M. Holland Co. is thriving, 60 years after the Northbrook, Ill.-based distribution leader opened its doors.
The company ranks as North America's fourth-largest resin distributor, according to an industry estimate. Since late 2007, the firm has added several key executives; boosted its sales, technical and credit departments; and expanded supply deals with materials makers including Nova Chemicals Corp., Rhodia SA, BASF Corp., Bayer Corp. and Ineos Nova.
M. Holland now represents more than 20 suppliers and distributes a variety of commodity and engineering resins from more than 70 warehouses, as well as from packaging and bulk terminals. Over the course of six decades, the firm has reinvented itself a couple of times and made the necessary adjustments to meet its customers' and suppliers' needs and compete with ever-growing rivals.
Marvin Holland was 26 years old when he started the firm in 1950. But he already was a veteran of World War II who had attended college on the GI Bill. Holland also had worked for Superior Plastics one of the Chicago area's first injection molders and had formed and sold his first plastics company a compounding and reprocessing firm that he started with his brother and two business partners.
After H. Muehlstein & Co. bought that initial business, Holland briefly worked for Muehlstein before starting M. Holland as a compounding and coloring firm, according to Ed Holland, Marvin's son, who serves as the firm's president and CEO today.
My dad had a great affinity for walking around a plant floor and recognizing efficiency and cost-saving opportunities, Ed Holland said in a recent phone interview. That served him well when he was working for other people and even more when he went into business for himself.
Initially, M. Holland did a good deal of work in acrylic taillights and other parts for ACDelco and other Detroit-area automotive firms. M. Holland also ran a resin brokerage business that, at first, was secondary to its compounding operations.
By 1967, M. Holland had more than 200 employees and was running 11 compounding extrusion lines at a plant in Northlake, Ill. But resin prices had dropped so low that there was very little profit in the business. So Marvin Holland took the bold step of shutting down the firm's manufacturing operations and reorganized the company to focus on resin distribution.
The resin brokerage couldn't cover the losses of the manufacturing side, Ed Holland said. In one day, my dad went from having 200 employees to having three.
In addition to himself, Marvin Holland retained Barbara Wyatt, who recently retired after 54 years with the firm, and Bart Cimaglia, who would manage the firm's warehouse for 31 years. Cimaglia's wife had a 25-year career with the company and their son is still with the firm.
From this lean trio, the business would grow, expanding from the Chicago area to the rest of the Midwest. Ed Holland joined the firm in 1976, although he admitted that of the five Holland children, I was the least likely to join the family business.
Of his four siblings, only Ed's brother Philip would join the firm, starting there in 1979 and remaining until retiring in 2004.
Ed Holland was in his second year at the University of Illinois and was all set to go to medical school when he met a wonderful girl, his future wife Ann Dee.
Suddenly 10 or 12 more years of school didn't seem that attractive, Ed Holland recalled. It really changed my focus.
So I went to talk to my dad and said I wanted to learn what he did. We talked for four hours, and decided I would join the firm in sales after I graduated. I was the sixth employee. After two weeks of training, my dad said to go out and sell something just don't call on someone we're already selling to.
When Ed Holland joined the family business, its focus was on selling to injection molders primarily based in the Midwest. It had a strong focus on non-branded polystyrene but added more polyethylene and polypropylene throughout the 1970s. In the 1980s, M. Holland started adding branded resin lines, such as PS from Fina and Amoco, and the geographic focus expanded to the greater Midwest and Southeast.
To gain more film-related PE sales, M. Holland opened an office in Houston in 1993 its first distribution office outside of the Chicago area. Along the way, Ed Holland was promoted to vice president in the mid-80s and then became president in the early 1990s.
Marvin Holland passed away in late 1994, having instilled many life lessons in his son, Ed.
Marvin had remained active, but he allowed and encouraged me to make changes and do things differently than he would have, Ed Holland said. He let me make mistakes.
Today, M. Holland employs more than 40 sales representatives. The firm doesn't release sales figures, but Ed Holland said the business now does more than 300 times the annual resin volume than it did when he started selling pellets 34 years ago. Ed is the company's majority owner, with his mother, Joan, holding a minority stake.
And another generation already has arrived. Ed's son Brad is in his seventh year with the firm and serves as a business analyst. His youngest daughter, Lindy, is a field sales representative in her fourth year with the business. His older daughter, Jori, also briefly worked for the firm.
But running the firm that bears the family's name isn't a birthright, according to Ed Holland.
They'll rise to where their talents take them, he said of his children who work for the firm. There's no guarantee that the next person sitting in my chair will be named Holland.
Looking back at M. Holland's 60-year history and the three-plus decades that he's been there Ed Holland said the biggest challenge that faced the firm was trying not to grow too fast.
There were times when resin suppliers wanted to give us more business and we had to say no because we didn't have product pull-through yet, he recalled. We lost some of those opportunities but some have come back.
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