Do You Know Jack?

Driver’s Seat sits down with Toyota’s GVP of Marketing for a candid conversation

April 07, 2015
Team Hollis -- When they were married, Jack Hollis and his wife decided to name their family "Team Hollis." Here's team Hollis in Hawaii. 

Let’s face it, you probably know a little bit about Jack Hollis. After all, the Group Vice President of Marketing is one of Toyota’s most visible executives. You might already know he played minor league baseball in the Cincinnati Reds organization. And you might know his biggest initiative right now is shifting Toyota’s image to a more heart-pounding brand.
 
But that doesn’t mean you know Jack. So we sent Driver’s Seat writer Dan Nied to learn a little more.
 
Dan Nied: Thanks for doing this, Jack. The idea is to show the human side of executives. I figured you’d be a good person to start with.
 
Jack Hollis: I’m about as human as they get.
 
Exactly my thoughts. So let’s start out easy. What’s your favorite movie?
 
Without a doubt it’s “Gladiator.” I saw it with my four best friends on opening night. We saw it and said “Ok, that movie is awesome.” If I had a tie, “Field of Dreams.” I’m a baseball guy and the relationship between a father and son – even though ours was never estranged – just makes me feel the emotional bond I have with my dad.
 
You’d go with “Field of Dreams” over “Bull Durham?”
 
Oh yeah. Because I lived “Bull Durham.” It was just sort of normal to me.
 
What is your favorite book?
 
That’s an easy one. My favorite book is the Bible. I have always walked with God. And the Bible to me is amazing. From an Old Testament standpoint, the stories are unbelievable. The New Testament is what life is to me. It’s about people. Think about Jesus’ leadership qualities. Twelve men leave their entire lives behind to follow a guy for two and a half years with no pay. Just to walk with him. What does that say? That’s awesome.
 
Why did you choose the auto industry?
 
In a sense, it chose me. I’m from Torrance and the industry kind of sucked me into the building. I love cars, but I love the industry more than the cars. The industry is global and I love global business. I went to school at Stanford, my major was global economics. My minor was Japanese economy. So I had this schooling experience of global industry. The auto industry is one of the purest supply and demand economic models in the world. And it’s fun to be able to play in that world. It’s something I understand, it’s something I enjoy. But I enjoy it most because it’s not just a U.S. business model, it’s a global model. And I didn’t want to do anything on a small scale.
 
What’s been your favorite job at Toyota?
 
This current job is by far my favorite. But one of my other favorite jobs was when I was running Scion division because it was so different for me. I wasn’t in the age demographic and it taught me a lot more about the younger buyer. For me, the youth market was something I needed to learn about. And that was super exciting.
 
I can imagine that helps you now.
 
It absolutely helps me now. I’m so thankful the company put me at Scion for as much time as it did and let me battle through that.
 
Why did you choose Toyota?
 
I literally chose Toyota because it was in my hometown, baseball had ended and I needed a job. That was it.
 
How old were you when you came here?
 
I came here in 1992, so I would have been 25.
 
So at that point baseball was over. How did it end?
 
Diamond Jack -- Hollis' baseball career came to an unexpected end after an arm injury. 

I was a guy who was going to be a fringe major leaguer. I made the major league roster in spring training of 1990, so I knew I was close.
 
But when we broke camp, I was sent to the minors. I was having a great season, but in the middle of the season I hurt my arm. I knew that if I took six months off and had surgery to try to fix it, it was very unlikely I’d get back. I was already a fringe guy. I wasn’t a lock for the major leagues. So I played through the pain and I had a great year.
 
At the end of the year the team said to me, “You know, it’s probably not going to work for you in the major leagues. Do you want to keep playing with the organization in the minors or go into our management?” I just said, “No. I’m ready to go.”
 
Did that cause some depression, or were you just ready for the next challenge?
 
It was just reality. I was actually content. I knew I had given it my best. And I feel very comfortable that God’s outcome for my life was not to be a major league player. I wasn’t a major league talent. And I can look myself in the mirror and be comfortable with that. I was one hair short from being there. I can live with that. I never got depressed, I just had a longing. I still love the sport. I’ve coached both my boys and I love it.
 
What makes you proudest to work here?
 
I like being associated with the people in this company. When I came here, I just wanted the Toyota name on my resume. I literally thought I would be here for six months in the management training program, get it on my resume, and go back into the sports world. But I stayed because of the people. Every person I met, I liked. I love the relationships here.
 
What is the most important skill for leading people?
 
Putting others’ needs before yours, putting others’ wants before yours. I have a motto: “People before performance.” You can demand performance, and it will work for a while. But if you put people first, you’ll exceed all expectations because people want to strive together for one goal.
 
Growing up in a highly competitive environment, you’ve come across a lot of leaders. Who is the best leader you got to follow?
 
The most inspiring leader to me is Jesus. Another is my father. He was able to lead different groups of people. But most importantly, he led his family. Leading isn’t always about the number of people you’re leading, but rather about how you’re taking responsibility for them. Not so much leading them to success, but giving them opportunity.
 
What can we do better as a company?
 
We need to increase the emotional quotient in our company. That’s it.
 
We have quality, durability, reliability and safety. What we don’t have is emotion. I mean, we do, but we need to grow it.
 
Emotional can mean inspiration, aspiration, excitement, sincerity, it can even be ecstasy. But it can also be meaningful, or a product that gives you goose bumps. That’s what we need. I want people to want to be part of Toyota, not just feel they should be part of Toyota. 
 
Slimed -- Hollis and his daughter weren't afraid to get dirty at this Nickelodeon event. 

 
What’s one thing you do on a regular basis that people might find odd or surprising?
 
I have two.
 
I cook breakfast for the family almost every morning. I have four children, two are still at home. I cook everything: eggs, bacon, pancakes, waffles. I’m a breakfast guy.
 
Another one is that I actually enjoy doing the laundry and the ironing. I kind of like doing some of the domestic things for the family.
 
So, you’re auditioning for father and husband of the year, eh?
 
No, no. To be honest with you, I just love helping my wife. When we got married, we named our family Team Hollis, and I love being a teammate with my wife.
 
How will the public see Toyota in 10 years?
 
I hope they see us as a future-thinking dynamic brand that is focused not only on what the customer needs, but what they want as well. One of my desires is when people say “Toyota” they link us with other top brands. They’d say “Well there’s Apple, and there’s Amazon, and there’s Toyota, Starbucks and Nike.” My goal is to push us into that.
 
Do you feel like progress has been made since you started Brand Shift?
 
(Facebook COO) Sheryl Sandberg is interacting with us and posting about our Super Bowl commercial with the dads. Microsoft has used our Amy Purdy commercial and the dads commercial as an example of marketing that’s working. That means we’re on the right path.
 
We’ve always been what I consider a top-tier marketer in the auto industry. But I want us to be a world-class marketing organization. We call it a WCMO. We’re becoming a WCMO. I want to be world class, not just U.S. class.
 
That’s all I got. Thanks Jack!

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