Rising from Rubble to Build an Empire | Jerry Brenholtz

 

About Jerry Brenholtz

Jerry Brenholz co-founded ATR International, Inc. in 1988. He has been instrumental in developing ATR into an important provider of contract staffing for Information Technology. In his current role, he is responsible for establishing a corporate-wide vision and defining strategic direction. Prior to ATR, Jerry held various technical positions with General Electric, Westinghouse, Applied Materials and Quadrex Corporation. Here during his 18 year career as a technical professional he assumed a variety of leadership roles and made significant contributions in engineering as well as in research and technology development. He is active in the American Staffing Association (ASA), TechServe Alliance (formally NACCB) and supports a number of cultural and non-profit organizations and institutions including The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Computer History Museum, The San Francisco Opera, SFMOMA, BASHOF, CYO, the de Young Legion of Honor. Previously he also served on the Advisory Board of The California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC), he served on the Silicon Valley Regional Board of TechAmerica, Executive Committee of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the Silicon Valley & Monterey Bay Area Chapter, he was a member of the Founders Circle for The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and served on the board of directors of Adult and Child Guidance Center.

Interview Transcript of: Rising from Rubble to Build an Empire | Jerry Brenholtz

Alan
Welcome back. I’m here today with Jerry Brent hogs. He’s the co founder of ATR International. And Jerry, welcome to today’s show. Thank you. So Jerry, for the listeners, here, you have a very unique background. You know, and I’d like you to tell the listeners kind of your life story, yeah, where it started and how you got to where you are today.

Jerry
Well, I don’t know if I want to disclose my age, but I was born 1942. So in a couple months, I’ll be turning 75. I grew up in Poland. And, but was born in Russia. The reason is, my mom has escaped to Warsaw, three months after the war started, and went to Russia, because it was the only place to go met my father there. So as a result of that, I was born in Russia, fortunately, right after the war 1940 46, actually early 46, since my mother was a Polish citizen, so my father could actually leave, along with her leave Russia and went to Poland. The objective was not really stay in Poland, because Poland was in total ruins, and especially the city we came to, first who came to Warsaw. And these are in obviously, I was four years old at the time. So I only can tell you from what my parents have told me, but we came to Warsaw and my mom said, I can’t live here. She says, this ground is soaked with blood. And but there were some opportunities, Warsaw was totally destroyed. Opportunities to move to the western part of Poland, which the post took it from the Germans and the city stretching. And this was a port city, even though it was quite quite a bit destroyed, but some of the buildings were still in pretty good shape, the city was probably 70 or 80%. in ruins. So we settled in there. And you know, at that point, I think we never really thought my parents never thought that it’s unsafe, because unsafe was the war. But afterwards, so I remember very well, the, you know, the streets and the, in the, the trails that we were walking through, you know, because there were just trail trails based on based on destroyed buildings, so we’re walking between the destroyed buildings, and you could see some of them, some of the buildings would any minute could fall down. So, so anyway, we live there, we went there, live there until in 1965, for 19 years, and my father was not Polish. So he hated that, you know, because he had also language difficulties, but, you know, quickly he, he learned and, and at one point, he actually thought maybe we should go back to Russia, thank God that we did not because that was, but it was it was a life was pretty challenging at that point. And, and, you know, you kind of, you know, adapt to the particular situation, and you sort of are optimistic in say, things will get better, and surely now they will getting better. And, and as a child, I in my parents always worried that I will get involved with some, some, there were some gangs, but, you know, obviously, we didn’t know much about them, you know, but, but they will constantly watching sometime I would come home with a you know, with a with a bump in my head due to some somebody threw a stone or whatever. So, you know, so it was it was a, quite a, you know, quite a challenging time for, for us, but they always felt that, you know, first we need to educate our children. The idea for them was, as I mentioned earlier, not to stay in Poland, Poland, really. And actually, the idea was to go to Israel, because 1947 The country was created and but again, Israel was not in such a great shape either. Many people were traveling, actually going to Germany, out of, you know, to, to everybody’s surprise, why would anybody want to go to Germany, but the idea was to go to Germany and hopefully from Germany, there were some organizations set up, they were bringing people to the US. So our ultimate goal was always to come to to the US. So in the early stage, just seen obviously Poland was under the communist control, so you could not leave. So these were the how do you how do you leave? If you cannot leave? So you apply for, for immigration, the Polish government would ask. So what’s the reason for immigrating? You could not say that you didn’t like the system, because that was potentially a you know, could end up with penitentiary. So, so, so typically typical answers were united was uniting with a family, because the, they were very sort of sympathetic to to people after the war, because many have lost their families. My mother lost almost her entire family.

