Longaberger: An American Success Story

Longaberger: An American Success Story

by David H. Longaberger, Robert L. Shook

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Dave Longaberger was one of the most remarkable entrepreneurs of his generation. His vision, his unorthodox business methods, and his belief in people resulted in the creation of one of the largest and most successful private companies in America.

Longaberger: An American Success Story is Dave's fascinating firsthand account of how he created and grew

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Dave Longaberger was one of the most remarkable entrepreneurs of his generation. His vision, his unorthodox business methods, and his belief in people resulted in the creation of one of the largest and most successful private companies in America.

Longaberger: An American Success Story is Dave's fascinating firsthand account of how he created and grew his company into the largest basket manufacturer in the United States, employing thousands of people, revitalizing his community, and inspiring everyone involved with a commitment to quality, craftsmanship, and a unique management philosophy.

As Dave himself admits in this moving and compelling memoir, he was an unlikely success story. In addition to having epilepsy and a stutter, Dave suffered from a learning disorder, finally graduating high school at the age of twenty-one. Yet, he ran two profitable businesses, a restaurant and a grocery store -- which, to the horror of bankers and friends, he then sold in order to finance his struggling basket company.

Dave was a business maverick who only let adversities make him stronger and more versatile. He became renowned for his managerial skills -- and his sense of humor. More than once he started a food fight at a company event or launched a wild idea -- like the basket-shaped headquarters building -- that just happened to work perfectly.

This engaging story shows how Dave Longaberger shared his life and unconventional business sense to create what is now the $1 billion-in-sales Longaberger Company. Join him on his journey as he takes his own unique route to success. Learn about the many original and highly unusual management practices that not only contributed to thestrength of the Longaberger enterprise but can make any business run more profitably. Follow Dave's example and develop the entrepreneurial skills necessary for business success.

Longaberger: An American Success Story is an affirmation of the American values of independence, hard work, and business ethics. Inspirational as well as informative, this is a moving portrait of an enterprise and an entrepreneur, both of whom are loved and revered by the thousands of people whose lives they have enriched.

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Editorial Reviews

Barbara Tober
A truly touching and motivational story told by a man whose values for both family and company are solid, strong and worthy of emulating.
Jennifer Read Hawthorne
Dave Longaberger's story is an enormously entertaining and touching memoir of a brilliant, colorful man's vision and blueprint for success.
E. Gordon Gee
Dave Longaberger lived the American Dream and created that Dream for many thousands. Few stories are more touching and compelling ... savor the story of humble beginnings, high ideals, and big ideas.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The son of a basket-factory worker, Longaberger saw a market for fine handcrafted baskets in 1973, as the popularity of handmade crafts began to take hold. By 1999 (when Longaberger died of cancer), he had built a billion-dollar corporation employing 8,000 people. Longaberger, who graduated from high school at 21 and had learning disabilities and a severe stutter, certainly did not fit the profile of the typical CEO, yet from the evidence he was an exemplary one. He proudly proclaims that he learned about customer service and sales from driving a bread delivery route and running a restaurant and grocery store. Following his own vision, he built the company from its smalltown roots in Dresden, Ohio, at the same time that he developed a unique direct sales network. Engagingly folksy and self-deprecatingly funny, he champions facing adversity and growing stronger from it. The feel-good story of a very likable man applying his talents and making a big difference to his town and his family (he groomed his two daughters to succeed him) should engage readers on its own. Meanwhile, those searching for humane models for running a successful company will benefit from the 18 straightforward management principles that emerge from his success. As the man who believed a job should be at least 25% fun (it was a corporate policy), Longaberger, consummate salesman, also can't stop himself from saying that his favorite sport was basketball. (Mar.) Forecast: The arresting jacket cover photograph of the corporate headquarters built in the form of the popular market basket is perfectly attuned to the Longaberger philosophy. The planned 25-city radio campaign and 15-city NPR syndicated feature should help draw attention to the book, resulting in a basketful of sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.91(d)

Meet the Author

Dave Longaberger began the Longaberger Company with the vision that people wold never tire of the handcrafted quality of the baskets that his father, J.W. Longaberger, had woven for years. Dave died on March 17, 1999, shortly after completing this book.

