As the saying goes, the one thing constant in life is change.
At H. J. Holtz & Son we embrace change and think it leads to higher employee retention and customer satisfaction. Recently, we rearranged the duties of a few people and promoted several of our employees. Company president Rick Holtz says he is always happy when existing team members are able to reach into a new area or learn a new skill.
“We like to promote from within,” he says. “People who have been with us for a while know ‘the Holtz way’ and are comfortable with our processes and how we do business. Plus, it makes me happy as an employer to see someone stretch into a new position – to grow and develop with us.”
Sharon Carroll, Finance & HR Manager
While Carroll’s title hasn’t changed, she now handles all billing, not just wallpaper. The change was necessitated by the 2020 death of family member Carol Hudson, who had managed the bulk of billing as well as some project management duties.
Carroll says the additional responsibilities are manageable, but have a distinctive flow.
“I enjoy doing the billing,” Sharon says. “It is just a bit challenging at times because of the volume tends to be at the end of the month.”
Carroll has been with the company since fall 2014.
Holley Nilson, Project Coordinator
Nilson has occupied a variety of positions at the company in the past six years, managing Instagram, Facebook and blog posts. She shifted away from marketing into assisting with estimates. Now, she works exclusively with Rick Holtz, preparing estimates, coordinating and scheduling wallpaper installations, and other tasks as needed. Nilson says she appreciates being able to see the many facets of the business.
“My new position allows me to see most projects from beginning to end, which I love,” Nilson says. “I enjoy working with the designers, clients and the other members of the Holtz team. My goal is to make it a little easier for everyone involved in the process. I have learned so much, especially about wallpaper and the skills required to hang it. We have the most amazing paper hangers. They are just one of the many skilled craftsman that are a part of the Holtz team, and I have so much respect for all of them!”
Jose Orellana, Painting Foreman
Orellana, who has been with H.J. Holtz & Son for eight years, sought out the promotion to foreman because he felt he was ready to increase his responsibilities.
“I looked for this opportunity because I knew I could do it,” he says, adding that his goal is to ensure punctuality with every job and ensure the details are in place so clients are happy with the process as well as the product.
“I want clients to be satisfied,” he says.
Roxy Reyes, Project Manager
Reyes, who joined the company in fall 2019, has moved quickly from painter to foreman to project manager. She says she is thankful that she was approached to make the change, as it allows her the opportunity to work with more members of the Holtz team.
“Helping people brings me a lot of joy,” she says. “Now I have more responsibilities to help as much as I can.”
Rick Holtz says he’s thankful to have people throughout the company who take their jobs seriously.
“Every person on our team is important,” he says. “We are only as strong as our weakest link.”
While many employees describe working for H.J. Holtz & Son to being part of a family, painter Juan Carlos Villanueva really is surrounded by relatives.
Cousin Oscar Ayala, who has been with the company for nearly a dozen years, initially recruited Villanueva. Now, Villanueva’s two sons – Miguel and Jonathan – are also painters with Holtz & Son.
“They work on other [painting] teams,” Villanueva laughs.
Villanueva, who assists with both interior and exterior jobs, says the in-house training that all Holtz & Son employees receive serves him well for the detail painting work that he prefers. The training also supports the company’s thorough approach to all its jobs.
“There’s a [level of] quality that we have: how we prep the areas, how we take care of [customers’] belongings, furniture, and other items,” he says.
Villanueva says he particularly enjoys working with Fine Paints of Europe, a high-end line of coatings that are preferred by designers and customers looking for a truly luxe and durable finish. H.J. Holtz & Son is recognized as a certified painter by Fine Paints of Europe. FPE coatings are “very delicate,” Villanueva says. “Not everybody can use it.”
And, yes, everyone in the company is treated like family, he says.
“I love working [here] because people are nice,” he says. “Other companies don’t work like this one. When you have to take days off, they give it to you without complaint or asking questions. They have your back.”
Luis Alas says a decade has gone by “real quick.”
When Alas was laid off from his previous job 10 years ago, his friend Oscar Ayala suggested he look to H.J. Holtz & Son for employment. Alas had some painting experience and trusted his friend’s recommendation, so he approached the firm and was hired as an apprentice painter. Now, he’s a foreman, overseeing his own team.
