The man behind the money Featured

10:47am EDT October 23, 2001
His worst mistake

Langdale's biggest business blunder came in 1989 when he was heading up his first venture, Digital Storage Inc., and learned a hard lesson about carrying too many eggs in one basket.

"We had a very large percentage of our business with one vendor," Langdale recalls of his then-$100 million company. "That vendor had a change in philosophy and about 30 percent of our business disappeared almost overnight."

The vendor decided to go directly to its customers instead of working through Digital Storage for marketing and logistics services, Langdale explains.

"Our management team sat down and said, 'Since they were contractually obligated to use us, should we sue? Should we get mad? Should we get even?' Instead, we got introspective. We asked ourselves, 'What caused that vendor to go direct to their customers?' That vendor saw us as a threat. That company made $10 million profit a year. We were responsible for about $9 million of that. They probably just got nervous. They didn't have enough control in their customer relationships."

With that realization, he went to work. He moved all of Digital Storage's logistics and marketing functions into a separate business and restructured them so the client company had the direct relationship with the reseller and Langdale's company worked behind the scenes. He called the new company Distribution and Logistics Services Inc. It lasted about 10 years as an independent business before being merged into SubmitOrder.

"If we are wronged, we can usually make an opportunity out of it that's much more valuable than (dwelling on the issue)," Langdale says.

His philosophies

Although Langdale has many business philosophies, here are two of the most revealing:

* "I've always said the secret to happiness is low expectations."

* "If winning is beating the other people in business, you're missing the point."

His mentors

Langdale has sought outside expertise almost since the day he started his first company 15 years ago. As his business interests have changed -- and industries evolved -- so has the face of his advisory board.

Here are those who have helped him in the past as well as those who are advising him at present:

* Larry McLernon of LCI International (now Qwest)

* Tadd Seitz, a private investor who used to head up The Scotts Co.

* Bud LaLonde of The Ohio State University

* Mike Endres of Stonehenge Financial Holdings Inc.

* Roger Blackwell, owner of Blackwell Associates Inc. and marketing professor at The Ohio State University

* Roger Lautzenhiser of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease

* Larry Hilsheimer of Deloitte & Touche

His greatest revelation

It's a familiar scenario. What business owner hasn't, at some point, gotten so wrapped up in the company that family and social life suffered?

For Langdale, all else took a backseat to his entrepreneurial endeavors for nearly eight years before he noticed what had happened.

"Awhile into the business, I realized I was focused solely on the business and not life," Langdale says.

He saw his friends marrying, having children, getting involved in the community -- and realized he was missing out.

"I realized I wanted a family," he says.

He shifted part of his focus onto his personal life and soon found happiness again.

"You need to have a balance in your life," says the 36-year-old husband and father. "You can't just do one thing and expect to find happiness and contentment. You have to create an atmosphere in your company where associates can have balance, too."

Langdale believes in encouraging well-rounded lifestyles so much that he's made employee contentment part of his companies' mission and vision statements.

"At RPA, our vision is happy clients, happy associates," he says. At NCT Ventures, the mission talks about "fulfilling people" as well as creating and adding value to the supply chain.

"We don't just want to work ourselves to death," he says. "We work hard and have fun."