A Journey Fueled by Experience, Trust, and the Power of People!
Many years ago, a young graduate from the vibrant metropolis of London, Laurance Langdon, the esteemed General Manager at Modern Freight Company, stumbled upon a job listing that piqued his interest. The words “Middle East Department” brought back a flood of cherished memories from his childhood in Dubai. Intrigued by the opportunity to reignite that sun-soaked nostalgia, he took a leap of faith. Little did he realize that this decision would ignite a passion for logistics and pave the way for his extraordinary career.
From the moment he stepped foot into the industry, Laurance was determined to learn every aspect of the business. Starting as an office junior, he began a journey of absorbing knowledge, gaining firsthand experience, and offering a willingness to do any task thrown at him. Supported and trusted by his colleagues, he navigated the logistics landscape, cherishing the memories and maintaining the relationships of those who guided him while remembering the negative impact of those who overlooked, misled, and spoke down to him.
Driven by the lessons learned from those experiences, Laurance vowed to himself that if ever given the opportunity to manage others, he would never forget the importance of empathy and the value of every team member. He believes that the success of a business lies in collaboration, clear strategies, and recognizing the contributions of every individual, regardless of their position or experience. Laurance’s philosophy extends beyond the confines of his department, often seeking input from colleagues across the organization to gain fresh perspectives and challenge his ideas.
Join us as we explore the remarkable career of Laurance Langdon and his invaluable insights on the power of people, empathy, and collaboration in the ever-evolving world of logistics!
Visionary – Shipping Mastermind
As a young boy, Langdon’s family lived in Dubai for five formative years. The memories of carefree days at the beach and the pioneering community exploring the Middle East sparked a deep connection within him. When he stumbled upon a job opening in the Middle East department at Schenkers London, his heart leaped at the chance to reconnect with those cherished memories. Despite his lack of knowledge about logistics and shipping, Langdon’s genuine enthusiasm and his ability to showcase his limited Arabic language skills during the interview impressed the hiring team. Before he even reached home, the job offer had already been extended, marking the beginning of an extraordinary journey.
Starting as an office junior, Langdon embarked on a humble path, working his way up the ladder while immersing himself in every aspect of the logistics business. What truly stood out during his early years was the unwavering support and trust he received from his colleagues. Their generosity and encouragement not only shaped his professional growth but also forged lasting friendships that endure to this day. It was these early experiences, both positive and negative, that left an indelible mark on Langdon’s leadership philosophy.
Langdon vividly remembers the times he felt overlooked, deceived, and disrespected in his career. These experiences became the building blocks of his empathetic leadership style. He vowed never to treat others in a similar manner and committed himself to creating an environment where every individual is valued, heard, and given equal opportunities to contribute their ideas. In Langdon’s view, the logistics industry thrives on collaboration, with success hinging on every team member working together towards a shared goal with a clear strategy in mind.
To foster collaboration and tap into the power of diverse perspectives, Langdon actively seeks input from individuals at all levels of the organization. He believes that some of the best ideas arise from those who may be inexperienced or not directly involved in daily operations. By inviting colleagues from different departments into meetings and encouraging them to ask thought-provoking questions or offer ideas, Langdon ensures that all thoughts are thoroughly examined from various angles. This approach has not only sparked innovative solutions but has also strengthened the sense of belonging and collective ownership within the company.
In 1977, any company starting up in the UAE would have encountered a vastly different business environment compared to the present day. Having grown up in Dubai during that time, Laurance possesses vivid memories and photographs that serve as reminders of the city’s relatively small size. MFC, a logistics pioneer in the UAE, was initially created to support Dutco, a well-established Emirati company renowned for its exceptional construction business. MFC’s primary focus was managing the imports of the procurement department, which served as the foundation for its subsequent growth. Throughout its remarkable 46-year history, MFC has weathered financial crises, regional conflicts, and various pandemics, yet it continues to stand strong—a testament to the leadership of past General Managers and the dedication of its owners. MFC owes its longevity to its diverse business activities, its ability to adapt to an ever-changing industry, and its proactive approach to providing solutions to its customers. However, it is the incredible employees who have made significant sacrifices for the company that truly deserve recognition.
Many individuals have devoted their entire careers to MFC, from their first job until retirement. Today, the company is experiencing a new wave of young talent, which, when combined with seasoned employees, keeps MFC dynamic and facilitates the transfer of knowledge and succession planning. When approached about joining MFC, Laurance did not hesitate because he was already familiar with the company, its values, and its ethical standards. Moreover, he recognized the loyalty and trust that MFC has cultivated among its customers, some of whom have been with the company for two decades or more. Sustaining such unwavering loyalty amidst constantly changing circumstances is a testament to the company’s excellence.
Laurance learned early on the importance of having a solid and well-established plan before starting any task. Langdon explains that without a solid plan, you will always been playing catch-up. Therefore, it is crucial to meticulously plan and involve all stakeholders, ensuring that everyone knows their role and responsibilities. This level of planning becomes even more critical when facing challenging situations. Langdon delves into his book of stories, providing compelling examples of overcoming difficulties, such as being on a remote mine site in Cameroon trying to offload heavy cargoes and conducting a route survey in Mozambique during heavy rainfall, when the road conditions were constantly changing and visibility limited. In such circumstances, he anticipated every possible outcome and took steps innovatively. Ultimately, the success of the plan relied on having the right team with relevant experience. This experience not only ensured a smooth execution but also prepared him for any unexpected setbacks. Langdon explains further that even with the best planning, things can still go off track. However, when everyone is committed and aligned with the plan, challenges are approached with a solution-oriented mindset rather than blaming others.
