PROFILE

Dave Longaberger

Founder of the Longaberger Company

Dave Longaberger
  • Creating Value

    + 20
  • Rising from Adversity

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  • Community Impact

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  • Benevolent Employer

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  • BUSINESS AS SPORT RANKING

    50

"I've never measured my success by how well I competed against others. This may sound strange because from the time we start school we learn to compete in the classroom for good grades. Later in sports, we're taught to beat our opponent. There's no question heavy competition is a big part of our American culture. Some people even say it's the backbone of our free enterprise system. I'm all for free enterprise, and I am not one to back down, but in truth, I have never been motivated to beat the competition. Instead, I have always tried to beat myself. That's right, I compete against myself. I have always set a personal standard for what I want to achieve, and I work toward that goal. When I reach it, I set a higher goal and go after that. Frankly, I don't care what the competition is doing. It’s okay with me if the other guy gets his. More power to him. What really motivates me is doing better than I've done before and improving myself along the way. I also try to inspire my employees to strive to do their best. I discourage them from competing against each other. "Just be the best you can be", I say and "let’s work together so we can be the best team." Not a team that competes against other teams, but a team that pulls together towards one common goal - to be the best possible company we can be. I believe this can be applied to every business, whether it's a restaurant, grocery store, or large manufacturing company."

– Dave Longaberger, (1934-1999) founder of the Longaberger Company, which makes handmade baskets and other house and lifestyle products.

Dave Longaberger was about as far from a predictable success story as might be imagined. Growing up poor in the small, has-been town of Dresden, Ohio, Dave was one of 12 children; who, with their parents, lived in a house with one bathroom. Dave’s father worked at a local paper mill, and made baskets on the side. His mother, Bonnie, worked at the woolen mill. Dave had epilepsy, and a bad stutter when he spoke. He worked hard at odd jobs as a kid, but he had to repeat the 5th grade twice, and was 21 when he graduated from high school, reading at the 6th grade level. As he says, he would have been voted most likely to fail if they had such an award at his high school. At one point the Longaberger Company had 6,000 employees, 60,000 sales consultants, and $700 million a year in revenues, although sales and employment have declined since his death, in part because the trends towards “country” home decorating peaked in the 1980s and 90s.

Longaberger, who died from renal cancer in 1999, was nicknamed “Popeye”, and called that by employees. “Homespun” is probably the best way to describe Longaberger, his work, and his company. He believed in humor and a very convivial workplace, discussing personal problems with employees, and just about every non-scientific management technique. Perhaps the ultimate people person; when he died 8,000 people attended his memorial. His work not only revitalized a dying industry, basket weaving, but also a dying small town.

His life is a tribute to traditional values, and triumph over adversity. He had two daughters, one now runs the company, the other runs his foundation. He is divorced, but amicably. In his early career Longaberger bought almost everything on installments, as he could never get bank financing. He focused on treating people with respect and being honest with employees,

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Business Titan(2), Dave Longaberger(2), Longaberger Company(2), Dresden(1), Ohio(1), Popeye(1),

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Quotes

Courage isn't the absence of fear; it's the dealing with it.

—Randall 'Tex' Cobb
American Boxer and Actor