Metro-East News

30 years after starting local construction business, CEO is named entrepreneur of the year

Local construction company CEO named entrepreneur of the year

Bruce Holland, CEO of Holland Construction Services, talks about his career and being selected as an Entrepreneur of the Year in the Midwest by Ernst and Young.
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Bruce Holland, CEO of Holland Construction Services, talks about his career and being selected as an Entrepreneur of the Year in the Midwest by Ernst and Young.

During his career in the construction business, Bruce Holland built houses with his father and worked for Bauer Brothers Construction. The 73-year-old Holland eventually worked his way up from carpenter to managing Bauer Brothers, before starting Holland Construction Services in 1986.

Holland Construction has worked on St. Elizabeth’s and Memorial hospitals, multifamily projects and senior living projects. The company does about $180 million a year in work and has 80 employees. Half of those are office staff, and the other half are superintendents in the field.

Bruce Holland also is involved with the St. Louis Chamber of Commerce, the Leadership Council of Southwestern Illinois, the Regional Business Council and United Way, among other organizations.

The Shiloh resident, who serves as CEO of the Swansea-based business, was recently named an Entrepreneur of the Year in the Midwest by Ernst and Young.

He called the process fun, which included interviews with several judges.

Holland recently spoke with the BND about the award and his business.

Q: How do you feel about receiving this award?

A: “I was very surprised and very honored. There really was a lot of good companies and individuals that have been recognized. Initially I thought this was for young guys who have been really innovative entrepreneurs, but then I started looking at the actual winners. Like last year, the winner nationally was one of the Marriott brothers; he’s in 70s or 80s.

Q: What is the process like? What do they look for?

A: “It’s like speed dating, because they ask you a bunch of questions first, and part of it is you fill some things out on a computer while you’re there and they ask key questions. You go in and there’s a panel of three judges in there for 10 minutes. You go in there, and then they buzz when your time is up. You go out and you go into another panel, and there’s three other judges in there.”

Q: What do they ask you?

A: “Why did you start your company? What excites you? What do you think are the keys to success? What makes you happy? What inspires you? Things like that and things about the business.”

Q: How important are awards to you?

A: “I think it’s nice, and I think it’s good for the employees. I think it’s good for the recognition. It helps your reputation and helps awareness. I can’t say that it’s going to make or break your business. It’s something (where) we really don’t say this is our goal. Like this one it plopped in our lap.”

081017DH Holland
Derik Holtmann

Q: Why did you want to start your own company?

A: “I felt that even though the Bauer Family was very good to me, I felt like it was a tired third generation company, and it was based on competitive bid of projects, and I wanted to be more relationship oriented instead of being low bidder on a project, doing a project and going off and trying to be low bidder on another project, rather than having a relationship and making sure we understand what the owner’s needs are and tailoring our services to that. Our goal was over a period of time we would get to the point where 75 percent of our work would come from those types of relationships. We were fortunate enough we got there a lot quicker than we thought, and about 95 percent of work comes from the relationship side, negotiated projects, repeat clients and referrals. That gets us where we want to be.”

Q: How much longer do you think you will be running the company?

A: “I think the management team and (company President) Mike Marchal and (Executive Vice President) Dave Birk, they really run the company. I’ll say I’m the founder. I’m the one who put it together. We get together on a weekly basis for couple hours and go through the major issues, but they run the company more than I do. Because our work is a lot of repeat clients, ... so my biggest job is working with clients, what their plans are, new projects, organizing that and try to keep the work flow in for us. But to answer your question, I’ll keep coming in as long as they want me to be here. I enjoy what I do, and I think I have a really good balance of being able to get away. I do get away. I’m leaving tomorrow for a four-day golf trip, just going down to the Lake of the Ozarks with some buddies to play golf ... I’ve talked to a few friends who have retired and felt lost. So I still enjoy what I do.”

Q: What’s your golf handicap?

A: “22. So, I’m not good ... I do play in a league, and in the league, I’m an 18. I’m not good, but I like to play, and I like to be out with the guys.”

Joseph Bustos: 618-239-2451, @JoeBReporter