Become a Leader People Want to Follow

Kevin & Jackie Freiberg

Making a Profit While Making a Difference

The Fred Holzberger Interview

fred holzbergerFred Holzberger is one of the most inspiring people we know. He is a rags-to-riches, passionate and highly successful businessperson. He is a committed environmentalist and futurist who understands that success in life absolutely involves making money but it also involves giving it away too! Holzberger is the founder, president and CEO of Fredric’s Corporation, Essential Concepts, and Aveda Fredric’s Institute. He was also an exclusive distributor of Aveda environmental beauty products in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and Michigan from 1985 through 2005. According to this entrepreneur who built a multi-million-dollar beauty and wellness business from a four-chair salon in Fairfield, Ohio, in order to make a difference by giving, you first have to know how to make money. Holzberger loves to tell people, “profit comes first.” And Holzberger has made giving back to his employees, his customers and the communities in which he does business a top priority—more so than most companies many times the size of Fredric’s Corporation.

For Frederic Holzberger, everything starts with his team. He knows that without his employees, he could not run his businesses or serve the customers. According to Holzberger, “I have always tried to take care of my employees because I think they are our number one customer and they are the number one asset on our balance sheet. By taking care of my people, they in turn have taken great care of our customers. The real challenge happens when you’ve got that “never-satisfied” customer of the day. If you don’t have people who are willing to do whatever-it-takes to serve ALL of your customers, then it’s tough to stay in business. Customer service for us is custom service, because that’s what our customers have grown to expect and desire.”

Taking care of employees has taken many different forms over the years as Fredric’s Corporation has grown and changed. For example, Fredric’s was one of the first companies to build an onsite daycare center for children of employees. Not only did this make it easier for employees to balance work-life issues, but it also helped build high levels of loyalty among them. Says Holzberger, “I’m in the beauty industry and we have had mostly women working for us. So I put in an on-site daycare center when it wasn’t even fashionable to do so. I will never forget getting a call from a reporter with the Cincinnati Enquirer. The reporter was blown away that companies like Procter & Gamble and power company Synergy—huge companies—didn’t even have daycare centers themselves. This was probably the number one thing that allowed me to keep employees for as many years as I did. When a child was sick, employees could walk right next door and see if they needed an aspirin or a trip to the doctor—whatever was necessary. It doesn’t matter how large a company thinks it is if the personal relationship with employees isn’t there, your business is going to deteriorate. Maybe not in the short term but definitely in the long term.”

Holzberger has made employee wellness a central focus of his company. He feels that this is a key element in helping employees achieve the right work-life balance in their lives. Says Holzberger “I think part of the work-life balance is keeping healthy, so we have always had a rejuvenation every year—either away if we could afford it, or just local. We hired the Alliance for Integrative Medicine to work with our employees. It’s an alternative way of thinking about yourself. We took all our employees to get chiropractic work, stress reduction and massage and the use of Bocan Raton chiropractors is specially good for this. Two doctors gave a seminar on nutrition and employees were taught how to spin. We pay our employees—its right in our employee handbook—to have an annual physical on work time because I think it’s vitally important that they have an annual physical. The upside for us is that our insurance rates historically have been lower than anyone else.”

For Holzberger, an important part of building long-term relationships with employees is providing them with opportunities to give back to their communities. Project Daymaker is just one example of the many ways that Holzberger involves employees in meaningful community projects. With his company’s headquarters located in a suburb of Cincinnati, Ohio, Holzberger is acutely aware of the devastating impact that homelessness has on communities and the people who live within them. In Cincinnati alone, the Cincinnati Coalition for the Homeless estimates that there are currently more than 25,000 homeless individuals. Homelessness brings with it a profound loss of self-esteem for those who experience it, and it can be very difficult for the homeless to climb back out of the hole in which they find themselves.

Working with Sister Bonnie Steinlage of the Franciscan Sisters for the Poor in Hamilton, Ohio—who had a vision of cutting hair for the poor and homeless and who set up a beauty salon in a homeless shelter in Cincinnati—Holzberger was moved to outfit a 34-foot recreational vehicle to serve as a full-service beauty salon on wheels, dedicated to providing beauty-care services and personal-hygiene education to the many poor and homeless men and women who desperately needed a booster shot of self-esteem, and a possible step up from their hopeless situations. Holzberger enlists employee volunteers (more than 1,000 have participated over the years) to provide haircutting, beauty and other services for free. Holzberger, in turn, arranges to keep the RV fully stocked with beauty-care products. Says Holzberger, “The real champions are the licensed cosmetologists and aestheticians who normally get $50 to $100 for a haircut, but who donate their time for free. They’re making these people feel better about themselves and this has had a ripple effect throughout the community.” By 2004, Project Daymaker mobile salon had served more than 5,000 people and covered more than 60,000 miles.

Clearly, Frederic Holzberger takes his commitment to employees, customers and the community very seriously and he is convinced that it is the RIGHT thing to do. Holzberger told us, “The greatest satisfaction that you receive in life is when people thank you on the street for what you do for the community. I’ve had customers tell me that even though my product costs a little bit more, they don’t mind spending it because they know how much I do for the community. And they see it in their children’s drama club that we give a donation to, or in a church group, or a major community event that we’re involved with. I really believe that consumers join brands today; they don’t just buy brands. I’m happy that we give our customers a brand worth joining.”