In 1987, Chris Holman left teaching and coaching to forge a career in publishing.
Today, the Greater Lansing Business Monthly is celebrating its 25th anniversary with an event at the Lansing Center.
Along with the magazine, Holman hosts a radio program called “Michigan Business Beat” on the Michigan Business Network, and has a hand in a number of other ventures.
WKAR’s Scott Pohl recently asked Chris Holman about his business plan for starting the magazine. He jokes that it’s presumptuous to assume that he had one.
CHRIS HOLMAN: When we initially started, it was kind of interesting, because we went around and we had a list of 50 CEO's in the area, company owners, that Jim Jordan, who was the head of the Chamber at the time, had compiled with me, and said you go interview these people with your idea and see what they think. As we're interviewing, I'm pre-marketing and I'm saying this is good! I'm glad you like the idea of a magazine. Would you support it, and to what extent? The point was we were almost pre-selling, and when I found that no one was interested in buying it, I looked at it and said you know what, I've got the first two issues about 50% sold by commitment from the interviews. So, we went back and we just did that. We had one month in the beginning when we weren't breaking even or cash flowing. So I knew at that point I knew that we had found a market niche that needed to be filled.
Magazine has been a cheerleader for local business
SCOTT POHL: I think it's safe to say you're a cheerleader for local business. I don't think the Chamber of Commerce could do a better job promoting local business if it ran the magazine itself. That's sort of your goal with the magazine, am I right about that?
HOLMAN: It is! You're seeing a coach turned cheerleader, basically, and I would tell you not only local and not just statewide, but nationally. I'm presently chairman of the National Small Business Association. I have always had this deep spot in my heart for small business and the entrepreneurs who hang themselves out and take risks and take chances which, when they succeed, manifests itself in employment, which is what drives us: spendable income in the normal employment base. I've always had that passion, and I've always wanted to tell the good story, the good side.
You're absolutely right. We kick around the good news and the good stories. If there's insider trading at Merrill Lynch, my magazine does not want to find it! We don't. You know what I mean?
Lansing: Business-friendly, but in a different way
POHL: In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote for the magazine for a period of time.
I'd like to ask you how you would have graded Lansing in terms of being business-friendly 25 years ago, and how you would grade Lansing on that scale today.
HOLMAN: We were very business-friendly, but it was a very different business we were friendly to. We had three major employers here: state government, education, and General Motors. We put out a lot of cars for Oldsmobile. We were the corporate headquarters. The Oldsmobile people were here in Lansing, and so we were very business-friendly to a major corporation. What's changed now is that that major corporation has kind of pulled out, and of course, Oldsmobile has gone away altogether. General Motors, as good as they've been for the community and given a lot of employment base here, is diminished. They're making the same number of cars with 40 percent of the workforce. So, you've seen this movement to innovation and entrepreneurship and creativity and finding market niches and filling these voids, that sort of thing. Now, we've become business-friendly to that, because we know that's where job growth is coming.
POHL: Congratulations on your silver anniversary.
HOLMAN: How about that! Twenty-five years! I had to bring my mom out to this to make sure that she that I'd held a job for that long, because the bets in my family were always that I would never hold a job more than six months.