Dan Langevin, Vice President Sales and Marketing, Softvoyage says keeping things simple is his everyday challenge
This month’s TRAVELHotNews profile takes a peek into the life and views of Dan Langevin, Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Softvoyage. Climbing up the travel industry ladder at a young age, Langevin made a mark for himself by becoming Contiki Holidays’ president at the age of 24.
|Dan Langevin, VP Sales and Marketing, Softvoyage|
Fresh out of school, Langevin knew that the travel industry was where he belonged. His mother worked for Air Canada, and his father owned several Budget and Rent-A-Car franchises.
He was accustomed to travelling and admitted he was used to free air passes available to him, until the day he received a letter while attending school at Ottawa University. The letter confirmed that now that he was over the age of 18, and in university, he wouldn’t have access to passes anymore. Thus began his career in travel.
“That very same day I drove to the airport and applied at Wardair, because I was in panic mode,” he quipped. “How could I live without having passes? We went everywhere, and then all of a sudden it was not there anymore.”
People in travel tend to be more relaxed
According to Langevin his reason for getting into the industry was simple; he loved the chemistry between people and travel.
|A family portrait of the Langevins|
“I really still believe that personal relationships are key, and I find that the people in the travel business tend to normally be a bit more relaxed, versus other industries,” he commented.
“That attracted me to it. The environment was healthy in my view, versus a stressed-out environment.”
President of Contiki by age 24
While Langevin began his career at the counter of Wardair after graduating university in 1990, he immediately moved to Canadian Airlines in a sales position where he was in charge of the House of Commons account, as well as other corporate accounts in the Ottawa region.
Progressing quickly up the ranks of the travel industry, he was soon approached by Contiki Holidays to take over as president in Canada (a position he held from 1993 to 1998), and as a result, had the chance to travel to Australia, New Zealand, most of Europe, all of Canada and most of the U.S.
After Contiki, Langevin moved over to Ensemble Travel, then known as Giants. After leaving Giants he started his own company, Golf Plus Vacations, with a partner in 1999 to 2000.
When TRAVELHotNews asked Langevin about his time owning his own company he said:
“It was very difficult times, mergers and acquisitions were Canada’s 'flavour of the month'. We decided these two companies would be much better together versus them competing against each other.”
After selling his company in early 2001 and taking a short hiatus, Langevin joined Softvoyage, and has been happy there ever since.
A hands-off type of manager
As a boss, Langevin considers himself to be a very “hands-off type of manager.” He believes that his role is one of support, although he acknowledges his enjoyment of the team aspect as well.
“We hire people with very good skills, and we hire them because we know that they can do the job,” he said. “The last thing they need is us hovering over them to make sure they get it done. They have targets and deadlines, and as long as their [targets] are met they are basically free to run by themselves. We work together as a team, but I am very much hands-off.”
The secret to a perfect job is…?
In work and at home, Langevin lives by the mottos “Learn from your mistakes,” and “Respect others.” Although he considers himself to be a man of very few regrets, even he understands what he is looking for in a perfect job.
|Winning the 'Mention D'Honneur' award|
According to Langevin, the perfect job is what makes people happy in life, and what makes people happy are: "a decent quality of life", and "good health".
“If you have a decent quality of life, maybe not having to commute two to three hours a day, that creates a good healthy family life, and, if you can make a little bit of money so that you are comfortable, being able to live a little bit, that is also important.”
At Softvoyage, Langevin admits that he is very happy there, and feels as though he has found the perfect fit.
“My partners are my friends, the staff are our friends, and there is a lot of respect amongst all of us,” he said. “Among all the senior management, among the employees and between the senior management and the employees. I have a lot of respect for 100 per cent of the team there, and what we have been able to achieve in the past eight years there is phenomenal.
“The business is five times the size it was. We have great market share, we are developing great technology, we still make mistakes, but we learn from our mistakes…I really love it. I really, really do.”
What if you weren’t in travel…?
When asked what he would be doing if not in the travel business Langevin seemed puzzled. Knowing the ins and outs of the business from almost every aspect of the industry, Langevin had no other options that interested him.
“That is not possible for me to answer, that is all I have done all my life,” he said. “My mom was with Air Canada and my dad owned car rental franchises…so ever since we have grown up we were always in the travel business whether it was in the airlines side or the car rental side, we were always in the travel business.”
If he had to choose, Langevin would consider something in information technology. He revealed that he enjoys “the idea of finding and trying to create a piece of software that someone may need, and to be able to market and sell it.”
“I love the selling aspect, as well and the marketing aspect, but really my strength is the sales aspect,” he admitted.
It’s all about balance
But how does Langevin manage to balance his home life and his work schedule?
|Spending time with the family|
According to him, Softvoyage has made that easy.
“It is one of the things at Softvoyage, we very much respect the idea of the family; from the top down,” he told TRAVELHotNews. “Moïse [president and co-founder] is a real family man, and as a result, the rest of the company feels that and family comes first at Softvoyage. And, as a result it makes the team very strong. It’s unbelievable.”
But, when his family wants to spend more time together, Langevin, his wife, and two young boys retreat on their boat at their cottage in Bronte Outer Harbour.
“We spent seven days anchored at Sand Banks this year,” he recalled. “We didn’t move. Three boats with the kids, it was superb.”
