Bob Holt chairman of Mears Group, was awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours for his work in business and The Footprints Foundation, which he set up in 2008.
Mears is the leading social-housing repairs and maintenance provider in the UK and a major presence in the home care and support market.
You are known for your role in building up the Mears Group to a company that employs over 20,000 people in the UK. How did you start out in business?
In the 1980s I was fortunate enough to work for two of the most successful entrepreneurs in the UK: Lord Ashcroft (former Conservative party chairman) and Tony Berry of Blue Arrow. I had a fantastic experience working for these two guys. Without them, I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today, as they inspired me and made me want to do it for myself.
When you build a public company, you have to have a profile, but I wanted the profile to be myself and Mears to be the brand. If you were to look at the early profile of Mears, it would certainly include Bob Holt, and you’d always see Bob Holt with a Mears’ van parked at the side of him. I was always conscious that I was trying to build a brand. It’s been a huge success, not down to me, but down to me and a team of people.
How did you become involved with Mears?
I bought it as a small business and I came in as chairman and chief executive. In 2005 we brought in a chief executive from outside, but it didn’t work out, sadly. So I came back full-time as chief executive and chairman. In 2008/9, I handed over the reins to David Miles and he’s been running it ever since, doing a fantastic job. He uses the chairman, if he wants, as a sounding board. I don’t cross his path on everything in the business because he wouldn’t want me to. We speak regularly when we need to.