Longaberger: An American Success Story

Overview

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,...

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Overview

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 unsual management practices that not only contributed to the strength 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.

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Dave Longaberger's life stands as a testament to the value of effort, perseverance, and integrity. Despite beginning life with a few potential disabilities, such as epilepsy and a learning disorder, Longaberger built the famous basket-making company that today bears his name. Although his company is now a billion-dollar concern, Longaberger's tale is more than standard rags-to-riches fare; after all, how often does a successful business owner write, "I was never really motivated by money"? Longaberger shares the 18 Management Principles that guided him throughout his life, and, above all, leaves readers impressed with the warmth and humanity of a truly inspirational leader.
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

  • ISBN-13: 9780066621050
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/6/2001
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 256
  • 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.

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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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Table of Contents

Foreword vii
Preface xiii
Acknowledgments xvii
Introduction xix
1. Everything I Know About Business I Learned from My Mom and Dad 1
2. Earning My Master's Degree 17
3. Six Weeks Ago I Couldn't Even Spell "Entrepreneur"--Now I Is One! 29
4. How The Longaberger Company First Began 52
5. Tell the Story 73
6. Growing Up with My Daughters 100
7. Hard Times 119
8. Every Business Is a People Business 136
9. Having Vision 157
10. The Gift of Giving 178
11. Eighteen Management Principles That I Live By 189
12. Only in America 215
Appendix Important Dates in Longaberger History 217
Index 223
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First Chapter

Chapter One



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.

Longaberger. Copyright © by David Longaberger. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Interviews & Essays

A Message from Tami Longaberger
When initially asked to describe Longaberger: An American Success story, I found myself torn. On the one hand, I wanted to call it a business story. On the other hand, I thought of it as a memoir. I quickly realized the source of my indecision, however: In truth, the story of my father is inextricably linked to the company. The Dave Longaberger story is the Longaberger Company story, and therein lies the true uniqueness of our corporate heritage.

My father was not, by conventional standards, destined for success. He was not a good student. As a child, he suffered from dyslexia and epileptic seizures, and had a severe stutter. He graduated from high school at age 21, having spent three years in the fifth grade.

What my father did have, however, was vision, a passion for a product, undying faith in his employees, an incredible work ethic, and people skills to spare. From the time he was a young boy, he worked tirelessly. And with each job -- whether stocking groceries or shoveling snow -- he became a keen observer of the business and its customers, taking with him lessons that would become the foundation of his 18 Management Principles, upon which his own company would be based.

As a young man, he became convinced that Americans would crave the fine craftsmanship of the Longaberger hand-made baskets his father created as a hobby in a workshop behind the house. He believed in his product and employees so strongly that he risked everything -- and ignored many naysayers -- to sink all his capital into what, at the time, was a losing proposition.

Twenty-eight years later, the monument to his success is the billion-dollar Longaberger Company, which consists of of 8,000 employees and 70,000 sales associates, and millions of passionate collectors and consumers. Longaberger baskets are the indisputable standard-bearers of the industry, and they elicit a passion rarely seen among today's American consumers. The Longaberger Company remains one of the best places to work in the United States -- a business that to this day bears the indelible mark of my father's integrity, honesty, and "people first" attitude.

My father, who died of cancer in 1999, chose to write his story as one of his final acts. In his own words, he wanted to tell his story and in the process encourage others to follow their dreams, their instincts and their passions. Longaberger: An American Success Story is an entertaining story, but it's also a story of the strength and determination inherent in the human spirit. It's a story that I constantly refer to as I lead the Longaberger Company to new heights, and it's one we're proud to share with the American public. (Tami Longaberger, President and CEO, The Longaberger Company)

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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2003

    Have you ever had a dream that was draining you dry?

    That was Mr.Longaberger's problem. He knew that handcrafted baskets had a place in Americana, but he didn't know how to make it profitable. But he never gave up. While it was running in the red, he was taking money from his business that was running in the black. Those entrepreneurs that are working full time jobs, as well,know the feeling. I picked up this book to gain perspective on how to not get discouraged in my own business. It worked. I have never had to work in a building that had no roof. I have never had to pay employees with IOUs. I have never had to go into a store and see my handmade baskets tossed in the back of a shelf collecting dusts while cheaper made, inferior baskets go whizzing by. What I took away from this book is to constantly persist and innovate. The cliche 'Where there is a will there is a way' readily applied to Mr.Longaberger. He gained my utmost admiration as a businessman and as a philanthroper. From day one he shared is wealth, with his employees, with his community, and with strangers. I am shopping around to purchase one of his baskets, solely as an inspiration piece, and if you do the same, after reading this book, you will find out what I found out, they are expensive and you have stiff competition among the collectors. He created a $7billion company from an abandon building. Could you do the same. Do you have what it takes to get through your hard times, up beat, to really see your business blossom? I do. I look forward to seeing you at the top.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2001

