Based in Wylie, Texas, Steve Hoegger’s company has been renovating hotels and resorts for almost 30 years. But no matter the scope of the work, his goals remain constant: get the job done on time, within budget and with 100 percent customer satisfaction.
“Believe it or not, I love the fast pace of the hospitality industry and I love working with the people in it,” says Steve Hoegger, president and CEO of Steve Hoegger & Associates. It’s that desire for “giving 110 percent,” and for working with honesty and integrity that has ensured the nationwide success of the company he and his high school buddy, Perry Christensen, now vice president and project manager, founded.
Not only does Hoegger give his all to the high stakes projects he works on, he enjoys giving back to the wider community. “We’ve been blessed and we want to bless others,” he says, talking about the mission trips he’s led from his church (Wylie United Methodist) to places like Mississippi, south Texas, and Arkansas following hurricane and wildfire damage, helping poverty-stricken families repair or rebuild their homes. Proud of his carpentry skills which opened the door to his business success, he says these mission trips, which have included his four children, “allow me to give back in a personal hands-on way.”
From New Jersey to Florida, to California, to Bermuda, to Hawaii, his company’s been renovating five star hotels, including those owned by Hotel Intercontinental and Marriott International; boutique hotels such as The Mansion on Turtle Creek, one of the premier hotels in Dallas; and on occasion, historic properties, such as The Mill House in Charleston, SC.
And the team isn’t just making a cosmetic difference; they’re making a ‘Hoegger Difference’, one that includes quality work completed to code, attention to detail, and excellent customer service which translates into a worry-free renovation. Sensitive to time and budget constraints, the company has developed an accurate estimating process that allows it to bid the job right the first time, keeping work order changes and cost overruns to an absolute minimum.
In the hospitality industry, there really is no limit to what can be done, but generally speaking there’s a six-year plan that involves just paint, carpet and soft repairs; a 12-year plan that in addition would include more extensive refinishing of case goods or plumbing; or an 18-year plan that could include a full-blown design change to bring it up to brand standard; the latter could include redoing the bathrooms, re-routing electric outlets, and installing new lighting.
“We did a project in Jacksonville where we skinned the whole exterior and added a new front, changed out the doors and windows, and expanded meeting rooms,” Hoegger says, to give an idea of the scope of the work his team is prepared to perform. They’ve just finished two extensive renovations in Hawaii and will go anywhere in the U.S., although he’d prefer to concentrate his business closer to home in the south central region.
And then there are the hotel guests, the hotel’s raison d’être and who Hoegger believes deserve a quality stay, even in the midst of renovations. “We’ve had occasions when management has been able to shut the hotel down while we’re doing renovations, especially if they’ve been doing a brand change – that’s ideal for us,” he says, “but it’s not necessarily ideal for the owner, as they lose their revenue stream. We’re very sensitive to that and want to help them maintain it.
“So we’ll go in and put together a detailed schedule and an overall schedule of how many rooms will be out and what times of the day we can make noise and what times we can’t. We present that to them and work very closely with the property manager to make sure the guests see a seamless transition between the old and the new. It’s really a delicate situation to work around guests, so we’ll start on the top floor and if revenue allows, we may block off the floor immediately below as insulation and then work our way down to the first.”
This kind of careful planning is the key to keeping guests happy, and keeping people happy is always on Hoegger’s mind. “I want people to be happy,” he says. “I understand life; I’m a family man and family comes first, and I like to say the business is our extended family and it needs to be a happy atmosphere where people will enjoy coming to work, because that’s the way I want to come to work. That’s not to say we don’t have some tough times, stress, and pressure, but you can deal with that a lot better if everyone knows we’re all a team and have each other’s backs.”
This extends to the relationships Hoegger builds with satisfied repeat customers. For example, he’s negotiated all renovations for the Hotel International in Dallas since 2004 and says, “our relationship with the property owner is just great; the Marriott folks have also been great with us over the years. We also do work with the Marriott Family Trust and just finished a property in Charlotte, NC – a full service renovation, and the ownership group and the staff there are just so welcoming and accommodating. That’s really what makes the project – not just the project, but the people you work with, that’s what makes it fun and enjoyable and that’s the way it should be.”
