This Employee-Owned Firm is Growing Rapidly

Haldeman Homme

Haldeman Homme, Inc., a rapidly-expanding Minneapolis-based business, boasts soaring revenues and new branches across the U.S. The company (whose name is pronounced ‘Homie’) is totally employee-owned; workers share in the firm’s profits and decision-making process. “We consider ourselves a specialty contractor, dealing mostly with interior specialty products,” President Ron Johnson says.
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Haldeman Homme’s complete list of services includes design engineering, project management, installation and support, construction and preconstruction, scheduling, maintenance and service and product sourcing. The company’s main mission, however, to provide gymnasiums, schools and laboratories with lockers, flooring, seating, furniture, bleachers and additional items.

The company “partners with a wide variety of manufacturers that design and manufacture the actual equipment,” explains Johnson, who says his firm primarily acts as an “integrator or a solutions provider.” While Haldeman Homme serves a wide market, lab, athletic and gym equipment is “the bread and butter of our business.”

Colleges and universities are among the company’s biggest customers. It also has clients in the healthcare, industrial and government sectors. The firm does some residential flooring work as well and recently branched out in a more esoteric direction.

“Our expertise in specialty equipment has got us into some medical marijuana grow facilities. These facilities take a warehouse and maximize the output of the plants,” says Johnson. “We combine a high-density, storage system with a pretty sophisticated environmental control system. We can help our clients with measuring and monitoring, lights and humidity and [how to] maximize the space efficiently.”

Regardless of the job at hand, Haldeman Homme typically works as “part of a team, usually a design construction team,” he states.

The firm can trace its roots back to 1924 when it sold racks, shelves, carts and conveyor systems to fledgling Midwest industries. “That kind of was our business model until 1946. When Jack Homme came back from World War Two and joined the firm, he got us into the laboratory and educational markets. That’s when we started to diversify into a broader model. The timing was good; there was a baby boom and a construction boom post World War Two,” he comments.

In the 1950s, Haldeman Homme launched a profit-sharing program. Over the years, the company’s employee-based focus continued to evolve. An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) was introduced in 1987, at which point Haldeman Homme became completely worker-owned.

Individual staff members have more input – and responsibility – than at companies run in a more traditional manner, says Johnson. Being employee-owned “is one of the biggest advantages we have,” he continues. “Our employees are just more engaged and passionate about what we do and why we do it.”

For decades, the company mostly served Minnesota and the surrounding states. A Chicago office was opened in 2005, and more branches followed in rapid succession. The firm now has a presence in Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Iowa, Houston, Kansas City, Florida, Salt Lake City, Madison, Omaha, Seattle, Atlanta and South Carolina.

“Just last year, we expanded into the Pacific Northwest and the Southeast,” states Johnson, proudly. Plans are afoot to open more offices, possibly in the Maryland and northern Virginia region. Revenues have likewise exploded.

Some of the company’s growth stems from acquisitions. Companies purchased by Haldeman Homme include Academic Specialties which focuses on athletic equipment, lockers, bleachers, and seating; Iowa Direct Equipment, specializing in field service; and laboratory equipment specialist Hicks-Ashby.

“As part of the ESOP and part of our strategic plan, we look for other great companies we can partner with. We don’t look for companies that we have to fix. We look for companies that are a good fit with us in terms of vision, values and mission,” explains Johnson. The firm remains open to buying new companies in the future.

The company is also happy to acquire new technology when it benefits the business and makes great use of business information modeling (BIM) software, for example. Haldeman Homme has partnered with cutting-edge custom prefabricated interior design/manufacturing firm DIRTT Environmental Solutions. Based in Calgary, Alberta, DIRTT (the name means “Doing It Right This Time”) offers proprietary ICE virtual reality software to develop 3D prefab interior designs that can be modified according to customer input. Once a client settles on a design, a DIRTT manufacturing facility creates the prefab interior based on the ICE files.

Haldeman Homme represents DIRTT in Minnesota and utilizes ICE technology to demonstrate 3D prefab interior models while offering personal design assistance. Haldeman Homme is also able to act as a multi-trade sub-contractor for clients opting for DIRTT software designs.

