How a health scare and a desire to learn led Cathy Langham to becoming one of the most powerful women in central Indiana
James Brown belted out the classic lines to his 1966 hit like a prophet seeing the future of business. This is a man’s world… But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman. There may be some hyperbole in attributing that to Cathy Langham ’76, but her path to career success was forged in a unique way.
Armed with a marketing degree (she saw herself in retail as a buyer) from Indiana University, Langham took a job at a trucking company out of college. Within three years, she had her own franchises in trucking and freight. Before she hit her 30’s, those businesses were sold, and Langham Logistics was born, a labor of love with her sister and brother. Today, nearly 30 years later, she is an expert in logistics, infrastructure and business strategy. How does a young woman rise to such heights? Grit and determination.
“It was a lot of hard work and tenacity,” Langham says. “In a man’s world, I will say, it probably provided an opportunity because, way back then, there were no women in trucking. It gave me that first entry into the meeting, but after that you better know what you’re doing. You better add value because, if you don’t, you won’t get back in again.”
That desire to succeed in the first attempt was instilled in Langham at a young age. She credits North Central for providing an environment where students were forced to grow into adults, not just as students.
“I think North Central forces you to be autonomous, accountable and make it on your own.” Langham says. “It helped me build a number of leadership skills I didn’t know I was building.”
Life also taught Langham a lesson. Diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease her senior year at North Central, her fight would shape her character. She would commute back-and-forth between Indianapolis and Bloomington for treatment. It wasn’t easy, forcing her to quit for a semester to fight the cancer. When she came back, infused with a new lease on life, it was time to grab the bull by the horns.
“I think that’s what taught me that life is short,” she recalls. “Do what you want to do. Be courageous and go and do something because you don’t get a second chance.”
There was no second chance for Langham Logistics, and the early days were tough. Cathy, from day one, has served as the face of the business, managing relationships and sales. She lost her entire sales team and portfolio of work in the first month. With the strength of her family working alongside, she built a new sales team from scratch and didn’t lose a customer the next four months. Through it all, Langham was a fighter.
Starting in trucking, the company has expanded to air freight, warehousing and, today, analytics. Evolving from a moving business to a a full-service operations manager, the art of maximizing the supply chain for businesses has become the foundation of industry. With 150 employees today and $45 million in business, Langham Logistics is now the standard bearer for the industry in central Indiana.
“All of us have big lists of lessons learned,” she adds. “Are you ever an expert? Not really, because things are always changing, but I think experience creates expertise.”
That expertise has made Langham a desired commodity when it comes to civic involvement. In 2005, she accepted a six-year role on the Indiana Economic Development Corporation Board at the invitation of Governor Mitch Daniels. In 2015 she co-chaired Governor Mike Pence’s Blue Ribbon panel charged with creating and prioritizing the next 10 to 30 years of transportation infrastructure for the State of Indiana. Langham was also vice chair of Super Bowl 2012 and is a member of the boards of directors of Finishline and Celadon Group Inc. She serves as Chairperson of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership (CICP), and on the board of Conexus Indiana.
“This community engages at every level,” she said. “We will continue to grow and get stronger.”
Just like her.