Louis DeJoy honored with Elon's Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership
DeJoy, who built New Breed Logistics into a leading contract logistics solutions provider, was presented with the medal at a March 1 ceremony at the Koury Business Center.
Elon leaders honored businessman Louis DeJoy on March 1 with the Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which is bestowed upon individuals who possess integrity, innovation and creativity, a passion for lifelong learning and a commitment to building a dynamic community.
DeJoy took a small trucking company started by his father and built it into New Breed Logistics, a national contract logistics handler that employed close to 6,000 people in 2014, when it was sold to Connecticut-based XPO Logistics.
"I was an entrepreneur, once," DeJoy said about focusing his career on growing one company. "The rest of my life has been implementing and operating my plan, and that is where the success comes."
The Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership is an annual award supported by the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, named for Elon Trustee Ed Doherty and his wife, Joan, entrepreneurs from New Jersey whose daughter graduated from Elon in 2007. Ed and Joan Doherty established the center with a gift to the university and have been longtime Elon supporters. "I am thrilled to be here today at Elon to honor and recognize Louis DeJoy," Ed Doherty said during the ceremony. "Louis is an active leader in the community and a loyal supporter of Elon."
Despite Wednesday night's honor and having previously been named an Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young, DeJoy admitted that "when I'm called an entrepreneur, it sounds odd to me." Initially trained as an accountant, he spent three years with an accounting firm in what he described as an apprenticeship. Aspirations to become a managing partner in the accounting firm, and occupying the "office down the hall," motivated him at the beginning of his time with the firm, but changed. "Three years later, I took a gander, and the end of the hall was just too close," he said. "That life was not enough for me based on how I had evolved."
That prompted the jump to his father's trucking company, which with five trucks and 10 employees was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. But DeJoy explained he was able to take what he had learned about business as an accountant, and apply it to the failing trucking company. He said he was "committed to becoming an expert at things I was endeavoring," and made the right investments — in people, in technology — at the right times.
By the time New Breed Logistics sold to XPO Logistics, he had built it to a company with $800 million in annual revenue that employed 10,000 people and had become the ninth-largest privately held company in North Carolina.
DeJoy offered a word of warning, noting that half of new businesses fail within five years and 70 percent close up within a decade, due in large part to either incompetence or a lack of experience. "Do not focus on the success stories," he said. "Make sure the people around you have the stomach to endure substantial setbacks in your new business because they will come. ... Believe in incremental progress. Big bangs are misleading and usually unobtainable."
Dejoy left XPO Logistics as an executive at the end of 2015, but continues to serve on its board, as well as the Elon University Board of Trustees and the board of the PGA's Wyndham Championship. He's launched a new company — LDJ Global Strategies — that's become a vehicle for him to make private equity and real estate investments. Looking back on his career, he said his intuition, drive and passion have served him well, but there's much within the modern business school education, particularly at Elon with its focus on entrepreneurial leadership, that could have served him well during his career.
"In the early part of my career, I was glad I was the way I was," DeJoy said. "In the later part of my career, I wish I had the type of education that you all are getting right now."
Raghu Tadepalli, dean of the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business, thanked the Dohertys for their support of entrepreneurial leadership at Elon. "Our entrepreneurship curriculum is built on drawing students from the many majors and minors at Elon University," Tadepalli said. "Our many co-curricular activities would not be possible without the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which focuses on developing entrepreneurial thinking through experiential education."
Past recipients of the Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership include:
2009 - Jim Goodnight, CEO and Founder, SAS
2010 – Bernard A. Harris, Jr., CEO and Managing Partner, Vesalius Ventures, Inc.
2012 – Muhammad Yunus, 2006 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Founder of the Grameen Bank and Chairman of the Yunus Centre
2013 – Bonnie McElveen-Hunter, founder and CEO, Pace Communications and Chairman of the Board of the American Red Cross
2014 – Patrick Awuah, Jr., Founder and President, Ashesi University
2015 – Guy Harvey, wildlife artist and conservationist
2016 – Alexander Julian, fashion and furniture designer