Robert Shook is an experienced business writer who lives in Columbus, OH.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1: Everything I Know About Business I Learned from My Mom and Dad

If growing up poor in a family of fourteen had its shortcomings, my brothers, sisters, and I didn't know it. Besides, none of the other kids in Dresden, Ohio, ever seemed any better off than we were.

My roots in Dresden go back to 1896. That's when my grandparents, Carrie and John Longaberger, moved here. Shortly thereafter, my grandfather started working at the Dresden Basket Company. In 1919, my dad, John Wendell Longaberger, followed in his father's footsteps. He dropped out of high school at age seventeen to work at the same basket factory. I don't think any man ever loved making baskets more than my dad. It showed in his work, and he became an excellent craftsman.

The six or so weavers who worked at the Dresden Basket Company before it closed during the Great Depression made baskets for local pottery companies, including those in nearby Roseville and Zanesville. The baskets were used to carry materials to and from the kiln, as well as for shipping finished ware. The pottery industry has long since replaced baskets with cardboard boxes and plastic crates.

In 1936 Mom and Dad bought a small frame house for $1,900 that had three bedrooms and one bathroom. Included in the purchase price was a small shop behind the house that had been used by the Dresden Basket Company before it shut down.

Dad found work as a back-tender-machine operator at the Dresden Paper Mill, where he worked the 6 A.M. to 2 P.M. shift. After work he made baskets for pottery companies, and before long he was designing and making baskets for personal use. His line included baskets for everyday shopping, to take on picnics, and so on. The sign in front of our house read THE OHIO WARE BASKET COMPANY.

For me, those were good days. In fact, I don't know how growing up could have been any better! We were a close-knit family. Even though we didn't have much in the way of material possessions, we were blessed to have each other, especially to have Mom and Dad. Although I never gave it much thought as a kid, our parents and the environment where we grow up have a strong influence on who we become as adults. We grew up knowing we had to work hard, be honest, and help others. Yet all of this is determined by the luck of the draw. We must play the hand that life deals us. It was my good fortune to have drawn a winning hand.

The Longabergers of Dresden, Ohio

In a town of fifteen hundred, I doubt if there was anyone in town who didn't know at least one or two Longabergers. Knowing everybody in town has its pros and cons. On the upside, people are friendly. You can go anywhere, and people call you by name. "Hey, Popeye, how's it going?" I'd hear all over town. "Popeye" was a nickname my grandfather gave me. When he first saw me, just hours after I was born, he thought my eyes popped out. Ever since, that's what my family, my teachers, and my friends have called me.

The downside of everybody knowing everybody in a small town is that if you do anything you're not supposed to, the word spreads like wildfire. Maybe this isn't so bad; in fact, I think it's why kids in small towns don't get into much trouble. When they do, they can't keep their parents from finding out.

In truth, none of us ever got into trouble, at least nothing serious. We had so much love and respect for Mom and Dad, we didn't want to do anything that could hurt or embarrass them. In a family as large as ours, there was a lot of peer pressure from eleven brothers and sisters. Nobody wanted to be the only one who would cause embarrassment to the family. I never would have finished high school except I promised Mom I wouldn't be the only one of her children not to graduate even though it took me so many years.

Growing up in a family of fourteen means you have to do your part. This is especially true in a small house with a single bathroom! Early on, we learned to share. Nobody tied it up for long. In the morning, there never seemed to be so much traffic that it made anyone late for school. We always took our baths at night, and, fortunately, all my sisters had straight hair so they didn't use curlers. In those days, my sisters rarely put on makeup; besides, it was too expensive. In a pinch, we could always run out the back door and down the alley to use the neighbor's outhouse.

With so many kids, we learned how to get organized. We also learned how to adjust to change. The second floor of our house was one big room with a stairway going up the middle. We slept in rows of single beds -- girls on the left side and boys on the right. Richie was born two years after me, and when we were little, we shared a single bed. Around the seventh grade or so, we were too big, and that's when we each got our own bed. There were two bedrooms on the first floor. One was for Mom and Dad, and the other room had bunk beds that belonged to the two oldest girls, Genevieve and Wendy. When they moved out, my two older brothers, Jerry and Larry, inherited that bedroom. Later, it became Richie's and mine.

We had a full house on Eighth Street, but that was our life, and that's all we knew. We didn't have scooters and bicycles, so we took turns playing with the toys we did have...

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