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Building Opportunities Beyond Lilly

March 17, 2022    Posted by: Eli Lilly and Company

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How one program helps open doors to diverse businesses 

For Terrence and Torry Holt, career success didn’t end when they stepped off the football field. Since retiring from successful careers in the National Football League, the brothers have channeled their personal and professional passions into their company, Holt Brothers Inc.  

One arm of that larger entity is Holt Brothers Construction, which began working last year on Lilly’s new state-of-the-art injectable and medicine-delivery-device manufacturing facility. Lilly performed an extensive search to find the right local contractor near Research Triangle Park (RTP) in North Carolina before Holt was selected as part of a joint venture with LeChase Construction. This partnership is uniquely suited to deliver on this fast paced, highly technical project. The $25-$30 million project is the largest Holt Brothers has taken on thus far and includes several Lilly buildings at RTP, including the main administration and laboratory building.  

The relationship between Holt Brothers Construction and Lilly opened other opportunities as well. After winning the initial bid, Terrence Holt – who played six seasons as a defensive back in the NFL -- was selected for Lilly’s Supplier Diversity Mentor-Protégé Program. The first cohort graduated from the program in December 2021.  

The goal of the Protégé Program is to develop relationships with small-to-medium diverse suppliers. By sharing Lilly methodologies and industry best practices, the program prepares business owners for future industry opportunities, while also creating a larger pool of diverse vendors in Lilly’s supply chain.  

Lilly launched the program as part of our Racial Justice Commitment, which works to advance equity for Black and other marginalized Americans. It also aligns with the Indy Racial Equity Pledge that Lilly signed in 2020, along with other local businesses, which includes a goal to double the company’s annualized spend with Black suppliers and vendors over the next two years. 

The Protégé Program is about making meaningful connections, Holt explains. It’s also about sharing what Lilly has done to help small and diverse firms be successful.  

“One of the things that was very apparent and clear—and is not often the case—is [Lilly’s] commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Holt. “Because we are a diverse firm, we hold a lot of those same expectations on how we do business as well.” 

Each protégé in the program is paired with a mentor who provides guidance and education about navigating Lilly and the industry. Throughout the eight months, participants learn about Lilly’s purpose, culture, values and business processes -- making them more competitive for future work.  

Mentors also introduce protégés to relevant internal and external stakeholders to support the business leader’s goals and expand their network. Holt’s mentor, Dan VonDielingen (whom he affectionately calls DVD), oversees the new site in RTP.  

He helped Holt identify strategic goals, one of which was based around hiring and retention—a challenge that was also relevant for VonDielingen as he focused on hiring locally to staff the new facility. Holt said he learned a lot about strategies for retention, including benefits to make employees feel appreciated that go beyond compensation. 

“While we might not be able to offer all of those—or be able to do some of what Lilly does because of the size of our company to your company—it still was enlightening for me to hear,” he said. “It’s not something that we have to go well outside of the box to be able to do.” 

Holt Brothers Construction is more than just a good fit for the protégé program. And it’s even more than just a good fit for the work on the new facility in North Carolina.  

The Holt brothers have a passion for giving back and a commitment to diversity—both focuses that align with Lilly’s values. For more than 21 years, Holt Brothers Foundation has been providing support to kids and families who’ve been affected by cancer. Those shared values are also important to the Holt brothers. 

“I did a slide in my presentation when I was there for graduation that really laid out the similarities in values, which is why I think the relationship can work,” Holt said. “It’s really how you start—or for us how we start—a relationship, is to see how we’re aligned and alike in so many ways. And that’s just continued to show itself in so many ways in our work with [Lilly].” 

The program allowed Holt to meet a lot of different people within the organization. From here, he hopes to keep those relationships open, especially with his mentor. And Lilly leaders are also hopeful about the possibilities to come from the continued relationship. 

“This is not just about an opportunity,” said Holt. “It’s about continuing to build a long-lasting relationship with Lilly that could help your business. Overall, what I learned was that while Lilly is a huge, huge, huge business and not a small business like ours, they have some of the same challenges and go through some of the same things that we go through.” 

Did you know? 

Terrence Holt launched his college football career at North Carolina State by blocking two punts in an upset win over favored Texas. He was a standout on defense and special teams, blocking seven field goals over his time with the Wolfpack – including a national record-tying four in 2001. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2003 and later played for the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints in a six-year NFL career, tallying eight interceptions. 

Terrence’s older brother Torry also started at N.C. State before an electrifying 11-year NFL career as a Pro Bowl wide receiver with the St. Louis Rams. His record-setting performance in Super Bowl XXXIV, including a touchdown catch, helped the Rams win their first world championship in January 2000.