"On the Job with...." is a weekly Sunday Inc. series, spotlighting area business owners and executives. Today's interview is with Steven Holloway, Senior Vice President of Moderan Gas Co., Inc.
Q. If you were a young adult fresh out of college, what would you do first in searching for a job?
A. Look beyond the paycheck and see if it is a job that matches my skills. Is it a job that fits me that I can grow with or give me additional skills that I can use at a future job?
Q. What was the first thing you spent money on when you received your first ever paycheck?
A. A Sony reel to reel tape player.
Q. What's the single most effective technique you found over the past two years for keeping employees motivated?
A. Our employees know that if they do their job properly and work well with other employees as well as management that there is a high probability that their job is secure and theirs as long as they want the job. We also try to promote from within the company. Many entry level employees have been trained to be CDL drivers with nice pay promotions to match.
Q. What was your first job?
A. I have always worked in the family business. In the beginning it was my job to clean the appliances, assemble grills, paint tanks, stuff bills etc. and progressed from there. In 1979, I was Albany's first Greyhound Bus agent and Modern Gas housed a temporary bus station when the Carter administration relaxed operating permits and allowed Greyhound to operate over Trailways routes. A fierce territorial dispute erupted and the permit to operate was allowed to expire after six months. The fight to restore service helped me gain my first experience in dealing with reporters in trying to get a story covered. Jackie Ryan covered the story. Greyhound later acquired Trailways and the rest is history.
Q. Do you have a role model or mentor in your career?
A. My father. He always made it look easy to manage a business. Conversations at the dinner table were never boring because they always eventually led to business discussions. Employees past and present were often a part of the discussion because many times you felt as if you were helping to raise some of them.
Q. What is the biggest lesson you as a business leader learned from the recent recession?
A. Keep a strong relationship with your bank and your banker. This was not a normal ebb and flow recession. The banks were caught off guard as much as anyone else and they rapidly changed their policies and requirements towards lending. The bankers who once were able to make decisions on their own were now having to run loans through multiple layers of approval and that process was not instant. We felt very fortunate to have had a strong two way communication relationship going into this recession.
Q. If you could turn the clock back on one aspect of technology - examples e-mail, automated phone systems, cell phones, PDAs, etc. - what would you most like to see go away?
A. Pressing one for English is my pet peeve followed closely with not being able to hit 0 for immediate personal assistance.
Q. What is your favorite work-related gadget?
A. A deep love hate relationship with the computer. It has transformed our ability to handle thousands of customer accounts with fewer people but the constant treat of viruses, need for constant reinvestment in newest technology, threat of security, and concern of employee productivity issues with email and web surfing makes it a headache too.
Q. What was the last book you read? Do you have things you read daily or regularly?
A. I enjoy reading trade publications, the newspaper, email and occasional hobby magazines but very few books. I usually wait for the movie.
Q. I'm up and going by? And what is your morning routine?
A. I had a heart attack in January and between that and cardiac rehab only available in the morning it has changed my morning routines a little bit.
Q. Favorite hobbies or activity outside work?
A. I am very fortunate to represent Georgia on the National Propane Gas Association board of directors. Because of the travel required I always try to take Amtrak when possible because I have always had a love of train travel since I was a kid and we took the Illinois Central from Albany to Vero Beach, Fla., to see my relatives.
Q. Best thing about your job?
A. Being constantly challenged by the changing dynamics of a growing business.
Q. Worst thing about your job?
A. Collecting accounts and having to let an employee go for whatever reason.
Q. The most beneficial course I took in school was?
A. Psychology, Economics and Principals of Accounting.
Q. What would be your dream job if you were able to pick a position outside your current career path?
A. An engineer with Amtrak.
Q. Finish this thought; "on the first anniversary of my retirement, I see myself...
A. I don't see myself as retired, just a reduced schedule.
Q. What is the one trait a strong business leader cannot afford to be without?
A. Ethical and fair treatment of employees and customers.
Q. What kind of music might I find on your list of most played on your iPod?
A. I love the 80s on 8 and the teenagers make me listen to the 20s on 20 on satellite radio. I actually do not have an iPod, but the kids each have one.
Q. What was the last movie you watched? Your favorite movie?
A. "Avatar" and my favorite movie is "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Q. What do you think is the biggest change Albany will see in the next 10 years?
A. Albany must come to grips with hiring people in all positions because they are the best available without race being a factor. City, county and state leaders who run for office must represent all people from the area and advocate and do what is best for all. If not, those with the means will continue to move to areas where they feel they are taxed by those who represent their needs and vote for the common good.
Q. What was the best vacation you've ever taken?
A. I travel a good bit as an NPGA board member and always take my family when possible. My favorite vacation however was a free trip given to our sister company, Honda Yamaha Kawasaki of Albany. It was a meeting in Maui that was at a hotel set in super lush tropical surroundings with the Pacific on one side and a mountain on the other. The road to Hanna was some of the most stunning contrasting vistas I have ever seen. I also took the road all the way around the island even though the car rental contract specifically forbid taking their cars to the far side of the island, which although desolate, had some of the most stunning vistas.
Q. What are the biggest changes you have seen in your specific line of business over the past few years?
A. The biggest challenge is dealing with increasing government intrusion into how we operate our business. The DOT regulates our ability to move our product up and down the highway and every driver has to have a Commercial Driving License. It sometimes seems that there are people in Washington that sit around and try to justify their jobs by coming up with some new regulation that has nothing to do with employing more people or making more profit.