Mike Holt, Mike Holt Enterprises
Mike Holt worked his way up through the electrical trade from apprentice to master electrician and electrical contractor. In 1973, he began teaching electrical classes, and by 1980 he had stopped contracting and was focused solely on training. Now, Holt is nationally recognized as an expert on the NEC and is one of the most knowledgeable electrical instructors in the US. His series of books and videos are used across the country by numerous training centers, electricians and engineers. His books include Understanding the National Electrical Code, Grounding vs. Bonding and, his newest in the series, Understanding NEC Requirements for Solar Photovoltaic Systems. After dropping out of high school, Holt later received his MBA from the University of Miami. Ryan Mayfield, SolarPro magazine technical editor, recently spoke with Holt.
RM: How did you get involved in training and writing?
MH: When I took my very first test as a journeyman electrician, there were no books or classes to help prepare for the exam. I was also told that there was essentially a quota system in place where only a certain number of people passed. I was intimidated and I didn’t know what to study, so I pieced together the few documents I could to study from.
I took my test, and I scored a 96. I left there stunned. If this thing was fixed, then I wouldn’t have passed. That means that the test was not fixed and all those rumors were not true. If you study and prepare, you will pass.
Someone then suggested I teach a class for other guys who are intimidated. I approached the principal of a high school that offered evening vocational classes and suggested it. He said they had never done such a thing, but they would advertise the class and see what happened. The first night, I had 80 people in that class. About 3 months later, I decided to go into the business of teaching. The first class I ever taught on my own, I had 50 people enrolled. That’s how it started back in 1973.
RM: The majority of your books are based on the NEC, requiring updates every 3 years. In addition, you produce business management, electrical estimating, electrical theory and exam preparation materials. How are you able to produce such a wide variety of books and videos? What does your support staff look like?
MH: Number one, it’s overwhelming. For each book and the associated material, it is a full year’s commitment. Obviously I can’t do all that work by myself.
People on my staff and individuals from various parts of the electrical industry assist me. Mike Culbreath, who does our graphics, has been with me for 25 years. I have experts in the field—like you, Ryan, and Bill Brooks—to help with the solar book. I have great Code guys like Ryan Jackson and Steve Arne to help with my other publications.
So, I have technical people who can look at our work and say, “Well, wait a minute, now. Is this correct? Did you interpret this change correctly?” An important piece for me is having great technical people who are committed to making a safe installation. They’re there because they’ve all been successful and feel a desire, like I do, to give back to the industry and maybe help the next generation to be better than us.
RM: How many books and videos do you produce on a regular basis? Does Mike Holt Enterprises publish all the books you write?
MH: I think at the last count there are probably about 26 different DVDs. There are probably 18 to 20 different books. We publish everything, from the graphics to the books and DVDs. The only thing we don’t do is physically print the books and physically burn DVDs. Other than that, we do everything in-house.
RM: You host seminars on various electrical topics as well. Are all of the classes held in Florida, or do you travel?
MH: I do only two classes a year in Florida, for Florida Continuing Education. Other than that, I speak at various conferences like Solar Power International and Electric West. Mike Holt Enterprises is not in the business of doing seminars. But as I travel around the country for different organizations, it allows me to stay connected with my customers to understand their needs.
RM: The forum on your website is a great resource that individuals in the electrical industry can access for free. It looks like the PV section of the forum is very active, too. Is this an area you find your staff dedicating a lot of time to? What do you see as the biggest benefit to maintaining such a large forum?
MH: The forum wasn’t anything we planned. It took off on its own. I never go on the forum and my staff pretty much never do either. We made it independent. We do have moderators; these are people who are willing to give their own time for topics like solar power or surge protection or lightning protection or grounding or whatever the topic might be, to help the industry as a whole. The moderators are there to remove advertisements, offensive posts and posts from do-it-yourselfers or homeowners. Every section of the forum has multiple volunteer moderators. For all practical purposes, very little energy from Mike Holt Enterprises as a company is spent on the forum. I do have two webmasters, multiple servers and other associated necessary equipment.