Holder's Not Holding On
Robert M. Bob Holder Jr. has been one of the Atlanta business communitys most respected and visible leaders for over two decades. Son Tommy is now CEO of Holder Corporation (1995 sales - $267 million) and its subsidiary Holder Construction. Son John is CEO of the Holder Properties subsidiary, family owned and managed. In 1994, Bob left day-to-day operations to his sons becoming co-chairman of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. He is now transitioning from the chairman to what he describes as œlife-long cheerleader. We share excerpts from an interview on the subject of the transition that he gave the Atlanta Business Chronicle (Dec. 13, 1996; p. 4-B).
It helps when you have the complete confidence in your successors that I have. I dont know whether I would have second-guessed them or not but I haven't had any second guesses. They run the businesses far better than I ever did.
On Help with the Transition Process
We got a lot of help. Not in the sense that we went out and hired a consultant to come in and tell us how to do it. Its sort of a patch-and-fit, work-in-progress kind of thing.
We have benefitted from the body of knowledge that's out there. Particularly (in relation to) the challenges of a family business.
I have tried to focus in the last few years on my transition. . . . My active role is coming to an end but that doesn't mean my activity is coming to an end. We've determined to uncover and look for a lot of new interests. I have a lot of other things I plan to do.
I think you have to work at this transition just as hard as you do in anything else you want to be successful at. . . . There are a lot of just plain habits that you have to break. I view it as a wonderful opportunity.
We travel a lot. We spend a few weeks every year in our home in Hawaii. . . . I have a number of investments and other business interests outside of Holder Corp. that I actively manage. We have a wonderful, big family and lots of grandchildren and we just have more things to do. It's a wonderful opportunity to be freed to do a lot of these things.
Almost everybody I know, including myself, is in some form of denial about the word retirement. There's something about it that denotes the end. It's all over and, whoever you were before that day you retire, you're nobody after you retire. It does't mean that at all. What it means is you retired from whatever it was you were doing. Then the question is what do you do next.
One of my paragons for this sort of thing, one of my dearest friends, is Don Keough (who retired as president and CEO of Coca-Cola in 1993). One of the many secrets of his success in his life is that he is the most excited about what he's going to be doing tomorrow.
As a business achievement, the preparation and emergence as leaders of my two sons is probably the most lasting, important thing that's happened during my business career.
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