Sunday, February 1, 2004

Fredric's CEO has heart - and smarts

[IMAGE] Frederic J. Holzberger, president and CEO of Aveda Frederic's, says he really has been living the American dream.
(Enquirer file photo)
Some say Frederic J. Holzberger has guts. But the president and chief executive of Fredric's Corp. in Fairfield has more heart than mettle, an acute sense of what working people go through each day just to make it to another day.

Holzberger, 55, has had his share of lousy jobs. He collected garbage and cut onions for a living. He delivered newspapers, pulled wire on brutal winter days as a journeyman electrician, sold electrical equipment and after attending night school at Miami University in Oxford for a marketing degree, he co-opened a four-chair salon.

The salon expanded to 12 chairs in a new Fairfield location in 1983, then Holzberger retrofitted a recreational vehicle to sell spa equipment in far-flung corners of Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana. Holzberger himself drove that RV: selling equipment by day and installing it at night. Each year, he logged some 60,000 miles.

When Aveda executives in Chicago saw his accomplishments, they offered him exclusive regional rights to the company's natural beauty products. Today, Fredric's Corp. has the cosmetology, esthiology and nail aesthetics school Aveda Fredric's Institute in Hyde Park, a product distribution division in Fairfield and revenue that topped $26 million in 2003.

Who: Frederic J. Holzberger, 55, founder and chief executive of Aveda/Fredrics
Native: Hamilton
Graduate: Miami University, business administration/marketing
Most admired leadership style: Tom Peters
Self-described leadership style: Team based, inclusion, not exclusion. "If you are a true leader, you will develop other leaders. Developing people is probably the greatest strength I have."
Time on the job each day: 10 to 12 hours
Ultimate career goal: "I'm living my goal each and every day. But the ultimate goal is putting more back on this earth than you take off. "
First job and what was learned about management and leadership: A paperboy. "I learned that you had to be persistent in getting your money from your customers. What I really learned was how to manage getting to the front door without the dog eating you alive. People didn't want to pay you. They put the dogs out in the yard. Never give up."
Holzberger is not finished leading, either. Besides running a company, he still teaches classes on customer service. His headquarters is an energy-efficient building with a greenhouse/nature preserve and operations that regularly undergo environmental audits. The company also has a recreational vehicle called Project Daymaker that offers haircuts to needy people. Every January, 121 associates converge upon the headquarters for a rejuvenation retreat.

Kevin and Jackie Freiberg praised Fredric's Corp. and Holzberger's approaches in the 2004 business book Guts: Companies that Blow the Doors Off Business-As-Usual.

"Companies need to make more investment in humanity and charities as well as what should be the number one line item on the financial statement - their associates. The one thing I think is so beautiful is that I ... really have been living the American dream," Holzberger says.

"Anyone in America could have the same opportunity: educate yourself and pay your dues. What I built, I built on $500, my original investment. So many people want to take the short cut. Everything I've done in my life is a long-term investment. You may not get a quick return, but you'll have a steady return and it will be long-term."

John Eckberg

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