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Global Columbus: Bob Haddad Sr.


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Name: Bob Haddad Sr.

Place of birth: Okmulgee, Okla.

Date of birth: Nov. 9, 1932.

Title: Founder of Columbus Container.

Job duties: I often operate as a sales manager, but I consult with my managers and spend time in whatever areas that need my attention.

Education: Bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Oklahoma. Served as a communications and electronics officer in the Air Force.

Family: Wife, Helen; three daughters; one son; 10 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren.

Community involvement: Support the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, because Helen was a music major and singer who has participated in local choirs. We own the Philharmonic’s building. We also support Riley Hospital for Children. And through an investment several years ago, I made sure that Harrison Lake Country Club survived. I also served on a task force to improve education in the 1970s, and I’m a former Rotary Club president and United Way board member.

Hobbies: Golf, boating on Grandview Lake, watching the History and National Geographic channels. Watching history-related series and movies, such as “The Fog of War.”

Q: How did you family come to be in the U.S.?

A: My grandfather migrated to the U.S. from Lebanon in the late 1800s, and he got the rest of his family, including my father, to follow in 1909, in the year that Oklahoma became a state. My grandfather ran a general store. All three sons went to (the University of) Oklahoma and later to Harvard. So within one generation they went from being immigrants to Harvard graduates.

Q: What was your first job?

A: I worked in a box company in Sand Springs, Okla., in 1948. Somebody who played poker with my father said he would take me to work in the shipping dock. All through college I worked at that company during the summers.

Q: What was the biggest lesson you learned from that job?

A: I would substitute for whoever was on vacation, so I got moved around a lot to different machines, which was great because I learned a lot about the business, including cost and quality. That would help me later as I started Columbus Container, because I understood the fundamentals and I could relate to my employees, because I knew how tough their job was.

Q: How did you come to found Columbus Container?

A: I worked for the Hoerner-Waldorf Box Co. in Columbus, and they wanted to move me somewhere else, and I wanted to stay in Columbus with my family, so I left there and started my own box company. We started with 13,000 square feet in 1972 in a building that for the first year had no heat and only cold water. The company now has more than 1 million square feet.

Q: What are some of the primary things you expect from your employees?

A: I expect that they do their best. I always say that I never ran very fast and I never jumped very high, but just because I wasn’t going to be world-class didn’t mean that I wouldn’t try to do my best. Also, employees need to respect the workplace. They wear their clothes correctly and they don’t spit on the floor. If they can’t follow those simple rules, they probably won’t follow the more difficult ones either.

Q: What do your employees absolutely have to avoid doing?

A: Drugs. We test before employment, and we test randomly during employment. I tell my employees that I expect them to place family and church before the job, but that they place the job third, before playing golf or other hobbies.

Q: How did you develop your leadership skills?

A: It happens over time as you accept more responsibility. I was named a squadron commander at age 23, and you learn to take responsibility for the mission. You also get to spend a lot of time with superior officers, which means you learn by observation and because you’re being mentored.

Q: What’s the best advice you have for people who are just now entering the workforce?

A: Find something you like and for which you have a passion and get involved in that field, through a part-time job or apprenticeship. Work for a tailor or a shoemaker. If you like ice cream, learn how it’s made. Don’t just take a job serving it. Getting that kind of experience gives you a better understanding of how businesses work.

Q: You’re 80 years old now. When will you retire?

A: Why would I retire? I look forward to Mondays. I like being part of a team of 300 people who feel a sense of accomplishment when they’ve made another 2 million boxes that day. I like coming to work and trying to solve problems.

Leadership Columbus is a twice monthly Q&A with Columbus’ leaders. If you know someone we should talk to, contact Boris Ladwig at 379-5712 or bladwig@therepublic.com.

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