From world champion to serial entrepreneur
5 minutes read
Lloyd Langlois was 14 years old when a guidance counsellor asked him what he wanted to do. The young man simply replied that he wanted to be world champion in freestyle skiing. Nothing less!
"I didn't just want to be a freestyle skier; I wanted to be a world champion," proudly recalls the former member of the famous "Québec Air Force," the team of Quebec skiers who dominated the international scene in the 1980s and 1990s.
Having competed in over 100 World Cup events in his career, the Magog athlete achieved his dream twice, in addition to winning a bronze medal at the 1994 Olympic Games in Lillehammer.
However, an athlete's career can't last forever. Like any elite athlete approaching the finish line of a fabulous adventure, Mr. Langlois began reflecting on what would come after his sports career. Fortunately, he already had business acumen.
"In addition to real estate and business, I was always my own agent and negotiated my own sponsorship contracts," he says.
This passion for business has allowed him to continue competing in a completely different arena. A serial entrepreneur, Mr. Langlois has taken on one project after another and now owns a real estate portfolio and a successful restaurant.
Entrepreneurship: A lifelong passion
Mr. Langlois entered the business world very early in life. "As soon as I started making money, I wanted to invest in real estate," he says. He bought his first income properties with the money he earned during his 15 years on the World Cup circuit and by participating in various shows.
Still a professional skier, Mr. Langlois and his spouse opened a business, specializing in the sale of frames, posters and laminations, on the main street in Magog. "That was my first experience doing business directly with the public, in customer service."
However, when the lease came up after two years, the couple closed the shop. " I think something bigger was probably calling me," he explains.
From skier to lumberjack
At the end of his skiing career, Lloyd Langlois decided to pursue his entrepreneurial spirit further. Owner of forest land he had purchased a few years earlier, he carved a path in logging and operating a small sawmill and drying kilns. "I come from a family that worked in the woods. I wanted to carry on the tradition of my father and grandfather."
The mill grew to 10 employees. However, the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the United States took its toll on his small business. The reality of operating in the lumber industry also differed from what Mr. Langlois had envisaged.
"It wasn't quite as I thought it would be," he explains. "I realized that it wasn't really what I wanted to do."
After seven years of hard work and financial losses, Mr. Langlois decided to close. Nevertheless, the experience was rewarding. "I sold the equipment, the building and the land and was able to pay off my debts. I came out with my head held high and with the sense of having honed my business skills," he says.
Pizza and real estate
Mr. Langlois almost immediately embarked on another venture, this time, in the restaurant business. With his spouse, he purchased La Piazzetta restaurant in Magog, which he still operates. "I simply approached the owner to say that I would be interested if the restaurant ever came up for sale," he says. "That's when the business I've always wanted to do began."
Three years later, Mr. Langlois and his wife also purchased the building that houses their restaurant, with the help of real estate financing from BDC. That purchase was followed by several other real estate investments that have helped Mr. Langlois finally achieve his business vision.
"I tried a lot of things, but what I always had in mind was building a real estate portfolio," he says. "I really found what I wanted to do. It took a long time, but now I feel good about what I'm doing."
Three sports tips to succeed in business
1. Hold on to your dreams
Lloyd Langlois trained very hard to realize his athletic accomplishments. He went into business with the same drive to succeed. "I've always believed that when you stay focused on your dreams, your projects, they will become a reality. Everything I wanted to do has come to fruition."
2. Expect the unexpected
Competing in sports led Lloyd Langlois to practise visualization. One year before participating in the Lillehammer Olympic Games, he prepared to the point where he knew exactly what clothing he would wear and what he would eat the day of the competition.
"When you prepare for things, it gives you more energy to face and overcome the unexpected," he says. "When you visualize what you want to accomplish, it will come true. That’s what I did in business and what I still do today."
3. Don't give up in the face of adversity
The lives of athletes and entrepreneurs alike are fraught with pitfalls. However, "you must never give up," insists Langlois, a strong believer in perseverance. "Real estate takes a long time to build. It doesn't happen overnight; it takes years," he explains.