Travelling is second nature to his kids
Langevin met his wife Charlene while attending school in North Bay, Ontario. The two have been married 15 years as of November 13, 2008.
|The Langevin boys|
He noted proudly that he has been married “to the same woman” for all of those years. Together they have two boys: Gabriel, 11, and Sascha, 8.
A self-proclaimed avid traveller who only needs his Canadian passport and a Swiss Army knife in his survival kit, Langevin and his family have travelled together extensively, making sure they take at least two vacations every year. Langevin started travelling with his sons as soon as they were born.
“I think we have good kids,” he noted. “It is second nature for them to get on a plane. They are comfortable with that.”
Recently, the family took a Disney Cruise, which Langevin admits was as fun for him as the children.
“We loved it,” he said. “We highly recommend it, and we may go again as a matter of fact in a few years. It’s amazing. Walking through the hallway of the ship and all of a sudden you run into Mickey in the hallway and the kids are like, ‘This is cool’.”
One last trip…Santorini
But, when asked if he could only take one last trip, Langevin hesitated. After a long pause he named the Greek island of Santorini.
|On holiday with his family|
“I loved it there,” he recalled. “It was very special memories. My wife and I were there and it is a place that the two of us will go back to. We enjoyed it very much.”
His method to de-stress – sports and cooking
Langevin's method of de-stressing is playing a lot of sports and spending lots of time in the kitchen behind the stove.
When not with family, and not working, Langevin enjoys many hobbies that are, in his words, “heavy in sports”, the main ones being hockey, golf and boating. Up by 5 a.m., an average day for Langevin includes training at the YMCA and playing (12 months out of the year) on the Adult Safe Hockey League (ASHL).
He coaches both of his kids in hockey, and plays golf in the summer. Langevin also admits to having a very similar coaching style as he does as a manager, “hands-off.”
“We just try and make them learn and have a good time, and at the end of the day that’s what counts. They are so young, that’s all that matters.”
Also an avid cook, Langevin has a collection of cookbooks - spanning approximately 125 books in total. His favourite style of cuisine to prepare uses plenty of fish and is seasoned with piquant Cajun/Louisiana-style spices.
He also keeps his free time busy watching favourite TV shows like: the Discovery Channel's “Power of the Earth,” and “The Deadliest Catch,” along with American Idol, and secretly enjoys Miley Cyrus - just check out the ring tone on his mobile phone!
Role models: my parents
In life Langevin considers his parents to be his mentors. As his “role models, they taught me to work hard, how to make the right choices and priorities as well to be kind to people...I am very thankful for that.”
In his professional career he looks toward John McKenna, formerly of RBC Insurance.
”I have always been impressed by him for many reasons,” he said. “His integrity, his ability to deliver on promises, his values, his professionalism and believe me...a great sense of humour. You will be hard-pressed to find one single person in this industry to ever [say] anything negative about him. I consider this to be a tremendous accomplishment. Sometimes in business you have to make tough decisions that may not please many people, but he had a way about him that people didn’t care when these decisions came from John.”
And, if he could meet someone dead or alive to pass on their wisdom, he looks toward U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama for advice. “He has incredible charisma, vision and to be where he is today is simply remarkable. I would love to have dinner with him one day.”
The same as he was as a child
As a child Langevin worked since the tender age of 12; looking back, he doesn’t think that he has changed all that much.
“I am still working hard, still making my family my number one priority and I continue to be very active in sports. The principles are the same.”
According to him, the best advice he has ever received has still remained, ‘Don’t spend more than what you earn.’
The power of the web changing the future of travel
According to Langevin, the world is becoming a smaller place, and the biggest change he has seen has been the power of the internet.
“Information is now available to everyone, and customers are often so educated about what they want because they research and research, that I really think it’s changing what is happening now and what will happen in the future.”
Agencies far from dead; cruise industry increasing
When Langevin joined Softvoyage over five years ago, he continuously heard people saying, ‘Travel agencies are dead’, but he considers them as being “far from being dead.”
“Agencies that have a good niche product will do well,” he said. “The cruise industry has increased, and it will be the next segment being booked on the web. Most people are not ready to book [cruise] online yet, but that will change.”
According to Langevin, 40 per cent of all package sales are booked online, but he realizes that “not all agencies can sell online; you have to offer a competitive [product].”
What the future holds for Softvoyage
The next step for Langevin and Softvoyage is “to continue to meet customer demands, which can be challenging at times.”
|Winning at the Awards of Merit 2007|
With plans to make a “slow, calculated, international expansion” to Mexico, Latin America and then Europe, Softvoyage is working on several opportunities in the U.S., with several of their existing partners/customers, he said.
As of April 2008, the company launched an office in Mexico City. Now with three offices in total, Langevin believes that Latin America is the next best place for Softvoyage.
Softvoyage is his greatest success story
With a zest for life, at this stage in his life Langevin thinks that people will agree that Softvoyage has been and will continue to be his great success story.
“It is something I am very proud of, and I think my friends and business colleagues will remember me as a very good and loyal friend, as well as a great family man. If this is the case, mission accomplished.”
TRAVELHotNews.com would like to thank Dan Langevin for his time and cooperation for this interview.