“I’ve always been a firm believer in allowing people to manage themselves and take responsibility for their work,” he said. “I’ve been there just to help them, work with them and not be overbearing as a boss.”
Holshouser’s leadership approach means balancing time with managers, visiting Flowers’ broad network of distributors and presiding over a bakery that processes more than 1 million pounds of dough per week.
Flowers Baking Company of Modesto began production in April 2014 after purchasing Fresh Start, a smaller bakery, in 2013. Flowers produces Sara Lee, HomePride, Nature’s Own and Wonder brands baked products.
The Modesto bakery serves a market consisting of nearly 14 million people in Northern California. Its region stretches from Redding to Visalia and from Ukiah to Reno, Nevada. It supplies 250 Safeway stores, 100 Walmart stores and 200 Save Mart Supermarkets stores. Flowers of Modesto also ships products to Target, Costco and Winco Foods stores within Northern California.
A robust background in the grocery business combined with strong people skills are assets Holshouser relies on every day in managing the Modesto production facility.
He began his career as a part-time bagger at a Food Lion grocery store in Virginia while working his way through college. Marriage and children put college on the back burner, but Holshouser continued with the grocery company and worked his way up to store manager.
In 1993, after 10 years with Food Lion, Holshouser became an independent distributor for Flowers Baking Company in Norfolk, Virginia.
“That’s how I was introduced into the bread business,” he said. “After a year they asked if I wanted to come into management with Flowers Baking Company.”
Holshouser moved up within the Flowers organization and held positions that included operations manager, market manager, director of sales and vice president of sales — all in Virginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. After years working in the eastern United States, the company’s managers asked Holshouser to take the Flowers name and culture west to California.
His vast work experience prepared him well for leading the Modesto bakery.
“I think having a grocery background helped me relate to our customers,” Holshouser said. “Our biggest part of our customer base is retailers — grocery stores — and I was able to relate with them because I came from that field.”
His grocery experience is not the only tool Holshouser uses daily in leading the Flowers Baking Company of Modesto. Having the skills to interact productively with his 250 employees as well as clients necessary for a productive leader, he believes.
“Being able to work with different people and trying to focus on tasks and figure out ways to get things accomplished is a big help,” he said.
In fact, working with distributors and staff is one of Holshouser’s favorite things about his job.
“I’m not an office person. I can’t sit in four walls all day,” he said. “I like being out with our customers. I like being out with our management staff. I love training people.”
For Holshouser, a career in the bread industry has turned out well and he recommends it to others who share his interests.
“If someone enjoys working with others and likes to be outdoors and call on customers, this a great field to be in,” he said.
The food industry is competitive and with bread, the household penetration is huge. Flowers must compete with other key suppliers such as Bimbo, which ships Orowheat, Thomas bagels and English muffins, and San Luis sourdough bread, by providing better service. Since production began in Modesto, Flowers has met that challenge and market share in the region has grown tremendously, Holshouser said.
The bakery’s success here has enabled the company to add more than 100 jobs in sales, production, engineering, sanitation and logistics. Flowers kept Fresh Start production and engineering employees and maintains the positive work ethic and culture originally built by Fresh Start management. The formula has worked well, according to Holshouser.
“We had a pretty successful opening,” Holshouser said. “The employees were excited. So far it’s been really successful.”
In addition to personally enjoying the weather and the agricultural environment of the area, Holshouser believes Flowers chose well in establishing a bakery in Modesto.
“(When) our company decided to come to California, we picked the right spot,” he said. “I think it’s perfectly located here in the Valley with access to the major highways, all the major cities.”
Holshouser is looking forward to the coming year for Flowers. He is going to represent the company as a board member of the Modesto Chamber of Commerce, which will enable him to interact with other businesses in the area. Flowers will be the only manufacturer represented on the board.