Alan
So Jerry, is a remarkable story. What you’ve gone through in life and I, I do need to take a quick break. But when we get back, I want to I want to continue on visiting here today with Jerry Brent Holtz. He’s co founder of HR International, but he has a remarkable story of how the born during the war and emigrated through several war torn countries getting up to the US and we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Welcome back and visit here to Jerry brand halls. He was the co founder of HR and national Jerry before the break, we’re talking about the miraculous journey that your mother went through fill with adversity and, you know, leaving Warsaw, as the war broke out, finding your dad marrying him and Russia going back roughly for 19 years or so into Poland, resettling. And then eventually making it down to Jeremy, but.

Jerry
So we did not go to to Germany, we stayed in Poland, there were people that were going to Germany, and primarily, those that didn’t have children. Those were children. Were actually afraid to travel because there was the crossing the borders was still not not legal. So there was kind of, but we stayed in Poland, because

Alan
So in this as a war broke out, your your mom, did she travel, leave Warsaw by herself, or did she have family with her? What?

Jerry
Yeah, so she actually followed her younger brother who was at that time 15. And he escaped first with a couple of his friends and they made a pledge to themselves that they will never come back, and so on. And when I hear that, they actually bought a gun. They actually bought the gun for protection. My uncle, you know, who is 15 at the time, his objective was kind of interesting. He, he said he’s going to enlist in the Russian army, train, and then go to Israel to fight fight for independence. That was his objective. And so they made the pledge, we’re not coming back. One of the kids came back, was afraid winter of course code. They didn’t have enough clothes. In fact, they escaped without the knowledge of my grandmother, or my grandfather, they just took off. So imagine 15 year old kids. So he he said the one of the kids came back, so that is why we know the story. So then my mom and her youngest sister was 13 at that time, my mom was 17 she told the my my grandmother that she will go and find them. So at first she wanted to go with the with the boy who came back, but my grandmother says you’re not going with a boy so anyways, so she went with her younger sister who’s 13 and you can imagine a 13 year old girl right is constantly you know, there’s issues here and there and crying and all that but but anyway, they they went there with very little clothes, so it was heavy winter, they actually almost froze almost froze to death as she described, she was saved by a Polish doctor who was the holy cross the border in into Russia. And he took him into the hospital and kept him in the hospital for longer than he was permitted so anyway, after leaving the hospital she I will move on and then she realized the fact that there’s some work available in the Ural Mountains. So you can imagine that is a you know, a couple 1000 miles from the Polish border. But the nadi managed to go there and that is where actually she she did meet my father so so there is this kind of life for her was more of a survival in my dad was 20 years older than her so for her was, it was I didn’t think of I love you, it was more of a you know, I need to survive. And it’s like Fiddler on the Roof. Right?

Alan
Is obviously there. Your dad, when she wanted to go back to Poland that he he came the sacrifice of learning the new language and and let us remarkable story in I want to get into eventually how you how you transition out of Poland, and got over here to the United States. However, before doing that, I need to take a quick break. And so I’m visiting here today with Jerry brand Hall see is the co founder of ATR International, and we’ll be right back after these messages.

Alan
Some people see a father and his son fishing together, while others see a succession plan. Welcome back and visiting here today with Jerry Brown Hall seasick. Co Founder of HR International, Jerry before the before the break, we’re talking about your mom and the fact that she was now with her young family and, and husband over in in Poland after the war. How event? How eventually did she she come over here to the United States.