As well, over the years the company has teamed up with partners in different areas (electrical and plumbing) “and established some great relationships with contractors across the country. Having that kind of network is key to us winning the bid and performing successfully for our clients.”
How did Hoegger & Associates Inc begin?
Steve Hoegger will say modestly, “it was just an idea between two friends in their garage,” although there’s more to his success than that simple explanation. His work ethic was something he learned growing up on a farm in Illinois, along with the value of a dollar and a true sense of family, all values which are the foundation of his company. At age 18, he and Christensen, who he teasingly calls a ‘city slicker’ since he hailed from the nearby town of Dwight (pop. 4,000) where they went to school, set out for Texas “with a hammer and a nail bag.” They worked as carpenters during the day, creating moldings and building cabinetry for multi-million dollar homes in Dallas and going to school at night to study construction management.
Next, the pair renovated private homes in the Highland Park area, an exclusive neighborhood where they impressed a homeowner when they cut the roof to make it work when no one else could. In fact, the owner was so impressed he asked them if they would be interested in taking on a project in Bermuda, at the Grotto Bay Beach Club Resort, for which he was doing the interior design. “At the time (1988) I was young and energetic and ready to go,” says Hoegger, “so we went out there for three months and I fell in love with the hospitality industry. I liked the fast pace, the consistency of the schedule, and when I got back to the states I started concentrating on the hospitality industry because it’s a business decision to do the work and there’s a budget and you work within parameters.”
He’s now president and CEO of a company that’s seen steady growth over the years and is staffed by highly qualified professionals. There’s Christensen, “who’s been with me every step of the way,” and who in 2007 used his excellent managerial skills to simultaneously run nine projects in Austin and Houston for the White Lodging Group. There’s project superintendent Scott Olson, who joined the company in 2004, with 20 years experience and who directed two phases of renovation at the Hotel Intercontinental in Dallas, which included conversion of guest rooms to ones that are compliant with the standards of the American Disabilities Association. And there’s Mike Burkett, project manager who joined in 2006, bringing with him 30 years of experience.
But while Hoegger’s been able to surround himself with top level project managers, he’s finding it increasingly difficult to find skilled trades people: carpenters, masons and painters. “It takes time to develop a skill or trade,” he says, “and there’s no system where we can plug in the youth of America to learn trades, not even the tech schools. I’ve reached out to them but it’s fallen on deaf years. I don’t know where we (as a society) went wrong, by steering young people away from the trades, from working with their hands, because there’s a lot of pride in that.”
It’s a real problem for all businesses working in the construction and renovation industries, one which Construction in Focus has highlighted time and again and which Hoegger believes training programs are the solution to. “If we have a job coming up, a $20 million project, we’re going to bring a team in and train them how to do the job the way we want it done, right and efficiently,” he explains. “In the warehouse we could do a model room to simulate the project coming up and that would pay dividends for them as they would have a skill when they leave. We have to do that, too, to benefit our clients and to benefit ourselves, because otherwise we won’t be able to continue with the volume of work we’re doing and be able to do the quality of work we want to do.”
Kim Hoegger Home
You can hear the pride and love in his voice when Hoegger speaks of his family – Kim, his wife of 27 years, and his children, Cory – who was hired by Balfour Beatty, one of the top 25 general contractors in the world, right after he graduated with a degree in construction science; Kelly, a teacher; and Cara and Chris, who are both still in university.
Kim, an interior designer who once worked for the same man who offered Hoegger the opportunity to go to Bermuda, later worked for Bristol Hotels, took some time off to raise their children, and then launched her own design business which includes fabrics and residential interiors. One of her company’s biggest projects is a vacation rental by owner home in Missouri which Steve built and Kim designed; they’re now looking at a little boutique hotel in the hill country of Texas to buy, renovate and design.
Her designs, which feature a palette of soothing shades of blue, green and white and an eclectic mix of antique and contemporary furnishings, is a fresh take on interior design. The results are rooms that invite calmness and serenity and which have been featured in such magazines as Cottage Style, Lakeside Living, and Country Home and can also be seen on her website at Kim Hoegger Home.
Between these two firms, a winning model for success and quality has been uncovered.