Laurance has had the opportunity to live in various places around the world, including Australia, China, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. He has also worked on projects in many other countries and continents for extended periods of time across Central Asia and South America. Working with diverse groups of people in different cultures and challenging conditions has not only tested his resilience but also expanded his cultural and business knowledge. These challenging opportunities have pushed Laurance to think creatively and find solutions to seemingly impossible tasks. He recalls with fondness leading the first-ever Chinese-driven convoy of mining trucks across Southern Mongolia, establishing and managing cross-border project train solutions between China and Kazakhstan before anyone else had considered sustainable rail options to Europe. And successfully transporting out-of-gauge power plant equipment across Brazil and arranging convoys through central Mozambique to Zambia. These experiences have taught Laurance the importance of venturing outside of the office, and he is a strong proponent of encouraging his colleagues to get into the field, to see, touch, and experience the work firsthand. It is through these experiences that one truly learns, and everyone can write their own stories.
Upon returning to Dubai in 2011, Laurance had the privilege of working at the corporate level, providing training, global strategic guidance, and even delving into underwater robotics while collaborating with ship owners and ship managers. Langdon expands further that the shipping and logistics industry has so many facets to it that it continues to fascinate even after all these years, and he stresses the need to always keep learning about the industry.
As Langdon finds himself in the later stages of his professional journey, the act of imparting his accumulated knowledge and lived experiences has emerged as the most gratifying and fulfilling dimension of his work. Nonetheless, there are occasions when Langdon yearns for the hands-on involvement of fieldwork, as he occasionally reminisces about complexities encountered during those ventures. Of course, Langdon clarifies that, like all memories, we forget about the sleepless nights, showerless environments, and different-tasting food, but instead, we remember the comradery, the moments of laughter, and the great feeling of completing the job successfully.
Building and Managing High-performing Teams
In a conversation about his expertise in office start-ups and management, as well as his successful track record of building and managing teams in various regions, Laurance emphasized the importance of having the right combination of skills, talent, and personality in the logistics and shipping business. According to Laurance, in order for everything to run smoothly, it is essential to select the right individuals, provide them with a well-defined and concise strategy, enable them to fulfill their roles effectively and back them up with a strong marketing plan. By following these steps, success becomes attainable.
Unconventional Approach to Business
Having experience in establishing businesses from scratch in unconventional markets, opportunities frequently arose for Laurance when customers approached him with problems they were having as a result of the challenging locations they were also in. Everyone had unique problems that required unique expertise and solutions. These solutions were then replicated and made available to others, creating a reputation and expertise in areas where delays and spiraling costs were a big risk. Laurance found that effectively providing solutions at a reasonable cost was the key to building a logistics company. Once mastery in this area is achieved, a distinct product becomes available for wider sale.
Warehouses and Customizable Solutions
MFC possesses two warehouses spanning more than 50,000 sqm, providing almost 20,000 pallet positions for storage. MFCs comprehensive service encompasses the entire supply chain, from the manufacturer to the retail store. This includes tasks such as unboxing, repackaging, and relabeling, tailored to the specific requirements of their clients. Recognizing that not all customers require all services, MFC offers customizable solutions to alleviate logistical concerns, allowing their clients to concentrate on their core competencies.
Key Account Management plays an important part in this, Langdon explains, and by getting close to your customers and truly building a partnership means you bring real value to the customer.
Revealing the Key Challenge
When asked how he would advise aspiring entrepreneurs thinking of entering in the world of logistics, Langdon shares his experience that the main challenge in the logistics industry today, particularly during uncertain times, is managing cash flow. In the current climate of uncertainty, receiving timely payments can become a demanding task. It is unfortunate that several companies, including large multinationals, tend to delay payments beyond the agreed credit terms, which puts significant pressure on smaller businesses and smaller suppliers of services.
Furthermore, Langdon expands in the logistics industry, building strong interpersonal relationships is paramount as clients look for service providers with the right expertise, but this takes time, and trust is not easily won but very easily lost.
And lastly, if an individual starting a logistics company lacks the time or resources to acquire the necessary expertise and experience, it becomes crucial that they hire individuals who already possess them. Additionally, having someone who can assemble a capable team of experts and lead them effectively is essential.
Future Plans – Navigating Global Uncertainty
The current global uncertainty looms heavily in the minds of individuals and organizations contemplating growth and expansion. With high interest rates and inflationary pressures, borrowing money becomes a costly endeavor, adding stress to businesses and individuals alike. The specter of recessions further complicates matters, contributing to a mix of unsettling headlines. However, at MFC, they remain unfazed by these challenges because they have seen them before and learned from those experiences. Instead, they prioritize their customers, making it their mission to intimately understand their customers’ strategies and goals and to actively support their success. This customer-centric approach forms the foundation of their organic growth plan, driving them toward their desired destination. As the UAE’s most trusted partner for logistics and shipping companies without a local presence, MFC has always maintained a neutral stance. Their long-standing relationships and earned trust continue to serve them well, providing an optimistic outlook for the future.
They have received the following awards :
- Freight Forwarder of the Year 2020 – MEA AWARDS
- CSR/ Sustainability Initiatives Provider of the Year- Landmarks in Logistics Award 2022
- Freightweek – Sustainable 3PL Logistics company of the year 2022