Den Herder Sees Bright Future

March 31, 2003
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HOLLAND — He didn’t know the business of audio and video systems. But he did have good business sense and knew how to run a company.

So for the technical stuff, Bob Den Herder figured he would retain the help he needed to take care of customers, allowing him to concentrate on keeping “the ship on course.”

That strategy has worked well so far for Den Herder, the owner and president of Premovation Audio, a Holland Township firm that installs and services commercial and residential audio, video and home-automation systems.

“To me it’s having the right attitude and philosophy toward dealing with people,” said Den Herder, who acquired the company in 1999 and learned the business “by just digging into it.”

“I’ve got some great talent here. I just give the direction to the business. I just keep the ship on course,” he said. “I’ve got a real simple business philosophy — give the customer what they want and make it work. It’s not rocket science.”

A self-described “gadget man” who loves electronic gadgetry, Den Herder’s first foray in the electronics business came through a “hobby investment” in Premovation Audio after he sold his previous business, Uniform Color Co. That investment eventually led Den Herder, who planned to “take a little time off” after he sold Uniform Color, to approach Premovation Audio owner Dick McKinley, a longtime friend who now manages the commercial side of the business, with an offer to purchase the company outright.

“I figured I didn’t want to stay retired. I love working too much,” said the 49-year-old Den Herder, who recently added to the company with the acquisition of Lange Systems Group, a Zeeland firm specializing in the integration of home audio, video, phone and lighting systems.

The acquisition strengthened Premovation Audio’s residential side of the business, Den Herder said.

A Zeeland native whose family roots date back to when the community was founded in the mid-1800s, Den Herder spent 19 years at Uniform Color Co., whose founders included his father-in-law. After working as a surveyor, he joined Uniform Color in 1980 at the age of 27 and bought into the company a few years later.

He worked his way up and, as other investors retired and were bought out, became co-owner and president by 1989. The company provides coloring for plastic door panels, handles, dashboards and consoles.

While he enjoyed the success of the business, which primarily serves the automotive industry, growth eventually became an issue. By the time he decided to sell the business, Uniform Color had grown to sales of about $25 million and 200 employees and was receiving pressure from key automotive customers to expand production overseas.

To Den Herder, the growth was taking the enjoyment out of the business.

“I just got so busy it wasn’t fun anymore,” Den Herder said. “It got to be not what I wanted in life.”

What he wanted was a business where he can remain involved in all aspects of the operation, from planning strategy and direction and handling finance, to working with a customer on the sales floor.

“I like a business I can get my hands around,” said Den Herder, who always keeps an eye out for new opportunities. One of them came in a business where his family left its mark on the community long ago: banking.

Den Herder’s great-great-grandfather, Jacob Den Herder, founded Den Herder Bank in Zeeland in 1878. It later became Zeeland State Bank, which in 1958 changed its name to First Michigan Bank  & Trust Co. — the forerunner to the former FMB Corp.

After FMB was sold to Huntington Bank in 1996, leaving the area with one less locally owned bank, Den Herder was approached by Ben Smith, the owner of a brokerage house and financial management company in Holland who was in the process of forming Macatawa Bank.

Den Herder, seeing an “opportunity to start something new and give people what they want” in a community bank, agreed to become a founding investor and a member of the board of directors at Macatawa Bank Corp., which since its late 1997 opening has grown quickly from a single location in downtown Zeeland to 17 branches in Ottawa, Allegan and Kent counties with assets in excess of $1 billion.

“We could not have planned it better,” Den Herder said of Macatawa Bank’s success.

As far as growing his own company, Den Herder wants Premovation Audio to become the premier commercial and residential electronics supplier in the area and believes that to succeed, a business needs to continually grow.

Yet he plans to contain the company’s growth “at a nice, steady pace” that’s manageable and enables him to keep his arms around it. And by maintaining the right size and perspective, Den Herder hopes to maintain the fun of running a business that he is experiencing again at Premovation Audio.

“I’m having a ball,” Den Herder said. “I’m up every morning and I can’t wait” to get to work.               

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