High-tech tools aside, the secret of the company’s success lies with “our people,” says Johnson. “We don’t have any intellectual property; we don’t manufacture anything. What we do is service customers … We take a broad collaborative [approach to] management.”

The company currently has between 200 and 210 employees, up from roughly 165 this time last year. Haldeman Homme wants new hires who are a good fit for an employee-owned company.

“A lot of younger people have never heard of an ESOP. Our operation takes a kind of shared capitalist type of approach. You have to be dedicated, have to have a strong work ethic. Everyone will hold [the staff] accountable to make sure customers are taken care of. It’s not a forty-hour a week type of operation. It’s more than that,” says Johnson.

He says Haldeman Homme’s ownership structure and employee focus appeals to millennials. “We’ve done very well hiring young people and keeping them engaged. When you look at the mentality of a one-hundred-percent employee-owned company, there’s really no benefit to anybody who’s going to stay two years. The benefit comes after twenty to thirty years. So, we do a lot of training, and we invest in employee development. We started a leadership development program this year that we call our Ascent Academy,” states Johnson. Most Ascent Academy leadership training is conducted at company headquarters.

Workers can also apply for scholarship money from the Homme Education Foundation. The foundation was started in 1998 by Jack Homme and his wife, Dorothy. The two established a fund that subsidizes post-secondary education for the children and grandchildren of company staff.

Clearly, workers appreciate these measures and Haldeman Homme’s employee-centric approach. Their devotion is exemplified by the fact Haldeman Homme was recently named one of the nation’s ‘Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in 2017.’ The Best and Brightest awards are organized by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR).

“What’s cool about [the award is that] the results are based on employee surveys,” states Johnson. “They conduct interviews; they call our employees and ask what it’s like to work at Haldeman Homme.”

Haldeman Homme has worked on several remarkable projects. “We just finished up a fun project. We were one of the primary contractors on the new University of Minnesota Athletes Village. This is a comprehensive athletic training and educational facility on the University of Minnesota campus. We helped with the flooring in the workout areas; we helped with seating; we helped with athletic equipment in both their basketball and volleyball training facilities and their brand new football training facility,” says Johnson.

This project has attracted some renowned athletes; the Philadelphia Eagles used the indoor football training facility to warm up for the February 2018 Super Bowl which was held in Minneapolis.

“One of the projects we just finished in 2017 was at Colorado State University. Simultaneously, they built a new chemistry building and a new biology building. The two projects were independent, but for us, they were co-joined: same contractor, same architect. The end results were fantastic,” states Johnson.

Haldeman Homme belongs to some industry trade organizations such as the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA). Johnson also chairs an SEFA committee that is looking into recommended practices.

The company likes to maintain long-term relationships. “We’ve stuck with the same supply partners for many, many years. What we look for is a partner. With the amount of money we invest in serving our customers and training our people and covering the territory we cover, it has to be more than just a phone/email relationship. With a lot of our supply partners, we have quarterly business meetings. We look at their financials; they look at ours. We review their strategic plan; they review ours. It’s really a partnership,” states Johnson.

“One of our unique factors is that we don’t limit ourselves to one manufacturer or solution … [we’ll provide] a solution that fits your budget, your needs and your vision,” adds Marketing Manager Danette Childs.

Haldeman Homme has a website, a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and attends trade shows such as the American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) conference. “The most effective way for us to promote our business is by exceeding our customers’ expectations. Word-of-mouth and peer-to-peer communication in any space we serve is probably our most effective and useful promotional tool. I calculate that ninety-two percent of our business is based on repeat customers,” says Johnson.

The company aims to brand itself as a “total facility solution. We want people to know they can come to us for any vision, and we will work to find the right solution, even if that’s just supplying a few cabinets or a full turnkey facility,” adds Childs.

Johnson has a very optimistic view of the future. “We see the company on a pretty strong, consistent growth trajectory,” over the next five years, he states. “[We want to continue] serving customers well, making sure they’re coming back. Our business is growing in a very efficient, productive manner, with a lot of focus on training, communication and holding people accountable.”