David Hunt

A Master Craftsman

Highly profitable professional firm serving attorneys and legal support staff.  Excellent client list and growth record.  Substantial cash required.  Call Wendell Swan.

“I’ve found it!” Dave announced excitedly, circling the notice in the Businesses for Sale section of the Washington Post

Despite the apparent gravity of the discovery, his wife, Amy, barely looked up from her section of the paper.  Her parents were similarly unenthused, perhaps desensitized by comparable announcements from their son-in-law in the past.

Dave will admit that, yes, he had been the man who cried wolf before, but something in his gut felt different when his eyes fell across the newsprint.  Leaping up from the chair, he hurried into the other room to dial the number in the advertisement—perhaps the single most transformative phone call of his life.  Now the CEO of Landon IP, Inc., the very same legal support company he saw in the paper that morning, Dave has built his professional journey from the ground up and with his own hands, drawing on diverse materials and tools and synthesizing them into a formidable masterwork that rivals those of even the greatest craftsmen.

Yet he couldn’t have done so alone.  Though Amy may not have leapt to her feet that day when her husband made his proclamation, her skills, support, and enthusiasm soon became a primary determinant in whether Dave’s visions would persevere the transition into reality, and it was evident early on that the two were as ideally suited for one another in the business world as they were in home life.  “From the very beginning, Amy has kept me grounded.  I’m a bit of a risk-taker,” he explains.  “I had always wanted to start a business, but I was working at Freddie Mac at the time and knew it would be difficult with a mortgage and a young family.  But Amy had a good job, and we both had our educations to fall back on.   I figured life was too short not to go for it.”

Dave had actually taken that risk once before in 1988 when he and two friends went into business selling documents from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  It had gone well until an electronic system named EDGAR came along and transformed the industry.  He had seen a similar trend later on working for Freddie Mac, when an automated underwriting system threatened the livelihoods of mortgage underwriters.  Some might call Dave opportunistic, but the scope of his skill far exceeds the simple ability to identify potential opportunities.  Rather, he is more of a craftsman, and his craft is synthesizing opportunities by bringing together like ideas and information across a wide range of experience.  In this sense, he had been training to take over Landon IP his whole life.

Dave was born in Michigan but moved to Island Park, New York, with his mother shortly after his parents divorced when he was four years old.  They lived on Long Island until he was ten, when they moved to New Jersey and then to Virginia.  His mother worked as a saleswoman who sold door-to-door, and it is to her glowing influence that he attributes the entrepreneurial spirit driving him today.  “She and my uncle are ambassadors of business,” he describes.   His grandparents were both German and couldn’t find work during World War II because nobody in New York wanted to hire Germans, and his grandfather had died unexpectedly.  Struggling to make ends meet, his grandmother had to put his uncle in an orphanage.  The boy then struck out on his own at age 13 working for a carnival, eventually starting his own roofing company that evolved into a real estate developer and then took on real estate management.  Within two decades, he had become the largest non-union contractor in the state.  “It’s so much better to work for yourself,” he would tell young Dave.

His mother, a devout Christian, always underscored this sentiment.  Having worked her way up from a salesperson, to local manager, to regional manager, to division manager of the Mid-Atlantic by the time Dave was in high school, she was also a staunch advocate of hard work and leadership.  “My brother and I were conditioned since we were kids, and it’s part of the fabric of who we are,” he points out today.

Also deeply ingrained in his character was a firm conviction in his own capabilities.  “I remember particularly well a time when I bought a present for my uncle for his birthday,” Dave recalls.  “Someone told me I didn’t need to do that because he had more money than I ever would.  I was young at the time, but it stuck with me.  I was thinking, ‘I’ll show you that you’re wrong.’  It was motivational rather than discouraging, and even today I feel that it’s nonsense when people try to tell me that I can’t do something.”

This mindset served him especially well in high school, when his guidance counselor told him that he might not be college material based on an assessment test he had taken.  “I’m a quiet person who thinks deeply but not necessarily quickly,” he explains.  Making a mockery of the counselor’s suggestion, Dave got straight A’s in school and earned a degree in government from William and Mary, where he also attended graduate business school.  “I may not be smarter than anyone else, but I push myself and work extremely hard,” he says.  “With this persistence emphasized by book smarts and street smarts, there’s a lot I can do.”

