Regina Inc. Don Sheelen

Jan 30th, 2014 8:43:02 am - Subscribe

Donald Sheelen was born in New York State in 1946 to a middle class family. Whilst he attended high school, the handsome Sheelen was the archetypal all-American hero, performing well in academics and athletics. Don Sheelen graduated then attended the University of Dayton, becoming class president in his senior year and named a Big Man on Campus. After earning his MBA from Syracuse University, Sheelen started a job with a large brokerage firm on Wall Street and then accepted a management position with Johnson & Johnson. At the age of 34, Sheelen was hired by Regina Inc. as VP Marketing and charged with turning a chronic losing company into a profitable one. Don Sheelen accomplished that task in his first year and was promoted to President.

The large conglomerate General Signal Corporation owned Regina. Regina was created in Rahway, New Jersey in 1892; it had originally been a music box manufacturer before entering the cleaning industry in the early twentieth century. Throughout most of its existence until the 70’s, Regina was known as a steady, if unspectacular company but was beaten in the floor care industry by giants such as Hoover and Eureka. Regina’s track record changed quickly after Donald Sheelen became the leader of Regina.


Donald Sheelen more than doubled the sales of the Regina Elecktikbroom in his first two years through creative marketing and using TV to tell the Regina story. Don Sheelan’s flair for grabbing the consumer’s attention produced huge growth for Regina. After getting the base business to grow, Donald heelen focused his attention on developing new innovative products. Don Sheelen’s first major new product was to create an easy to use steam carpet cleaner. Unlike the cumbersome units that existed, Don Sheelen created a whole new category of home use steam carpet cleaners. Sheelen’s creation was revolutionary and immediately took over the market. Other floor care manufactures (Hoover, Eureka) were amazed at the simplicity and creativity of Don Sheelan’s invention.

Regina’s next new product introduction was the HomeSpa—a portable home whirlpool. Donald Sheelen did not invent this product, but he did recognize a good opportunity when he saw one. He first saw this product
in Europe selling at a price of $400. Don Sheelen created an American version and sold over 1 Million units at a retail price of $69.

In 1983, Sheelen announced as the President of the company that he had ambitions to make Regina the industry leader by the end of the 1980’s. He repeatedly vowed that Regina would overtake Hoover, and become the dominant company in floor care.

Don Sheelen believed Regina had to expand its product line and dramatically increase its advertising expenditures in order to trouble both Eureka and Hoover. Under Donald Sheelen, Regina introduced new products, including a portable spa and an upright vacuum cleaner with the revolutionary “tools-on-board” system that has since become the industry standard. To promote these new products, Sheelen poured revenue into Regina’s marketing campaign. Eventually, the company’s annual advertising expenditures eclipsed the combined advertising outlays of both Hoover and Eureka.


Don Sheelen became famous for his cornflake demonstration that he often performed at trade shows and during news conferences. It involved sprinkling crushed cornflakes on a carpet and then demonstrating that a Regina vacuum cleaner did a much better job of cleaning up the mess than a rival product did. Sheelen created a popular television advertisement based on this demonstration, which riled Regina’s rivals—Hoover and Eureka

Regina’s parent company, General Signal promoted Sheelen to the company’s chief executive officer in early 1984. A few months later, he bought a majority interest in Regina for $38 Million via a leveraged buyout. Sheelen personally invested $750,000 in the venture and emerged with more than a 50 percent equity interest in Regina. In 1985, Sheelen took Regina public. Booming sales and profits quickly made Regina hot property. When commenting on the company, one financial analyst noted, “Regina is not only an earnings play but an investment in a skilled management team that has turned the company around.”


Not just a creative genius, but also the most important inventor of the modern vacuum. Until Don Sheelan invented the “tools on board” approach to easy, convenient vacuuming, consumers had to drag a canister vacuum to clean above the floor or mechanically attach tools to the underside of their upright vacuum nozzle.