“A lot of people think [painting] is just grabbing a brush, roller and some tape, but it’s more than meets the eye,” he says. “A lot of jobs require some or a lot of preparation, and many jobs require that you are meticulous.”
Alas says he enjoys working on home interiors, especially cabinetry, because the change is so noticeable. In 2019, Alas led a Holtz painting crew working on Carr’s Hill, the home of the president of the University of Virginia. Carr’s Hill, which was built in 1909, received extensive renovations and repairs as part of an 18-month project that fixed roof problems as well as updated the interiors for public and private events. The Holtz team’s responsibilities included stripping paint not only from walls, but on wide crown molding and detailed, decorative plaster work throughout the house.
“We used eco-friendly paint remover and scrapers; the layers were hard to remove,” Alas says. “We started with three or four people, then the crew just kept getting bigger.”
Alas says he appreciates how he learned his craft from experienced Holtz workers, and says he’s now part of that tradition.
“Everybody was good with teaching [me]; now I’m doing it, too – helping younger people who are starting,” he says. “Everybody has their way of doing things, but at the end, you all want to have the same final product.”
Alas says he was happy to become a foreman because it gave him the opportunity to expand his responsibilities and build leadership skills.
“As foreman, there’s more communication with homeowners and the management team,” he says. “I talk with contractors and [job] superintendents daily.”
Alas says he appreciates the confidence that company president Rick Holtz has in his employees. Several years ago, Alas’ crew spent three weeks on a job in Atlanta, on their own. The large project was a renovation of a residential library, with floor-to-ceiling paneling that had to be stripped of paint, sanded, and stained. Holtz had offered to allow the team to fly home on the weekends, but the crew decided to remain in Atlanta and sightsee together.
“He trusted sending his crew to another city, knowing that he can count on us to take care of the job,” Alas says. “It was a nice experience.”
H.J. Holtz & Son has tripled in size since Alas joined the company, a development which has made a difference in one way, but not another, he says.
“I haven’t been able to work with everybody, but [the company] was always family-oriented, and it still is,” Alas says. “[Holtz & Son] was a friendly place from the get-go, and that’s the same. It’s been a great experience.”
Gary Benton had to find a new job.
In 2006, following a surgery for his wife, Benton needed time at home, to care for her and their infant. But his then-employer wanted him on the job. “I was told to show up or I’d be fired, so I called and said, ‘Well, guess I’m fired.’”
A week later, Benton walked into the H.J. Holtz & Son offices and presented himself to president Rick Holtz.
“Rick said ‘When can you start?’” Benton recalls. “It’s one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
Fifteen years later, Benton is still with Holtz & Son and continues to be impressed with the company’s focus on what’s really important.
“Anytime you’ve got something going on with the family, you let [the office] know, and they let you go,” he says. “Rick’s got a family – he understands, and he calls all of us family.”
Before joining Holtz & Son, Benton had been working as a foreman for both painting and wallpapering jobs, but when he switched jobs, he went back to being part of a crew and focused on painting exclusively. After some time with Holtz & Son, a painting foreman’s job opened. His decision to apply was confirmed when Rick Holtz found him one day and said, “I expect to hear from you.”
“That was him telling me he thought I was ready,” Benton says.
Over the years, Benton has sought exterior painting jobs, happy to avoid the challenges of interior work, where crews have to be mindful of furnishings and décor. “So much can happen inside, anytime” he says. “I like working outside, and you don’t have the headaches of being inside.”
Of course, there are challenges to exterior painting, with complicated house designs hindering access to areas that need attention.
“Years ago, I’d be like, ‘How are we going to get this done?’” he says. “Now, I’ve pretty well done every angle on a house that you can get to. It’s gotten easier, because I know so much.”
Benton says he initially sought employment with H.J. Holtz & Son because he had heard it was the best company in the area to work for. That reputation was bolstered when Benton himself suffered an accident outside of work, resulting in surgery on both wrists. He didn’t lose his job and came back to work after two weeks of recovery, using only one hand.
“This is the best place somebody could want to work,” he says. “They treat you good, there are good benefits, and all the people who work here are great.
Happy 15th anniversary, Gary Benton!
