Dave Longaberger grew his family's basket—making business into a worldwide enterprise. Dave was the fifth child in a family of 12 children. Early in life, Dave had three strikes against him: his family was economically disadvantaged; he stuttered so badly people had trouble understanding him; and he had epilepsy at a time when the illness wasn't widely understood. However, he was well known in his hometown of Dresden, Ohio, and he was admired as a hard worker.
Dave genuinely liked people. He was a hard worker but he never worked so hard that he couldn't stop to inquire how someone was doing. Early in his career Dave owned a small grocery store and a restaurant. He made a habit of greeting his customers and asking about them and their families. Dave claimed that the secret to his success was how much he enjoyed talking with his customers—he truly liked people.
Dave revived his family's basket company in an old, abandoned warehouse, and he was expecting a loan to finance his new enterprise. On his first day of production he had to tell the women that reported for work that his loan was not approved and he would not be able to pay them. But evidently, Dave's reputation for being concerned and sincerely interested in the people of his community was more important than his ability to meet a payroll. All the workers stayed and worked that day knowing they would not be paid or, if they were paid, it would not be for quite a while. They came into work the next day, and they came into work every day for five months—without pay! Dave's loan was finally approved and he made good on his promise to pay current as well as all back wages. The employees didn't work without pay for the company; they worked without pay for Dave.
Today the Longaberger Basket Company employs 7,000 craftsmen and craftswomen as well as 70,000 sales associates. The company has annual sales revenues of $1 billion and is listed as one of Forbes magazine's top privately held companies. The company was built on the premise of genuinely liking the workers and customers.