Black Belt in Business Communication

An Interview with Rick Hollin

Have you ever received information from a Master Black belt? Not someone who can break a stiff board with their hand (which is what most would immediately think of after hearing the title black belt). Except, someone who is an expert at improving activities and operations in all fields of an organization. Hollin is currently a Master Black Belt for the company of WestRock, formerly known as RockTenn, where he has been for thirty years now. Recently, the great opportunity arose to conduct an interview with the Master Black Belt, Rick Hollin. In this interview, Hollin gives his expert thoughts and opinions on the important subject of Business Communication. He focuses on the concept of being professional in your writing and speech, all while keeping your target audience in mind at all times. Any reader of this interview can expect to gain knowledge and tips when it comes to communication among the business field, especially among improving all operations of a business. Taking it from an expert whose professional occupation requires the critical attributes of leadership, influence, and communication.

What is your professional history (include your timeline and roles)?

Hollin: “I have held several leadership positions in my career. My first leadership role was a supervisor position, which I held for 2 years. I then transitioned into a planning manager, where I was responsible for scheduling and shipping within our manufacturing facilities. I transitioned from that role into a plant manager role and then into the General Manager role. As the company I worked for was seeking to sell our division, I was a part of the transition team and subsequently offered a role with the new organization, as director of operations. I currently hold a director level position within the company I work for, in addition to partner in a business with my wife, Consumer Connections Research.”

What writing advice do you have for professional communicators?

Hollin: “When writing for business, keep your audience in mind. Write to the level of your audience. When speaking to a group or business environment, do the same. Keep your audience in mind. When you begin preparing your discussion, keep the end in mind. From the beginning, tell a story to get the audience to the destination that you would want to get them to.”

What is your one pet peeve when it comes to professional writing?

Hollin: “When writing, use language that grammatically correct and avoid “text” jargon and/or abbreviations.”

What kind of business reports do you read and/or compose regularly?

Hollin: “In my current roles, I commonly read financial reports and P&L statements. I also commonly prepare documents to communicate progress on continuous improvement projects. Those communications flow upward to senior leadership and they need to be written to the specific desires of the leadership we are presenting to.”

What are your writing suggestions to make those types of reports successful?

Hollin: “Know what your audience desires. Know their styles and the areas that are hot buttons for them. Be well prepared for questions much deeper than the writing or presentation.”

What speaking advice do you have for professional communicators?

Hollin: “Know the subject extremely well. Practice your speech or presentation. Practice, not just read through the slides. Use storytelling approach in areas that it makes good sense to do so. Storytelling generates credibility and draws in interest from the audience.”

Name one thing you wish you had known about business communication prior to your professional career?

Hollin: “I wish I would have had a deeper understanding of persuasive writing and the importance of knowing your audience styles.”

After assessing the Burning Glass list of Baseline Skills (2016), which skills not in the top 5 would you move into the top 5…and why?

Hollin: “I would move time management and leadership into the top 5. Others would potentially move, depending on your specific role..

I would move time management into the top 5 because I’ve seen very good leaders struggle because they cannot manage time well. Time is a scarce resource in today’s work environment, and you must have solid skills to best manage that resource. You need to have very good prioritization abilities and the ability to execute on that specific tasks.

Leadership is essential to get the most out of your team or others supporting your position. You need to be able to lead by example and delegate to your team. If you don’t communicate well, delegation of tasks is less successful, as the task may not be completed in the manner needed or desired. “

What team skills do you feel young professionals need the most?

Hollin: “The ability to communicate the end goal and the path to get there.”

Key Takeaways

After conducting this interview, you can see how insightful Hollin is when it comes to approaching the concept of Business Communication, in both areas of speaking and writing. His answers are concise, and straightforward which is very important when communicating. He heavily emphasises the importance of knowing and understanding the audience to which you are communicating to. He recommends communicating at their level so that they can better understand what information you are relaying unto them. This way, your message will be clearer and will resonate better with the target audience. This relates to another significant point of Hollins’. He pointed out that knowing what your audience desires will lead to more success in writing reports and or presentations. He recommended knowing the audiences styles, and “hot button” areas. Knowing what your audience wants to hear is always beneficial. Doing this will make you appear more professional and be more persuasive toward your audience.

There are many skills required to be successful, not only in the field of business but any field or career you fall into. Hollin is a firm believer in the skills of leadership and time management. Today, time is a scarce resource and being able to manage that time is a necessity. Hollin said that he has seen many leaders struggle due to them not being able to manage their time properly. To Hollin, Leadership is essential. It it important in communication in regards to completing tasks and getting the most out of your team. Without good leadership and communication, tasks may fail to be completed and or may not be done their desired potential. Hollin clearly identifies the importance of good communication in today’s work environment. His knowledge and expertise should show today’s upcoming generation the need to strive for good communication skills so they can be more successful. In addition to Hollins’ comments on important baseline skills such as leadership and time management. The Skills Gap for Baseline Skills diagram illustrates the comparison between how often employers requested a certain skill with its importance in everyday positions as measured by O*NET job profiles.

Rick Hollin Biography

Rick Hollin lives in Wisconsin with his wife and kids. He has five children all ranging from ages 12-30. His professional career began at the age of 16 in the grocery industry, where he was a froZen food manager. He then moved his was up to an assistant store manager at Diamond Supermarket, by the age of 18. After graduating from South Decatur High School in 1987, he started working at RockTenn (now known as WestRock), in Columbus, Indiana. He has been employed there for thirty years now. They offered him higher educated which led to him receiving his Associates Degree from Ivy Tech in Business Management. Hollin worked his way up the ropes after receiving his degree. He began as a production manager, where he then advanced to a multi-site General Manager, and up to where he is now as a Master Black Belt for. His job frequently has him traveling around the country to over 300 facilities. Hollins’ expertise lands in the fields of operations management and improvement. He can interpret financial reports and quickly identify the areas of which need improvement. Leadership, influence, and communication are all key ingredients in his daily profession. He has had an incredible career and is thankful that his preparation met opportunity, and was in the right place at the right time.

Rick Hollin’s Current Company:

Rick Hollin’s Linkedin page:


Rick Hollin, Master Black Belt




Nate Stamper is a Sophomore at the University of Southern Indiana (USI). He is currently pursuing an Accounting degree at the Romain College of Business. He is planning on pursuing his CPA license after receiving his Bachelors in the spring of 2022. 




What do you think?

Written by Nathan Stamper


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