Jerry
So the objective was always for us, you know, most people were dreaming of coming to the US. And so the only way, you know, obviously legal illegal immigration, I don’t know if it existed or not. But the first process was to, to apply for immigration. So us the quarter system, the quota system, and since we lived in Poland, and since we were born because the quota system is based on the birth where you were born. So since we were born in my sister and I born in Russia, so there were not many people in Poland at that time who were born in Russia. So the quota was a little bit shorter. There were people Polish people applying for immigration to to the US, but they were born in Poland. And so there were many, many more obviously, applicants of who were born in Poland. So how do we apply for immigration based on my mother’s birth, we would have waited a long time. We still waited six years before our quota showed up. So So then, so eventually we were able to immigrate 1965. We’re given passports by the Polish government. I think the passports were valid for three months, three months passport, we’re allowed to leave with no more than five hours in our pockets. So what we did is how do we survive? How do we come to the US and what will be our source of survival. So my mother decided my father decided to buy various goods, they’re sort of that they’ll be able to sell it once they arrive so so that this would happen. So

Alan
So you came over here. Obviously your education was a need to you immediately start into school or where did you end up immigrating to?

Jerry
So we emigrated to the United States to Detroit first and the reason we came to Detroit was because I was at the time 23 years old. I my education was when I went to automotive engineering school So the prospects for jobs were much better in Detroit, the diameter auto industry, and so on. So, so we came to, to Detroit and, you know, of course without the language, so your prospects for a job are not very good. We, when I studied in Poland, both of us, my parents always had the objective, that my children have to be educated. So we had only two choices. Doctor or an Engineer, so my sister became a doctor, and, and I became an engineer. So customer earlier that time, if you studied engineering, you had to start the German, German was the predominant language for engineering. So when I came to the US, obviously, I didn’t know any English, I think I probably maybe knew 30 or 40 words a maximum. So I made the commitment that I will have to learn at least 50 words a day, memorize 50 words a day, so. So I brought the dictionary back polish, English dictionary, and, you know, made that kind of commitment. Of course, I couldn’t put the words together, the grammar was obviously always an issue. But but it was important. So then I enrolled in the University at Wayne State University. And my English was still still not good enough. So I was able to, to enroll in the university for foreign students with and there was a English for foreign students. So there was there was, I think, A, B, C, and D. So I qualified for the D class, which was the lowest one of the lowest. But within the since he made the commitment, I need to learn the language. So I skipped from D, I went to C and from C to A, and then obviously, it was enrolled in composition, writing, and literature and all that. So it was the primary objective really, is to capture the language. You know, that was the that was the only objective at that point, you know, so

Alan
That’s the whole the whole story life story is what is survival and perseverance. And then after school, you eventually made it out to California. What brought you this direction?

Jerry
Yeah. So I graduated from Wayne State University with a degree with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering sciences, and one of our neighbors in Detroit, travel to California to visit his, his, his daughter, and so he decided to drive because he couldn’t afford it couldn’t afford to fly. So he’s saying, I’m going to be driving. I said, Can I go with you? I’ll help you with driving. So we ended up in, in first in Los Angeles. And, of course, I had a distant cousin there was actually born in the US, met her there, and I fell in love with, even with Los Angeles, I said, Oh, wow, these mountains and you know, and in the ocean and the climate, it was December, of course, you know, what the weather is like, in December in Detroit. It’s so but then I also had a contact in Berkeley. So, so I decided to come to, to Berkeley also to see Berkeley and of sudden, San Francisco was very much more impressive than Los Angeles. At that time. You could probably when I came there, you could see what you were breeding in Los Angeles. Right. So, so anyway, so I decided that to that, I will make my look for a job in, in the, in the San Francisco Bay Area. And this was a time of a recession, during Nixon’s administration, where, you know, the, the space, the aerospace industry was shut down pretty much and so on. But lucky for me, I actually found found a job in a, in a consulting company, small consulting company that was doing work for the nuclear power industry. And it was exciting because it was relatively new. And there were very, very bright people working there. So so that was the beginning. Actually, not the company had about 13 people. And so you were pretty much you learn from one another. Just amazing, was an amazing part of the beginning in California, and of course, started meeting friends, other people and so on.

Alan
And so essentially, from getting your career established, and you broke out to do your own company, and how how much further along was that.

Jerry
So there were, you know, when I don’t know if everybody’s experiences, probably similar, but sometimes you start a company because of necessity. Yeah, sometimes you do. And for me, it was a moving fast forward, you know, went through some other industries, nuclear industry, and then the late 70s, the nuclear industry was.

