It’s not quite an accident that Jack Hollis landed at Toyota.
More like a stroke of luck.
Had Hollis not grown up in Torrance, California – the former home of Toyota Motor Sales’ headquarters – who knows where TMNA’s current Group Vice President and General Manager of the Toyota Division would be today?
Hollis thought his life would be in baseball. After winning an NCAA title with Stanford, he played two years in the Cincinnati Reds organization, hitting .276 before injuries drove him back to Torrance.
He says he never thought about Toyota, necessarily. But he grew up with a passion for cars and it was
in his hometown and hey, there are worse places to apply for a job. He caught on with the management trainee program, then his journey took him all over TMS, including 10 years combined in the San Francisco and Denver regions, two years at Lexus and the top job at Scion before he took over Toyota Marketing.
Today, he’s simultaneously Toyota’s cheerleader and team captain. And he relishes both roles. You’ll be able to see Hollis at tomorrow’s North America Business Update meeting, where he’ll talk about our commitment to the Olympics and Paralympics, and sit down with Team Toyota athletes Alise Willoughby and Oksana Masters.
But first, you can get to know Jack a little bit better – as he talks about Start Your Impossible, our rise as a marketing power and his history – by reading below and watching above.
Driver’s Seat: During your baseball days, did you ever think you’d end up as a corporate executive?
Nope. Back then I had my degree, I was going into pro baseball and I was thinking everything had lined up. I'd never been injured. I figured I'd play baseball for the immediate future, and then become a manager or run a team.
When baseball ended, I started thinking, "Now, what am I going to do?" I always wanted to be with people. I just like people. The more I can be with people, the better. The fact that it happens to be at Toyota is great. But maximizing the ability to have relationships is the only thing I ever thought about.
What is the scope of your role as Toyota division general manager?
The scope of the role is really wide. It's about being a good listener to anything having to do with Toyota. Yeah, it could be marketing, all of our field offices, all of our dealers. But really, our relationship with the dealers is my primary focus.
Because ultimately, the only way to be a general manager is to look at the end result. And that is selling and servicing vehicles and building relationships with every single guest, one by one. Well, we don't do that. Our dealers do that. How can we, as an organization, benefit our dealers so that they can benefit the guest? That's truly the scope of what we manage. What's great is, the Toyota vision is so large and has so many different aspects to it that It's a new challenge every day.
I was going through our first interview, which was five years ago. It was in your office in Torrance.
We've come a long way since then, Jack.
Yep, we have. We have.
Back then you were the head of marketing. You said that you wanted Toyota to be thought of with brands like Apple, Amazon, Nike, and Starbucks. Has that happened?
Yes. Five years ago, we talked about becoming a world-class marketing organization. We were already the best within automotive, but I wanted to see us push into those other brands you're mentioning. Have we reached it? We have. For example, Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook now comments on Toyota, or uses Toyota as an example in her presentations about marketing and brands. That, to me, is a huge step forward. Previously, people knew in their brain that we were No. 1. We were with all those brands in their brain. We wanted the hearts to follow. We're starting to see that happen.
We’re seeing people who talk about Toyota from their own heart, and they want to be advocates for us. That's how I know our brand is at that level. But, of course, kaizen. There's always a little more room for improvement. Until we're dominantly at the top, we won't stop.
How have the products we've unveiled since then – with the new Avalon, Tacoma, Supra, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, etc. – helped us in that regard?
It has helped us immensely. Product drives everything. I'll argue with anybody that our products are the best. And you look at every product we rolled out: We've almost completed an overhaul of all of our sedans and SUVs. And we're moving into trucks. The emotion that comes from that has really helped us elevate our brand. And we're only just getting started.
I'm telling you, team members in this company are here at the exact right time.
Let’s talk about our commitment to the Olympics and Paralympics, and more specifically our Team Toyota athletes. How did we choose this roster of athletes?
Americans in Rio -- Hollis and his wife, Jayne, took time to support Team USA at the Rio 2016 Games.
We wanted a mixture of able-bodied, and super-able-bodied athletes. Able-bodied being your Olympians, and super-able-bodied being your Paralympians. We wanted to find the finest athletes who were the finest people, and I believe that we have done that. We've vetted them, we’ve talked about what their goals are, what they want to do long term. Because most of them become advocates for the brand.
Let's name some names. Who inspires you out of this group?
All of them for multiple reasons. Caleb Dressel is a swimmer who, at just 23, has already won two Olympic gold medals and has 19 World Championship gold medals. He's already No. 1, but he’s trying to become a dominant No. 1. We'll find out how he does when we get to Tokyo.
David Brown and Jerome Avery are Paralympic sprinters. David is blind and runs with Jerome as his partner. What inspires me is to see someone like Jerome, a world-class athlete, running with David. Their teamwork is amazing. They're tethered together by a little piece of rope when they're sprinting. To see the teamwork, the partnership, the speed, the humility is inspiring because Jerome can't cross the line first. Jerome leads him, then David passes him at the end. To see that faith and trust in one another, oh my gosh, if that's not inspiring, I don't know what is.
And I can go on and on. Oksana Masters. I mean, she’s a double leg amputee. To see her be both a winter and a summer medalist in the Paralympics is amazing. Amy Purdy has become a good friend, and a true advocate for the brand. What inspires me is to just see their complete dedication to their craft, and then get to know them and realize they’re just amazing people all around.
What lessons can we learn from these athletes?
Candid Conversation Coming -- Thursday, Hollis will sit down with Team Toyota Athletes Alise Willoughby (the BMX
racer and Olympic silver medalist pictured above) and Oksana Masters at the North America Business Update meeting.
That we can't allow what we think are impossibilities or disabilities hinder us. Life throws challenges at us. The workplace throws challenges at us. These athletes teach us that it doesn't matter the challenge, it matters how we're going to respond to the challenge. Business is good right now, but it is going to continue to have challenges. What these athletes have taught me – especially the para athletes, who I'm just so fond of – is that the challenge just makes you stronger. It makes you better.
How can team members start their impossible?
My advice to team members starting their impossible: Ask yourself what you’re uncomfortable with. What do you want to do, but just don’t for whatever reason? That could be in your personal life, it could be in business life. It can be in anything.
So often inside the company when we talk about starting your impossible, we think of it as, "How do we do it from a corporate standpoint?" But I think Start Your Impossible is more personal. What is something that's holding you back from something you want to enjoy?
I also want to go back to mobility. I believe autonomous vehicles are going to develop further. And I think we're going to be able to solve some of the problems of society for people who don't have mobility.
Let me turn the tables and ask you a question: What's an area that you think, if Toyota put their mind to it, we could solve?
I wasn’t ready for an interview. But first, I feel good about the fact that the people really addressing this problem are much smarter than me.
Or both of us combined.
I think we can do anything, but I love what we're doing in the Human Support Robot space, I think that's going to be hugely important in the future.
Yeah. I say this to you because I think this is kind of the heart of this company. Have you ever had to take the keys away from your father or grandfather who couldn't drive anymore? You have to look at him and say, "It's too dangerous for you.” What if Toyota could solve that?
See, I think that Toyota has that ability. I'm so confident in this company, I think we could solve those things so that you have mobility for your entire life. I truly believe this company solves problems better than any company in the world.
By Dan Nied