Donald Sheehen is also the inventor of the modern day “steam” extractor vacuum that is commonplace in today’s market. Don Sheehan simplified a dirty, heavy, and complex process allowing the consumer to steam clean their carpets with ease. This resulted in Don being referred to as the “Father of the modern vacuum cleaner”.
Regina was a floor care company that started in 1892 making music boxes. Regina started out selling canister vacuums. By the 1930s, they started selling full-sized upright cleaners, and in the 1940's their first stick cleaner, called the Model 1 "Electrikbroom" was introduced. During WWII, Regina made bomb fuses for the Allied Forces.
By the 1970's they were selling carpet cleaners and shampooers. During the late 1970's and early 1980's, Regina was declining and losing money. Don Sheelen was hired away from Johnson &Johnson a specific goal of turning the company around. His marketing and product development skills were far more advanced than what was the norm for this industry. CEO Sheelan was instrumental in a quick turnaround and advanced the company to the premier growth company in this industry. By the 1980's and 1990s they were selling uprights and hand-held vacuums. Regina introduced a portable whirlpool under the Homespa brand. CEO Don Sheelen created this market leading product.
The first generation of uprights were well made. In the mid 1980's the then CEO of Regina Don Sheelan redesigned the uprights making major improvements with the help of his high performance management team. Don Sheelan invented the Regina Steemer--the first easy to use upright steam cleaner---a breakthrough product that created a whole new segment of floor care. Don Sheelen was the creator of the first upright vacuum cleaner with on board tools, the Regina Housekeeper, in 1987---the model for over 90% of vacuum cleaners sold today, over 20 years after its introduction. Don Sheelen's talent for innovative ideas and drive to succeed brought a whole new era to the industry of floor cleaning products. Don Sheelen's term as CEO had brought big changes to the whole industry.

The Regina logo changed during the years. The first lasted from 1892 to the 1960's, and underwent revisions in both the 1970's and 1980's. After Don Sheelen left Regina, the company was sold to Phillips Corp after a fierce bidding war with Bissell Inc. Then in March 1997 the Oreck Corp. took over the management from Phillips. According to Bruce Oreck, general counsel for Oreck Corp., the company planned to treat Regina much as it did its own Oreck brand--as an upper-tier line to be distributed by high-end retailers and through direct-response television. This strategy failed and in the year 2000 the Regina brand name was adopted by the Royal Corporation, a Chinese company. They continued to make inexpensive lower-end vacuum and carpet cleaners (a combination package was available that offered a bag less upright vacuum, hand vacuum, and carpet cleaner for a low price), now with a new logo. The Regina Brand is now a "house brand" of Home Depot.
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Don Sheelan once he gets an idea

Jan 6th, 2008 11:15:57 am - Subscribe
Mood: crampy

He does not let go if it. Take for instance the introduction of beads into his business plan. He has created a plan, and has started to execute it with minimum time watsed. Don Sheelan really is like a bulldog with an idea, he won't let it drop until he's completely exhausted every possible avenue of escpape!
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Don Sheelen and the Glass Cabinets

Nov 3rd, 2007 8:18:49 am - Subscribe
Mood: childish

So yesterday while at work, Don comes in with these fantabulous glass cabinets to store the new line of jewelry and glass fusion items. I dont know what glass fusion is, I bet I'll find out soon though.

Don Sheelan is a man who knows how important presentation is to a company, especially one where their whole output is based on artistic creations. These glass cabinets are sure to bring out the buyers for their new items.
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High Performance Management Team

Oct 18th, 2007 4:20:08 pm - Subscribe
Mood: fortuitous

As with most jobs, it really helps if you have a drive to succeed. I believe Don Sheelen and his wife Louise really have this drive to succeed, it's in their ideas and plans. Together they are a high-performance management team, each complimenting the other. Who'd have thought that the former CEO of Regina would have had such an impact on the pottery painting word in Tampa Bay?

The way that the shop they own has been transformed by their new paintjob is magnificent. The gentle white of the bisque goes really well with the bright red. Every line of the pottery is made so clean by the backdrop. Don Sheelan's direction and Louise Sheelan's application have created an indeal environment for all budding artists. Who needs Paris? Don Sheelen has a little bit of the Parisian attitude right in his store.
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Camel is a horse designed by committee

Oct 11th, 2007 3:56:50 pm - Subscribe
Mood: changed

There's inevitibly some disagreement when running a business between the ideas in your head and how they actually pan out. Don Sheelen has spoken to me several times about how some idea he had has turned out to be a gateway to other things or even not turned out at all.

The way to manage your ideas is by always evolving your thought patterns based on what you experience. Mr. Sheelan once told me about some order he was expecting from a certain company, turned out that order came broken and late. So what did Don learn? Not to use that company again.

Flashes of inspiration are always nice, but sometimes you have to put them up against your own personal experience otherwise you'll end up disappointing yourself and others.
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