    The Power of Faith and Trust

    This is a remarkably heart-warming business book. The Longaberger company's mission is 'to stimulate a better quality of life' and that's just what it has done since being founded by Dave Longaberger and his family in 1973. The obvious products of the company include high quality hand-made baskets and pottery, but the family has always sought to improve life for everyone associated with the company, including the community where it is based. The book is an autobiography of his life, and an official history of the company. Mr. Longaberger passed away on St. Patrick's day in 1999, and the book was taken through final editing by others. The company continues under the leadership of his older daughter, Tami, as CEO. His younger daughter, Rachel, heads the Longaberger Foundation. Mr. Longaberger was a simple man in many ways who was deeply committed to other people. This book should be evaluated as a portrayal of his ideals and practices, rather than as a typical autobiography. I was reluctant to grade the book down at all, because clearly Mr. Longaberger and his company both deserve more than five stars. The book does wander more than necessary, and the management advice is hard to absorb because there is so much of it. Anyone can and should be inspired by this story. It is a modern real-life saga of the American Dream fulfilled. One of 12 children, he grew up in a decent, hard-working, but poor family. Saddled with a stutter, epileptic seizures until he was 12, and a learning difficulty that kept him in high school until he was 21, Mr. Longaberger saw setbacks as simply a way to prepare him to accomplish more. He always had his eyes open for opportunity and was willing to put his full efforts and resources behind his ventures. He succeeded because others believed in him. As a man without much book education, he more than made up for that by being a student and fan of people. 'Any success I may have had I credit to this . . . principle: look, think, and do.' He felt that others had a lot to teach him, if he would only listen and pay attention. But he had to follow through on the advice, or he would lose their respect and the opportunity to improve. One of the many times this paid off was when Ms. Charleen Cuckovich came to him in 1977 and asked if she could sell his baskets direct after seeing them languishing in a store on consignment. This was the beginning of the change in distribution to at-home parties that

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2001

    A Great 20th Century Story of Success

    Dave Longaberger's life and his story is something everyone should aspire to. His life gives a great testament to what hard work and a belief in yourself can accomplish.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2001

    ABSOLUTELY AWESOME

    This book is a must read for everyone. To see how Dave made his business a success is just amazing. The things you will learn about life make this book a pure pleasure to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2001

    I wish all business leaders were like Mr. Longaberger and believed that work should be 25% fun! What a better world we would live in.

    I couldn't put this book down! Enjoyable reading and an inspiring philosophy on life, business, and family. A man from central Ohio, David Wendell Longaberger stuttered, had epilepsy and seizures, and a learning disability that kept him in high school until he was 21 years old. He started out selling Fuller Brushes and ended up creating a direct sales company that now has $1 billion in sales, in addition to running two other profitable businesses along the way. He readily admits that he did things in an unconventional way and was rough around the edges, but his philosophies on life, people and business made up for any short-comings he may have had. This book is a great read for the self-employed, for managers, and for anyone that believes in following the 'Golden Rule.' Be sure to read his 18 Management Principles at the end of the book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2001

    If you think Longaberger Baskets are Top Quality.........

    ...then you should read this book and meet the man who STARTED it all! Dave Longaberger was a true American hero and maverick- a man who refused to allow disabilities or disbelievers to keep him down. He had a vision and he persevered- and that story is in this book. It is a story that will touch your life- whether you are big business or small, single or married, young or old. Dave's life story is a gift for all of us- please treat yourself!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 24, 2001

    A must read for any business person!

    As a consultant of the Longaberger company, I had met Dave Longaberger many times. This book gave me a whole new respect for a man I already held high on a pedestal. It is perfect for any business person who manages people, A college management or marketing student, or any person wanting to start their own business. Dave Longaberger's philosophy on treating his employees is almost unheard of in corporate america today. We can all learn a great lesson from this man. I believe if all of corporate america followed Dave's 18 Principles of Management the rate of turnover in most companies would fall dramatically.

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