Richard Waryn: One of 10 Most Inspiring CEOs to Watch in 2020

11 Jan by Rich Waryn

Richard Waryn has been a very busy man over his storied career. Richard is currently the CEO of LDK Logistics, a “velvet glove” logistics solution provider based in Colorado. Earlier in his career, he cofound a fund management group called Emerging Markets Partnership (EMP) that ended up raising $6 billion for a series of private equity funds that invested in infrastructure projects throughout the emerging markets. Richard
specifically covered Asia and eventually Eastern Europe and Russia. The early investments in infrastructure in countries such as China and India helped pave the way for the incredible expansion in emerging market economies that happened throughout the 2000s.

In 2002, Richard founded a company based in London called Centurion Capital that focused on mid-market buyouts throughout Europe and Russia. He subsequently set up a Russia-dedicated fund partnered with Troika Dialog, a Moscow based investment bank that invested in consumer based companies during Russia’s expansion during the “inter-Putin years”. The capstone to his private equity career was managing part of the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai that did deals throughout the Middle East.

When Richard and his wife Liz decided to move back to the US, they picked Colorado as their home base. At that point he had wrapped up his private equity funds and was ready to acquire his own company. Though his network, Richard came across LDK Logistics and acquired the company in 2015. LDK has been in business since 1999 and has focused on a very interesting niche in transportation called “White Glove” or “First/Final Mile” Logistics. The company helps manufacturers, distributors, and freight forwarders to move large, complex equipment all around the US and Canada. LDK Logistics have in fact trademarked the term “Velvet Glove” to differentiate its services as a turnkey outsourced logistics solution.

His Parents Inspired Him to do Well in Life

Richard’s parents were a huge influence on his world view. They were both from Poland and survivors of World War 2 and the Holocaust and moved to the US after the war. After losing everything in Europe they had to rebuild their lives in the US while maintaining a positive outlook throughout, and also provided a loving home for Richard and his sisters. They inspired all of their kids to do well in school and to become successful professionals in business and medicine and kind people who care about the larger society.

One of the books that inspired Richard as a kid was called Illusions by Richard Bach. It’s the story of a reluctant Messiah and looks at the world from a completely different perspective. More recently Yuval Harari’s book Sapiens was an amazing read for Richard. The book describes how humans have become the dominant species on the planet and it also provides some interesting insights into the human race’s potential future. Both good and bad.

In-house Enterprise Software is a Key Differentiator

One of LDK Logistics’ key differentiators is that it has developed its own in-house enterprise software that manages its entire process from initial bids to project management to invoicing. Richard’s overall operating
philosophy is to create a vision, inspire people to do their best, and then step out of the way! According to Richard, “My general view is that if you are dealing with talented professionals who are motivated to do the right things then the role of a manager or CEO is to allow people to do their thing in their own way and to get involved when I need to not as a matter of daily oversight.”

The Road Ahead

Now LDK Logistics is looking to expand its service offerings through acquisitions into asset backed transportation companies in relevant niches. LDK Logistics is also expanding its sales to existing customers, which is mostly attributable to the fact that LDK provides outstanding customer service and never points fingers when things go wrong. The Company always stands behind its work and takes full responsibility alleviating significant headaches from its customers.

Also, according to Richard, in the mid to long term, driverless trucks will be transformative in the transportation sector. Until the COVID crisis happened, the entire industry was suffering from an acute driver shortage, which has changed a bit in the short term, but in the long run, driverless technologies and electric powered vehicles will be game changing in terms of creating sufficient capacity to fulfil the economy’s needs in a safe and cost effective manner.

Fighting the Unseen

For LDK Logistics, the biggest challenge to date has been pivoting in response to the COVID crisis. The Company was able to quickly set up its entire workforce to work remotely. This resulted in no interruption in service for the organization’s customers. For LDK it has also been a challenge to inspire the workforce who are dealing with all of the uncertainty that has become everyone’s routine during these recent days. Fortunately business has held steady and the company will weather the storm and come out stronger in the end.

Sustaining the Entrepreneurial Spirit

To sustain his entrepreneurial spirit, Richard spends a lot of time outdoors. He has found that connecting with nature is very restorative. When Richard is overwhelmed or just in need of some new insights, he finds that taking a 5-10 mile hike really helps to restore the spirit. Fortunately, Richard lives in Colorado where it’s easy to access the outdoors. The back gate of his home opens onto a hiking trails that goes on for 100 miles!

Richard also loves to network with business professionals. He belongs to a CEO roundtable that has been a great support in good times and in difficult times. Working together with like- minded individuals is a very powerful tool.

Advice for Emerging Leaders

When it comes to advising young, emerging leaders, Richard advises to find a good mentor or mentor group and get involved as much as you can. Being able to share experiences and challenges with colleagues is invaluable and can especially help to get through the most challenging times.

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