Alan
In Jerry, I need to interrupt your word, we’re running up against a break for right now for commercial. But when we get back, I want to, I want to jump into the inspiration, jump out into your own company. We’ll be right back after these messages we’re visiting here today with Jerry brand Hall sees the co founder of ATR international backdrop these messages. Welcome back and visit here today with Jerry Brent Hulsey, CEO, co founder of ATR International and Jerry of before the break, we’re talking about the transition from career to ownership of your own company. And how did that How did that start out then?

Jerry
Yeah, so again, it’s it’s a a, I went from the nuclear industry, then into semiconductor industry, and then at one point, started doing consulting work. There are some, many of the incidents have happened along the way. But in the sake of time, I think I’m going to move forward. So I started doing consulting work and started actually marketing my own profession. And then I realized that actually, I’m pretty good and marketing my own profession. So maybe I should market other people’s professions. And this was 1988. My focus was marketing, other people’s professional, specifically, within a high, highly skilled technical area, which at that time, didn’t quite exist, there were temporary agencies that focused primarily on lower skilled categories, administrative categories, but, but the representation for, for technical people was rather minimal, at the time, so. So then I quickly realized that I’m marketing, again, was a recession 1988 89, when another recession, so called White Collar recession, but I quickly realized that I’m in maybe not in highly skilled technical categories, but maybe I’m in an employment business. So so then the disk drive industry was at that time accelerating, many companies such as Maxtor, quantum, and so on, were we’re really doing quite well. And and I realized that they are in a cyclical nature, because they are dependent on the OEMs that are buying their, their drives and so on. So because it’s cyclical, so must be also people are coming going so so I tapped into that industry. So before I even realized 95% of the people that we actually had to hire on our payroll were manufacturing support.

Alan
So, I’m epic, did your company grow to for the the staffing?

Jerry
Today we are $100 million company

Alan
amazing, amazing how many how many temp agencies are people are you placing within the the companies.

Jerry
So, today, we are actually let me say what our focus primary focus is on the industries which are industries of the future. So we looking at industries such as medical device industry, which is growing by leaps and bounds, financial service organizations, which are focusing building their IT infrastructure and also healthcare industries. So so we actually over over the last 28 years, we’ve gone through several cycles in the economy and every cycle brings different new skill sets. So we always looking forward trying to see what is the next thing that will be you know, marketable. And, and we finding today that the information technology industry, the skills in information technology industry are very, very important and there’s a tremendous shortage in that. Therefore, we have people that have h1 B visas and so on. And and again, the the engineering skills even within the within the medical device industry, so today we are, we have on our staff, about 1200 People

Alan
Do you have to ask this question given where your mom started in her life with escaping a war torn country? What would she have to say today with with how her kids ended up?

Jerry
Well, it was kind of interesting because when I started the company, their objective was always my daughter shouldn’t be a doctor. My son should be an engineer. So when people ask her, some of her friends so do you have kids? And she said, Yes, I do. My daughter is a doctor and my son used to be an engineer and now he’s a salesman. So So you know, she’s she never really understood this until shortly before she passed. She said to me, take care of your system.

Alan
And absolutely remarkable straight. Jerry. I’d like to thank you for being on today’s show even isn’t here today with Terry van Holtz is the CEO and the co founder of ATR International.

Jerry
Thank you. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

 

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Jerry Brenholtz on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Jerry Brenholtz

Jerry Brenholz co-founded ATR International, Inc. in 1988. He has been instrumental in developing ATR into an important provider of contract staffing for Information Technology. In his current role, he is responsible for establishing a corporate-wide vision and defining strategic direction. Prior to ATR, Jerry held various technical positions with General Electric, Westinghouse, Applied Materials and Quadrex Corporation. Here during his 18 year career as a technical professional he assumed a variety of leadership roles and made significant contributions in engineering as well as in research and technology development. He is active in the American Staffing Association (ASA), TechServe Alliance (formally NACCB) and supports a number of cultural and non-profit organizations and institutions including The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Computer History Museum, The San Francisco Opera, SFMOMA, BASHOF, CYO, the de Young Legion of Honor. Previously he also served on the Advisory Board of The California Israel Chamber of Commerce (CICC), he served on the Silicon Valley Regional Board of TechAmerica, Executive Committee of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the Silicon Valley & Monterey Bay Area Chapter, he was a member of the Founders Circle for The National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ) and served on the board of directors of Adult and Child Guidance Center.

Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
Alan Olsen

Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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