A quiet man who builds many of the structures in the area but says these days he enjoys building relationships more than following the nuts and bolts of a construction project.
Bruce Holland visits the many projects Holland Construction has in process, but he relies on his project managers to handle the day-to-day issues in construction.
Bruce works on building relationships with and among not only the clients who make use of Holland Construction services but also the people who bring those projects to life.
Bruce began his life in construction with Bauer Brothers, leaving in 1986 to form a company which, in 1999 became Holland Construction.
His goal the first year was to reach $5 million, and he didn’t have any work the first six months he was in business. The next six months the company reached $18 million, he said.
Administrative assistant, Mary Jo Jacob, who has worked with Bruce for almost 40 years, said employees were a bit nervous during that first six months.
“Although some of us were getting a little nervous about where the first project would come from, Bruce always had a positive attitude and faith that God would lead the company in the right direction.”
He learned about construction from his father, who was a builder, primarily of home construction before he went to Bauer Brothers. Moving swiftly up the ladder, he was running the company eight years later.
While his mother was a “devout Catholic,” his father belonged to the Church of Christ, but they spoke the language of faith with one voice.
Bruce remembers several nights a week praying the rosary, and his father proved an inspiration for him during his early years as well.
“He would go to East St. Louis or north St. Louis to work for an African American family” on a project, Bruce said. “It was never about the money. I learned a lot about character” from him.
Bruce not only learned about faith but he also learned about relationships in his family of seven children — four boys and three girls.
Maybe that’s why relationships are so important to him. “We’re a relation-oriented company,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of our work last year came from repeat or referral business.”
Holland Construction works from conception to finished project. Sometimes the company must work through “tight time frames, like a project of 13 weeks from start to finish that began (one) December,” he said.
As CEO, he spends his time meeting with people, forming a relationship to work out a project. If it doesn’t look like the relationship will be good for the company or for the client, he is not opposed to walking away, he said.
“I want to make it a pleasant experience,” he said.
To stay in touch with his employees, his managers and supervisors, Bruce goes into the “field” once a week.
Because Bruce has been successful, he believes he needs to participate in projects that will not bring “business” into the company, like serving on the United Way Finance Council, the executive committee of the St. Louis Zoo Association of the Board of Directors, and the Leadership Council to “grow the area,” he said.
“The good Lord has been good to me,” he said. “I have to share my talents, my financial wealth. It’s all about how we can help other people.”
Safety is a big issue for Holland Construction, Bruce said. “It’s been seven years that we haven’t had a lost-time accident; everybody goes home safely.”
Jacob said Bruce’s motto is: “God-first, family-second, work-third.” His company motto is “Built on integrity,” she said.
Another long-time employee, James Riess, vice president of estimating at the company, describes one instance of working with Bruce “that will forever stand out in my mind. I had just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and with this disease comes various symptoms that come and go.”
At one point Riess was losing the ability to use his hands, and this became “a grave cause for concern.”
Bruce went to Riess with a suggestion: “He said that since he needed my brain much more than my hands, he offered to hire someone to be my hands instead of being off work until improvements would occur.”
At that point a person was hired who had been recently laid off from another job to be Riess’ “hands. It worked well for both me and my assistant,” he said.
“Over and over through the years,” Jacob said, I hear comments from business associates about what a good person he is, and for such a busy and important person, how he always greets people with kindness and takes the time to ask how they are doing.”
When Bruce has tough business decisions to make, Jacob said, he told her “he looks directly across his desk at the crucifix on his office wall and asks God to guide him to make the right choice.”
Bruce and his wife, Gloria, belong to St. Nicholas Parish in O’Fallon. They have three grown children and five grandchildren.