Even after 22 years of running his family's company, Ed Holland's work is never done.
Recent challenges at resin distribution leader M. Holland Co. include the role of technology, integrating acquired businesses and retaining good employees. Ed Holland joined the Northbrook, Ill.-based firm — which was founded by his father, Marvin — in 1975, and he took the top job in 1994.
“Technological challenges affect the CEO and every role and process at our company,” Ed Holland, age 62, said in a recent interview. “Our core strategy in distribution is to be the best relationship-based and technology-based company we can be.”
“Technology enhances relationships — it doesn't replace them. We haven't cut back on face to face meetings and interactions. And we're doing more with trade shows and supplier visits.”
With that goal in mind, M. Holland last year launched MH2GO, a tablet-based information technology app. The app allows account managers and product managers to have functionality and information when interfacing with customers and suppliers.
“We're using technology to make meetings more productive and useful,” Ed Holland said. “We like to say ‘We know more than we think we know.' With data mining, we can separate good information from bad.”
Integration also has become important for M. Holland as the firm has made five acquisitions in recent years. “As we identify a target company, we look for a cultural fit,” Ed Holland explained. “Sometimes it looks like a good business fit, but it would be a brutal cultural fit.”
He pointed out that the five deals made by his firm were all of privately held companies that were started by individuals and that maintained a family business atmosphere. “We're getting the culture and a group of people — not just customer lists,” Ed Holland said.
Employee retention is another area that Ed Holland has focused on as CEO. “A better culture attracts people,” he said. “We're fortunate in that we've had a lot of good people choose to stay with us.”
Ed Holland added that although compensation and benefits are important in retention, recognition of good work, upward mobility and fun also play large roles. “We've benchmarked ourselves vs. our industry and other distributors in other industries, and we believe our benefits are among the best in the business,” he said.
M. Holland sells more than 1 billion pounds of commodity and engineering resins each year, representing more than 20 suppliers and servicing almost 4,000 customers.