THE C SUITE: Gill Holland


How did your childhood prepare you for your work today? 
I grew up in Davidson, NC a town of about 2,000 at the time.  Most days, I would ride my bike to Davidson Elementary School, the local public school.  The school had its fair share of rural kids who would often drop out at age 15 to go work on the farm, kids whose parents worked either at Davidson College or at one of the mills in town.  I didn’t realize it at the time but our public school was very integrated (despite the fact that NC didn’t fully desegregate its public schools until a Supreme Court case in 1971 when I was in second grade).  That was an important factor in my life in learning to get along with everyone!  Also, my mother was an immigrant and I watched her learn the Pledge of Allegiance and become an American citizen, as well as struggle sometimes as the outsider.

My parents instilled in me an intellectual curiosity, love of reading, culture and learning, and an intense work ethic (and I am paying for my youthful entrepreneurialism now with frequent trips to the dermatologist from my many hours of lawn-mowing!).  We also had a big garden, camped a lot and I got my Eagle Scout award building a nature and bike path.
So, all this leads to my present life which involves a diverse daily work experience working with many different kinds of people with different backgrounds but a common goal; all of us trying to move Louisville forward.   I spend at least part of everyday driving potential residents, investors, non-profit business leaders or entrepreneurs around Louisville, mainly in the historic Portland neighborhood.  I also work as a creative entrepreneur publishing local books through Holland Brown Books, producing movies through The Group Entertainment and promoting the musical talent in our community with sonaBLAST! Records (record label) and Songs (the music publishing company).  Louisville is great because there are many over-lapping concentric circles of communities of which one can be a part.

How do you define success? 
A healthy life-work balance.  Having your vocation be your avocation (doing what you love so it never feels like you are actually working).  Being fully present for your family.  Having a positive impact on others and feeling like whatever talents you may have are being fully utilized.  Since my work is outward-facing in terms of being about community revitalization or cultural/media dissemination, it is important to be truly esteemed by one’s peers (whether one has success by the traditional definition or not).

What are four criteria that you believe are essential in leadership?
Communicating an original vision; inspiring and motivating folks into positive action; being trust-worthy; and bringing lots of sweat equity to the table!

What is one piece of advice you would give a young person who wants to become a future business leader?
Work hard, dream big, be honest and be a good friend/family member, try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and listen to everyone (but don’t always agree of course and then respectfully state your case!)

Someday when they write your eulogy, you hope they say . . ..
I think it is easier to write an obit than a eulogy, but I would hope they mention I was a good son, husband and dad.  Being born is a game-changer (duh!), getting married is another one, and being a father is definitely the most impactful and wonderful thing I have ever experienced.  All those challenging/rewarding clichés are true!)  I tried to leave the world a better place than when I found it. I also tried to find the beauty and wonderfulness in any human I was interacting with and tried to connect and promote all my friends and their endeavors.  I love Louisville and love the fact one person can really move the needle in a town our size.  I understand how arts, sustainability and walkability can inspire both local entrepreneurs and happy healthy citizens. I was fortunate to work with so many amazing people in my life and especially in the NYC indie film scene and then later in NuLu and Portland.

Diane Tobin, Ph. D. is currently the Special Assistant to the President at the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.  She is the former Executive Director of two non-profits, a co-owner of a for-profit business and a former Dean of the College of Business and Communication at Spalding University.