Here are five ways to build a business and wealth like the $2 billion Bridgewater family did

BY Preta Peace Namasaba January 9, 2024 3:45 PM EDT
Ronald Hall Jr, third from left, accepted an award from the National Business League on behalf of his father, Ronald Hall Sr. Photo Credit: National Business League

In 2017, Ronald Hall, Jr. succeeded his father Ronald Hall, Sr. as President and CEO of Bridgewater Interiors. With an annual revenue of over $2 billion, Bridgewater Interiors is one of America’s largest Black-led companies. The company is owned by joint-venture partners Epsilon Technologies and Adient.

Bridgewater Interiors was founded in 1998 by Epsilon Technologies, a Detroit-based entrepreneurial partnership, and publicly traded Johnson Controls, Inc. to manufacture automotive seating systems for General Motors Corporation. The older Ronald Hall was then appointed CEO.

The automotive interiors manufacturing company specializes in just-in-time manufacturing, sequencing and delivery of seating, overhead and center console systems. It assembles seating systems for automotive companies at its facilities and employs approximately 2,200 people.

Bridgewater Interiors has only known leadership by a Hall in the two decades that it has grown. The Hall dynasty has taken a modest investment and transformed it into one of America’s most influential businesses in the automotive supply chain. But how did they do it?

The following five tips are lessons learned from the family that leads Bridgewater Interiors will help you:

1. Build for the long term
In the 1980s, Ronald Hall Sr.’s Bonanza steakhouses in Detroit failed. But he recovered from the setback and led Bridgewater Interiors like there had been no disappointment in his business missions. He was at the forefront of influencing the Big Three car makers to to do more business with minority-owned companies. Bridgewater won a $500-million contract to supply seats to Ford in 2004, in what was believed to be the largest minority-supplier contract in the automotive industry at the time. By the time Ronald Hall Sr. handed over leadership to his son in 2017, the company was among the largest U.S. black-owned companies.

2. Invest in education
A highly educated man, Ronald Hall, Sr. earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics and an MBA from Wayne State University. He likewise invested in his children’s education and set them up to continue his legacy. Ronald Hall, Jr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree in International Political Economy from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan. He served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army, attained the rank of Captain and was decorated for meritorious service in the Persian Gulf War. Following his military career, Hall, Jr. practiced corporate law in the Detroit offices of national law firm Dykema.

3. Plan for succession
The rise of Ronald Hall, Jr. to top leadership at Bridgewater Interiors was organic. After working as an Associate Attorney, he worked as the Corporate Attorney, Leadership Development Rotation Program at Johnson Controls for four years. He then joined Bridgewater’s Commercial Management, Legal, Launch Management, Community Relations department and was promoted to Vice President and General Counsel in 2011. Hall, Jr. had sufficient experience in corporate governance by the time he took over from his father as President and CEO in 2015.

“There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not reminded that I’m following in my father’s footsteps here, and there is a different level of personal accountability that comes with it,” Hall, Jr. says of his father’s far-reaching legacy.

4. Civic engagement builds a legacy
Bridgewater Interiors has always emphasized strong community relations efforts with one of its goals being to “live to the ideals of minority business enterprise leadership.” Hall, Sr. was an active leader in Michigan’s business and civic organizations. He turned Michigan Minority Supplier Business Development Council (MMSDC) into of America’s leading minority business development organizations during his tenure as President. Hall, Jr. has continued his father’s business venture model that that entails going into inner-city communities and training a fresh workforce to deliver world-class products. Besides employing people from underserved communities, he also serves on the boards of Business Leaders for Michigan, the Skillman Foundation, Beaumont Health, Wayne County Airport Authority, Original Equipment Suppliers Association and the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council.

5. Diversify investments
Besides Bridgewater Interiors, Hall, Sr. invested and founder a series of business ventures. He co-founded and served as president and CEO of Renaissance Capital Alliance, an equipment leasing company. He was the majority shareholder, chairman and CEO of New Center Stamping, an automotive service parts stamping facility where Hall, Jr. serves as board chairman. Hall, Sr. also owned Departure Travel Management and Real Times Media.