This is My Story.
This is My Story.
Watch Benjy’s Video
‘Anything that is worth doing is worth doing right’
Benjy Holt was raised in Hawkinsville, a small town in central Georgia that had one cotton mill and was known as the “Harness Horse Training Capitol,” where racing horses trained during the winter months. Holt was a member of the high school band and multiple sports teams. He excelled at both baseball and football, and dreamed of a professional career as an athlete. As the middle of three boys who grew up on a cul-de-sac with a tight knit group of friends, he was always outside, playing and roughhousing until the sun went down.
His parents came from harder times and, as a result, were both hard workers who instilled their values on their three sons. Holt learned from an early age to put a full 100 percent effort into everything he tried.
‘Interact with customers. Find out how they are doing and get to know them.’
Recalling the impact his father had on him, Holt said he cherished the relationship and time spent with his dad. “For 45 years my dad sold crackers. He drove his truck from town to town and I would often go with him,” Holt said. “It was during these times on the road that I’d watch him interact with his customers and learned valuable lessons that I still carry with me.”
One time, Holt’s dad challenged him to see who could load more cracker packages into a jar. Wanting to complete the task quickly, Holt emptied two boxes of crackers into the jar and when he finished he realized his dad was neatly stacking cracker packages in a pattern. When done, his dad had five boxes neatly arranged in the jar. He turned to his son and said, “It’s all about the presentation. If you dump them in there, customers are less likely to buy them. If I put the crackers in neatly, I can get more in and will sell more at this store.” Holt also spent time watching his dad sit with every customer, have a cup of coffee, ask how their day was, and get to know them.
Besides seeing the Georgia countryside during these routes, Holt learned about customer relations and techniques for selling product, which would serve him well in his future endeavors.
‘I am accountable and responsible for the choices I make.’
In high school, Holt took a job at a local store that sold everything from equipment to car services, including tire and battery changes. There he was exposed to maintenance, where he learned to work on bikes, go-karts, and lawn mowers. He also worked the cash register, which allowed him to handle money and interact with customers.
Holt did well academically, always getting As and Bs, and finishing in the top ten of his class, but socially he was less disciplined in his actions. His dad cautioned him that acting as the class clown and being at the center of horseplay that often escalated from fun to serious, would get him in trouble in the long-run.
Following graduation, Holt decided to talk to recruiters at the Navy, figuring this would allow him to become a more controlled person. “I was drawn to join the Navy,” Holt said. “And although my parents didn’t agree with my choice, they said it was my decision and I’d have to follow it through, but that they fully supported me.”
During his six-year career in the Navy, Holt became an electrician in the Surface Fleet, trained to pursue the Navy Divers Salvage program, and met his wife of 33 years. “The military gave me the responsibility I needed. It taught me to hold myself accountable and be part of a larger team of people that were depending on me,” Holt said.
‘I didn’t want to tell them what I could do. I wanted to show them.’
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Holt received a maintenance technician job offer from a manufacturing company in Middle Georgia. Although he didn’t have much experience outside of his electrician’s work in the Navy, Holt threw himself into the position to learn as much as possible. “The first week I was at the company, I worked on a conveyer and was covered in grease,” Holt recounted. “A couple of guys introduced themselves to me, and then one of them said to the other, ‘Be careful what you say around this young man. He’s going to be our boss one day.’ ”
Holt was the youngest maintenance technician the company had ever hired, so for him it was important that he proved to his co-workers that he was a hard worker. He learned about his trade from the guys on his team, who also taught him about the company and the team’s larger role within the overall organization. Holt worked closely with individuals he considered mentors and went back to school for his degree.
A few years later, his colleague’s prediction that Holt would one day be the boss came to pass. Holt was offered the maintenance manager position to supervise the team. “The guys taught me most of what I learned on the plant floor, so when it came to taking over as their manager, there were some challenges. I had to prove to them that I could lead, set direction, and take the team to new levels,” Holt said.
‘I’m not an introvert, but I am quiet and reserved, especially when I don’t know someone.’
Five years after taking on his first management role, Holt was offered a job at the Perry, Georgia facility of Atlanta-based Graphic Packaging International Inc., a leading provider of packaging solutions for commercial products. He began as a reliability engineer and planner, then took on the role of maintenance manager, where he was able to use his past experience and implement lean techniques to drive continuous improvement in the maintenance department.
He even took an opportunity for a year and a half to lead a plant expansion, where the facility added an additional 67,000 square feet of production space.
Holt is currently the manager of engineering/maintenance/tooling, where he leads a team of more than 40 people, including both managers and technicians, and is able to align his team’s vision with Graphic Packaging’s goals. “Since joining the Navy all those years ago, I have become much more of a controlled and reserved person, especially when I don’t know someone,” Holt said. “But that experience in the Navy, along with leading teams, has allowed me to grow with my team and develop leadership skills.”
‘If I ever get fired it will be for doing something, it will never be for doing nothing.’
As a leader, Holt believes in setting a clear vision, working towards a common goal, being open to change, being accountable and responsible for the outcome of the team, and that it’s always about the people around him. Holt said he commits himself entirely to everything he does and has continued to prove himself in each position he has held.
As a next venture, Holt is working with the Graphic Packaging team on an internal training program for maintenance technicians to build an in-house technical development program, as well as an apprenticeship program, which will act as a feeder system for the next-generation workforce at the Perry facility.
‘I did not choose manufacturing. Manufacturing chose me.’
At his core, he said staying true to the values his parents instilled in him, as well following their examples of a strong work ethic is central to his identity. “It’s important that no matter what I do in either my family life or in my work environment that I always stay true to myself, my upbringing, and my core values,” Holt said, adding, “I continue to incorporate my values of honesty, integrity, and commitment into my daily job and still learn from my team every day.”
From the young boy who saw the countryside while helping his dad on cracker routes, to a teenager getting his first experience in maintenance, and eventually a young man who made the decision to join the Navy, Holt will say that until he accepted that first job, he never considered being in manufacturing. “I did not choose this as a career. I believe that it chose me and it’s a perfect fit.”
About Graphic Packaging International
A Fortune 1000 company, Graphic Packaging International (GPI) is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, employing nearly 13,000 people working in more than 45 locations in North and South America, Europe, and Asia. GPI is a leading provider of packaging solutions for a wide variety of products including food, beverage, and other consumer product companies. GPI is one of the largest producers of folding cartons and holds a leading market position in coated-unbleached kraft and coated-recycled board.
The Perry, Georgia facility opened in 1996 and employs approximately 300 people at the location. With a production facility of 365,000 square feet, and finished goods warehouse of 150,000; the Perry plant plays a major role in the manufacturing of beverage cartons.
The corporate office has incorporated programs across the plants to showcase their commitment to sustainability and in 2013, Graphic Packaging was awarded a certificate from the Recycled Paper Alliance certifying the management of recycled fiber within the production facility.