Corinna Holt Richter
Building on a Family Legacy
We named our son Holt. I didn’t anticipate what the conversations would be like then he could read his name. I don’t think he quite gets what we do at work” she laughs. But someday, he might follow in his mother’s footsteps to join the family business.
President and Chief Administrative Officer at HOLT CAT, Richter is the great-great-granddaughter of Benjamin Holt, who introduced the first practical track type tractor in 1904. She and her brother, Peter J. Holt, CEO and General Manager, represent the fifth generation of the Holt family business. The two took the reins when their parents, Julianna Hawn Holt and Peter M. Holt, retired in 2018.
While she grew up around the family business, she gained a new perspective on everything HOLT when she began the company’s leadership training program in 2012. “It was eye-opening to see how connected we are with so many other parts of how society runs and our community runs. That was eye-opening and really humbling,” she explains.
The training program allowed her to learn the HOLT business from the ground up. “I did everything from ride along with salespeople to meet customers, to work in our invoicing department. I worked on machines for as short an amount of time as they would let me,” she laughs. “But I really got an idea of what we do in our shops, in our parts warehouses, out in the field, what our customers are doing, how we contribute as a company to the infrastructure around our society. It was a great experience. And bottom line, I got to build relationships with people around the organization.”
After the training program, Richter was promoted to the role of General Parts Manager for the Machine Division. From there, she assumed the role of Vice President of Product Support Sales. In 2016, she was named Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer before taking on her current role.
The teams at HOLT form a basis for how she and Peter lead. “We have a leadership role of supporting people. We are accountable for setting a vision and a direction and then supporting our
teams in accomplishing their goals, removing barriers, providing resources and being consultative and supportive in that way.”
The siblings work hand-in-hand leading the company, relying on each other’s strengths to make the perfect team. “The way we structured our teams, the way we structured our responsibilities, we feel really aligned with our strengths individually and together. I really trust him and our values and our mission for the company.”
The pair even have their own mission statement:
“We have our own set of core values that are different from the company’s, although of course, very aligned. It’s about stewardship, stewarding this business and growing it and putting our individual mark on it for future generations.”
What could have been a monumental shift, her parents retiring and the next generation taking the reins, was smooth. “The first day after we signed our contract with Caterpillar and my parents retired, it really felt like business as usual. We’re here to serve our customers. We’re here to be good community citizens and to take care of our employees. That hasn’t changed.
“We have such a solid foundation when it comes to our core values and our mission. That is how we were able to transition so successfully.
“One of my proudest career accomplishments is making this transition from my parents, to Peter and I taking on the business responsibilities and ownership of the company. It’s complicated and complex, with a lot of different stakeholders. It was a true testament to collaboration and people coming together dynamically to provide solutions and positive outcomes for everybody. That includes the health and strength of our company, which employs almost 3,000 people and takes care of their, and our families. Having that success? I’m very proud of that.”
In spite of the long line of Holts behind HOLT CAT, her family never pressured her to join the family business. “My parents, to their credit, looked at my college experience as an opportunity for me to get a true liberal arts education, where I could explore my passions and learn about a lot of different things. Then from there decide how to channel that and where to go,” Richter explains.
“My dad didn’t go to college. He just said, ‘Go take this opportunity. Enjoy yourself.’ The love of learning itself is a big part of our family values – curiosity and continual learning,” she notes. That path brought her to art and a study of art history.
Richter also attended culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, a creative outlet she enjoys, though she laughs because her current focus is on kid-friendly mac and cheese and chicken nuggets for Holt, and his three-year-old sister, Charlotte. Along with husband J.B. Richter, the family enjoys exploring San Antonio together.
On her path to HOLT CAT, Richter spent time in London and New York City where she worked for Sotheby’s. During that time, she also enrolled in a continued studies program at New York University, broadening her business education before returning to San Antonio and joining the HOLT CAT team.
Her creative side came into play when it was time to design the company’s new headquarters. “You can’t compartmentalize your life. I like to bring things I’m passionate about into work. We put together an art collection for the office. It’s one of the things we believe helped create a fulfilling, energizing work environment for our employees. We feel a lot of collaboration and teaming and ideas coming out of this environment.”
Her role as a parent influences how she leads the company. Her brother Peter has three young children as well, making family a priority at the family-owned business. “Peter and I are trying to create a culture in which people value their families first and prioritize their families. It’s not just about a working mom. It’s about being a working parent, and we want all of our employees to feel like they can spend the time they need with their family members.
“We are learning how to make it a ‘work and life integration’ versus a balance,” she explains. “I don’t think balance is achievable really. One day may be on more at work and one day is more family and you just have to give yourself a little grace. And give your coworkers a little grace.
“We’re bombarded by these images of what the perfect balance is and these people who seemingly have it all together. So there’s this high expectation on ourselves that we can do it all. How can you live up to that?” she asks.
“I reflect a lot on pre-motherhood and motherhood because I feel like that shaped me as a person, as a leader. I think it’s given me more grace for others who are parents and realizing what a challenge it is to try to integrate our lives like this. We spend so much time at work and we’re so busy, but we also believe in family first. How do you manage that and bring those two things together? That’s definitely shaped me.”
While Richter may be a Holt at HOLT CAT, she’s still a woman in a typically male-dominated industry. That has also weighed into how she approaches her role. “It’s about showing up authentically and vulnerably and with empathy. In anything I do, that’s how I try to show up. My purpose is really trying to create an environment where everybody’s voice is included and we have a diverse set of ideas and people feel valued for their input. Regardless of your gender, race, your experiences, your background, you have a voice here. I try not to look at it as male-dominated. I try to just do my part to make it a really inclusive environment.”
She also looks at her path as a path, not an end goal. “I try to remember that life is a journey. There’s no destination. I’m always looking for progress and not perfection. I am a recovering perfectionist. So that’s one that I keep in mind: it’s about getting a little better each time, learning from your mistakes and failures and not about getting it right.” Always.
Reflecting on her own experiences, Richter explains, “I’ve been afraid to fail and that has sometimes prevented me from taking risks. Those risks often come at the expense of being vulnerable and showing who I am really. I would advise women to seize the opportunity and look for mentors along the way to help them because we all need advocates and allies as we move through new roles and experiences.”
Richter draws her motivation from the people around her. “Mealtimes with my children are a really special time for us. It’s a sacred moment in my day, breakfast and dinner. But in between, at the office, my days are meeting with my team, supporting and encouraging them, meeting new people, meeting customers, meeting community members. It’s a lot of interaction and relationships, and that’s what keeps me going and motivated.”
She also makes time to give back to the community.
“We have such history and different cultural influences in San Antonio. I love that uniqueness. And It really feels like the community comes together here, which I love.”
When it comes to helping out, “I don’t say no very much,” she laughs. “There are so many amazing organizations in San Antonio doing such great things. I look at it as time, talent, treasure,” she explains. “So if I can spread it out through those three avenues to a multitude of different organizations, then I can have a bigger impact. It’s a value here at HOLT CAT. It’s part of our mission to enhance the communities in which we live and work.”
With all that’s on her plate, Richter has learned to make herself a priority as well. “Taking care of myself physically, emotionally, mentally taking time for myself … daily devotionals, exercise . if we’re not healthy and taking care of ourselves, how can we take care of other people and be of service to other people?”
That drive to help others guides Richter as she looks to the future. “I hope to continue to grow, to get better at being a mother, a wife, a leader, and a friend, and I want to continue to have a positive impact on my community.”
By Dawn Robinette
Photography by Jason Roberts