This month, painter Kenny Ebright marks his 25th anniversary with H.J. Holtz & Son. The only person who’s been with the company longer is president Rick Holtz, who started just nine months before Ebright.
Some might think they were destined for a rocky relationship, given one of Holtz’s first directives to the newest member of the Holtz team.
“My hair was short in front, but I had a long braid – down to my waist almost – that I put up under my cap,” Ebright recalls. “Rick saw me take my cap off one day as we were leaving a [work] site, and said, ‘Here’s $20; take the rest of the afternoon off and go get a haircut.’”
Ebright acquiesced that time, but on other occasions, his response was different.
“Yeah, I tried to quit five times,” he says, laughing. “But Rick wouldn’t let me leave. He’d follow me out and say, ‘I’d rather you not do that’; he’d use some sort of psychology on me, and I’d stay.”
Both agree it’s been years since Ebright has tried to walk away.
“Back then, Kenny’s temper would sometimes get the best of him,” Holtz says. “He’s been here so long now, he’s really family. My kids think of him as an uncle.”
Ebright agrees: “When he’d get under my skin, I’d just work harder,” he says. “I love working here. We’re just like family.”
Over the years, Ebright has trained many of the company’s painters, ensuring a consistent approach both to the job at hand and to serving customers. In his early days at Holtz & Son, Ebright says, it was common for people to be hired but not have the skill set to remain. “They’d hire 10 [people] to find one who’d work,” he says, adding that the company’s deliberately measured growth over the years makes it easier to find and retain the right people.
Ebright now specializes in working with Fine Paints of Europe, a high-end coatings line. FPE coatings require careful surface preparation, because they will show imperfections in a wall or on a piece of furniture. And the environment has to be carefully controlled, so airborne dust particles don’t mar the surface. It’s a tricky job, Ebright says.
“FPE aren’t like domestic paints,” he says. “You’ve got to know how to thin it, how to set the pressure [in the sprayer], how to lay it right, or it will sag and drip.
“You can’t get frustrated when you’re working with it, because it will bite you like a dog.”
Ebright laughs when he recalls how he had to cut his braid at the start of his tenure with Holtz & Son and points to another change in his hair, one that took years to develop.
“I came to work here with brown hair, and now it’s gray,” he says.
H.J. Holtz & Son President Rick Holtz believes everyone in the company contributes to its success – and should share in that success, financially.
Holtz and Chad Lyons, owner of Lyons Paint & Design in Seattle, were recent guests on “Paint Radio,” a podcast sponsored by American Painting Contractor, a national magazine and resource that includes a print magazine, website, and YouTube channel, in addition to the podcast. Their topic: bonus or incentive programs for painting business employees.
“Don’t say ‘bonus,’ please,” Holtz said, noting that his plan is structured as an incentive, in order to give employees “some tooth in the game.”
Every year, Holtz said, a net profit goal is set – the amount of profit needed to keep the painting business viable and healthy. Once that target is reached, fifty percent of every net dollar goes to the incentive fund, with the other fifty percent remaining in the company coffers.
First introduced five years ago, the plan took some explanation. “[They] were like deer in headlights,” Holtz said. “It took about three years before people really understood it, and they had to learn to trust it, too.”
The plan is useful because it both motivates and educates employees, Holtz said, adding that employees see the firm’s profit and loss statement, so they understand what costs are fixed and what others can be trimmed.
“We talk about how to save and create efficiencies, and how going back to fix problems hurts the bottom line,” Holtz said, adding that team members now routinely come to him with suggestions for improving project flow, which benefits both customers and company.
Overall employee retention has improved since the plan was implemented, Holtz said, noting that retention also improves efficiency because new staff require training and take time to become comfortable with the company’s approach.
Every employee – except Holtz – shares in the incentive payout based on their annual compensation as a percentage of the total payroll. For example, more experienced craftspeople, foremen, and managers receive a greater percentage of the incentive payout, because their starting pay is higher. But an employee early in his career can increase his incentive payout by taking on overtime, which increases his percentage in the overall payroll pool.
“It’s not entitlement,” Holtz said.
Best of all, the better the company does, the better employees do.
“There’s no limit to how much profit they can make once we meet our [goal],” he said. “I’m a firm believer that our company, in the last five years, would not have done as well without this program.”