It doesn't hurt to ask, says Thomas Langston, president of Pittsburgh's Oil Service Inc. Langston has increased his company's revenues 30% by getting into small-scale businesses that larger companies wanted to get out of, he says. Last year Langston, whose 50-employee company distributes petroleum products, realized that some of his direct competitors were tiny divisions of much larger companies. On a hunch, Langston started cold-calling the companies to see if they might sell the divisions, which were profitable but growing slowly. Three said yes, including Pennzoil-Quaker State and Sunoco. "A large corporation doesn't have the psychological attachment," he says. "It's just numbers."
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