The Quiet Leader

Features - Cover Story - The Leadership Awards

Some businessmen, like David Langton, focus on the day to day, striving for improvement, only to be shocked to hear they are admired as leaders by those who orbit around them.

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September 3, 2019

Photos: Lynne Goldstein

Some businessmen, like David Langton, lead by example. They focus on the day to day, striving for improvement, only to find that one day they are admired by many around them.

Paul Hamel is president of Hamel Bros. Landscaping Inc. Natick, Massachusetts. He met Langton while working a job next door to a property Langton’s company, Einstein's Solutions Inc., was servicing. They have been friends and colleagues for 12 years.

“When I think of his company I have admiration in a few different areas,” Hamel says. “He's kind of on the cutting edge of getting the best type of equipment and he never skimps.”

Hamel says Langton will research and test equipment until he finds the exact piece for the job.

“Also his reach is impressive,” Hamel says. “Usually you plow snow in the town that you live in or next to it. He is plowing properties halfway across the state.”

Langton is the CEO of Einstein's Solutions Inc., based in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The company provides commercial landscape maintenance and construction and snow services. Snow removal clients including office parks, manufacturing facilities and retail centers. The company has 50 workers year-round and up to 75 in the winter.

Kevin Gilbride, executive director of the Accredited Snow Contractors Association, describes Langton in a similar fashion as Hamel does.

“He’s more of a quiet leader at times and leads by example,” he says. “He contributes when and where he can and is always there and willing to help when needed.”

Photos: Lynne Goldstein

Humble roots

Langton says he noticed early in his career the potential with snow.

“I started my business in 1995, doing landscaping and snow was kind an obligation because there’s nothing else to do during the winter, at the time,” he says. “And then I would say ‘98, ‘99 time, we started realizing that there was a real opportunity to make some better profit margins compared to on the landscape maintenance.”

Langton’s entire career has been in this industry. He attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and studied landscape contracting.

“I started in high school doing horticulture and then I went from that work to the Federal Bureau of Prisons as landscape supervisor,” he says. “And then I did my own thing at the same time and then left that job and started here.”

Today Einstein's Solutions, which serves clients in the New England area, has an annual revenue of approximately $8 million and about 60 percent of that revenue comes from snow removal work.

Langton finds the unpredictability of his work most enjoyable.

“I love the challenge that comes when everything falls apart,” he says. “It’s a weird thing. On the snow side, everything falls apart every time because things break or the weather wasn’t what was predicted. It’s controlled chaos.”

Langton recalls one storm that was predicted at one inch of snowfall.

“All of a sudden it turned into a 15 inch snowstorm and you didn’t plan for that,” Langton says. “You had to re-allocate all your resources and, and get your all your ducks in a row because your clients don’t care that the weather changed.”

Langton tries to instill the same passion for unpredictability in his employees.

“We constantly tell our guys and they don’t show up or miss work is I can’t tell the client I’m going to do it tomorrow,” he says. “And there’s times that when you have major events that are long lasting, you know, 40 hour events and people are tired, equipment has issues and it becomes like a triage, in the battlefield, as I call it.”

Langton also finds a bit of fun competition in seeing lots cleared.

“We strive to, as we say, our goal is to get to black top as soon as possible and our goal is to be better than anyone around us,” he says.

Distinguishing difference

Like other companies that find long term success in snow, Langton says he treats snow removal as core part of his business, not a side job.

“We treat snow as a real business and not as something we have to do,” he says. “We strive for our guys show up an hour or two hours before it’s going to snow and we don’t leave the sites until it’s complete and it stops snowing.

Many of the competitors don’t think this way, Langton says.

“They think, “It’s just something I got to do because I need something to do,” he says. “We treat snow as, it is a real business model, a real revenue stream and we want to be professional.”

This real business model with snow is what Langton attributes his company’s success to.

“The snow revenue and our profit margins on snow is basically, it has made us who we are,” he says.

