "SpinBrush” for a cool $475 million. Not too shabby.
So how did he do it? And how can you do it, too?
Principle 1: No Job is Too Small
Osher’s first out-of-college job was as a plumber and carpenter. No, it wasn't glamorous—but it gave him a solid grounding in basic mechanics. He also learned to understand and appreciate the elegant inner workings of mechanical devices that most others took for granted.
As a father, he used that experience to launch his own company, CAP Toys. One of his products was especially sweet—christened the "Spin Pop," it was a battery-powered lollipop that whirled with the press of a button. This motorized lollipop helped Osher sell his company to Hasbro for a small fortune—but the real prize was the product development experience acquired along the way. “We developed a real expertise,” Osher said, “in using small motors, batteries, and gears.”
Osher operates on the principle that no job is too small—each work task contains valuable experience that can be applied elsewhere. Each experience can build on itself, until you're a fountain of marketable skills. What experiences do you have that you're not fully utilizing?
Principle 2: Apply Your Experience in Unexpected Ways
Osher could have kept making candy forever, but instead, he took stock of his experience. What had he learned? He had discovered how to make an inexpensive and handheld battery-operated device that could rotate. And where could he apply this expertise?
After strolling down the aisle of a local Wal-Mart (remember, inspiration is everywhere) he realized he could make an electric toothbrush that cost only a couple of dollars more than a manual brush. But how could he keep this electric toothbrush near a $5 price point and still make money?
He took stock of his experience again, and realized a long-standing practice in the toy industry was to place “try me” stickers on products with demonstrable on-the-shelf features. So why not eschew the marketing budget and place "Try Me" stickers up and down the aisles?
Osher's revelation teaches us to never get complacent, and apply our experiences in unexpected sectors. Innovation is the sum of your experiences—but your experience is even more impactful if you think outside the box. Osher went from creating cavities to plaque-busting—how can you apply your knowledge to effect a similarly brain-defying transformation?
Principle 3: Learn as Much as You Can
During a single calendar year, Osher's 11-person company managed to sell about 10 million toothbrushes and the device quickly became the best-selling toothbrush in the U.S.
Osher credits his ability to learn from and build upon experience as a primary reason for his success. “Everything I have ever done has grown out of experience,” Osher said. “Look for the truth in each experience…. Expand on your experience as a resource.”
Anyone can cultivate a rich reservoir of experience and use it to kindle the fires of future inspiration. Our job is to constantly challenge ourselves to explore new ideas, projects, activities, and endeavors that broaden our horizons.
What experiences do you have that you can apply in ways no one has before?
How can you start today?