Dave struggled at first to find a job after graduating in 1987 but soon landed a gig as a paralegal.  It was also around this time that he first met Amy.  Then, after earning his MBA, he took a job in Houston, Texas, as an internal management consultant for American General Corporation, a large financial services company.  In this capacity, he took a three-month training program taught by senior executives that equipped him with the core principles for how to lead and manage an organization.  Individuals coming out of that training program were then placed in a subsidiary and assigned to a senior officer to help make that organization better, and Dave was placed with a subsidiary called the Variable Annuity Life Insurance Company (VALIC).

Dave’s experience there proved exceedingly frustrating because the senior officer he was placed with was uncooperative and didn’t believe in the breakthrough aims of the program.  This didn’t hold Dave back.  He resigned after a year and was immediately flooded with calls from four other subsidiaries offering him positions.  He turned these down too, however, feeling that his future lay elsewhere.  It was this feeling that led him to Freddie Mac, eventually paving the way for his path to cross with Landon IP.

Landon IP was actually launched as an information company in 1949, selling patent copies and patent file histories.  Patent file histories can range from a hundred to a thousand pages in length, and Landon IP would retype these documents before the time of Xerox machines.  Even after the machines became available in 1971, patent stenographers had become so good at the process that they continued to retype documents.  When Dave and Amy came across the business in 1998, they were already well aware from prior experience that it would soon be disintermediated by the advent of the internet.  Noting that patent searching could be made profitable by emphasizing the mental work over the clerical work, they knew they would have to diversify the business from a copy service to a research service.

The couple’s first obstacle, however, was procuring the company.  At the time, Dave was instead planning to open a restaurant and had secured several investors for the project.  The owners of Landon wanted $1.2 million for it, with a $400 thousand down payment.  The Hunts only had $5 thousand socked away, but Dave was convinced they could swing it after conducting a cash flow analysis and with the help of investors.  He then launched an all-out campaign to win over both the investors and the owners.  “At some point, the light bulb went off and the owners decided they wanted to sell to me,” Dave remembers.  “One investor, however, was not as cooperative, and Amy ultimately put her foot down and resolved that the bargain would do more harm than good.  It was a very tense time, but in the end, and through a combination of resources and heart, we reached a deal with the owners that worked for everyone.”

The deal closed on June 1, 1998, and the company drew $1.4 million in revenue that year.  Amy joined the team in 2000, and aside from the devastating effects of the Recession felt in 2009, Landon IP has grown steadily since 1986.  Today, the company earns about $25 million in revenue and employs a team of 160 people.  Known as the 800-pound gorilla in professional patent searching, it remains fiercely competitive and firmly committed to making a difference in its industry by creating real value and great return on investment.   Now specializing in legal and technical translations and advanced patent training in addition to searching, Landon IP has recently opened offices in England and Japan, lending a worldwide presence to an already world-class service.

In advising young entrepreneurs entering the business world today, Dave stresses the importance of pursuing a career path in line with one’s true passions and interests—something that he feels is often overlooked today.  “Young people will tell me that they want to go to law school, for example, but they really don’t know why,” he points out.  “They think lawyers are prestigious and make a lot of money, but they can’t tell you what type of lawyer they’d want to be, or why.  We condition our kids to do well in school, to get involved in a wide set of activities, to work hard, and to get a good job, but we don’t do a good enough job at teaching them to ask that fundamental inner question of themselves: why?”

Asking this question is what has allowed Dave not only to live life, but also to create it.  By fusing opportunity from the raw material of circumstance and experience, he and Amy have synthesized a business that their employees and clients can count on.  “I try to learn from every situation and opportunity I’m faced with, whether it’s reading a book, interacting with someone, or observing the news,” Dave explains.  “Regardless of what I’m encountering, I’m always asking how it can change our lives or benefit the company.”  Remaining constantly in tune with life in this way, Dave not only lives it to the fullest, but also invests himself to the fullest in all that he does.

David Hunt

Gordon J Bernhardt


President and founder of Bernhardt Wealth Management and author of Profiles in Success: Inspiration from Executive Leaders in the Washington D.C. Area. Gordon provides financial planning and wealth management services to affluent individuals, families and business owners throughout the Washington, DC area. Since establishing his firm in 1994, he and his team have been focused on providing high quality service and independent financial advice to help clients make informed decisions about their money.

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