Over the years, Langton says his company has also grown because of his investments back into the business.

In the next five to ten years, Langton says he sees his company forming an even stronger regional presence.

“I think our goal is to be, to get more regionalized, per se,” he says. “We want to be able to manage more snow, but we also want to be able to touch it if there’s a problem. Like we don’t really want to go too far from our home base because if there’s an issue, we want to be able to react to it and fix the issue. I think we need to build a bigger subcontractor base locally to do that.”

To stay up to date on industry best practices, Langton says he is an avid reader.

“I’m constantly reading magazines. I go to conferences, go to shows and talk to peers,” he says. “For professional growth I am always going to the conventions and seminars to continue learning.”

Langton also compares business models and is open to finding out what his company might be doing wrong, as a means for improvement.

“Most of my knowledge and experience for growth has been by doing that,” he says. “Also listen to people and seeing how they fail and trying not to do that.”

Langton values the importance of setting a good example. This example is important not only for company presence on a job site, but also internal culture and client relations.

“We don’t want to just show up,” Langton says. “We don’t want to have to rely on people. We don’t want to tell a client well the gas station was closed and we couldn’t do the service. You know, we don’t have any way salt because the store wasn’t open.”

Clients know where Einstein's Solutions workers are without having to ask.

“We show up before it snows, so we’re on site and the clients can see us,” Langton says. “We don’t leave until it’s complete, which has been a huge thing for our clients. They never pick up that phone call to say, are you guys coming?”

Employee value

Langton says he wouldn’t be where he is today without his employees.

“Our employees are a big part of our success, especially our management team,” he says. “We have a lot of people now that have a lot of tenure and have been here for a long time now.”

His wife, Jennifer, has also been a part of that success, working for Einstein's Solutions since 1997 and serving today as the company president.

“She’s been a big mentor for me to make sure I take time off and don’t stress myself out too much,” he says.

Langton: “I love the challenge that comes when everything falls apart. It’s a weird thing. On the snow side, everything falls apart every time because things break or the weather wasn’t what was predicted. It’s controlled chaos.
Photos: Lynne Goldstein

Rob Thibault serves as general manager for Einstein's Solutions. He’s known and worked with Langton for 13 years, starting out in his first role at the company as a mechanic.

“He's very driven when it comes to work,” he says. “He is probably the first man and the last man to leave the job. He takes his work very seriously always tries to see how we can have better strengths of what we are doing and do a better job.”

Langton gains inspiration from leading by example, day in and day out. “I’m out there with them when it’s snowing out, I don’t just sit in an office and look at radar and ask questions,” he says. “I physically go out and work with the guys. I find that it’s best to have firsthand to know what the conditions are.”

A good leader also avoids micromanaging. “I have the people that are in place to do their job and I’m having them manage their sites,” he says. “The only times I really hear from them is when they have a problem. You have to entrust in your managers.”

Langton says he tries to focus on the big picture and not every little mistake.

“My leadership is not to sit there and micromanage every little detail. They’re going to make mistakes and when they do make the mistake, try to give them the path of, you maybe should done it this way, instead of hammering on them,” he says. “Even myself, I’m going to forget things too and just trying to be honest about the mistake.”

Giving back

Hamel says Langton puts people first and displays a willingness to help, such as helping another contractor when equipment is down or there is shortage of salt.

“He is able to maintain and not lose his cool (during snow storms),” he says. “With what he is doing there are a lot of moving parts. He is able to keep his composures in an industry where you are expecting the unexpected.”

Most employees of Einstein's Solutions live and work in the same community.

“We donate money to different organizations and I actually got involved in one called Caring for Kids, it’s a food program for kids in need,” Langton says.

Gilbride has known Langton for a little over a decade. “He’s certainly a leader in his market and well respected by his peers in the marketplace,” he says. “He’s always involved, whether it be local or national organizations.”