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Home | SAN ANTONIO | Spotlight | Spotlight - M. Ashley Hohmann, Managing Member

Spotlight - M. Ashley Hohmann, Managing Member

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SAN ANTONIO - Having founded Hohmann Development Services (HDS) in 2002, M. Ashley Hohmann has been running his own company for 15 years now.

    With substantial growth in the past four to five years, they have taken on more large type projects and added counter sales for stock toilet partitions and hardware to the business. These additions have allowed HDS to expand the number of general contractors and end users it services. Hohmann notes that he is trying to grow the business gradually, and they incorporated last year.
    Having lived in San Antonio all of his life with a special fondness for the Texas Hill Country, Hohmann is now 52 years old, and recently took some time to tell us a little bit about how he came into the industry and the people who have influenced his path along the way.

Where did you grow up?
    I grew up in San Antonio but was I was born in Fredericksburg, TX.  Growing up, we spent all weekends there at the family ranch. Raising cattle and hunting were a big thing with us.  For some time, we built fence to divide up the property between all the aunts and uncles. It took several years in the granite countryside. There was always something to do – repairing fence, cutting trees, building stock tanks, and of course, catching perch from the small creek.

What was your introduction to the construction industry?
    My dad was into construction his whole life. He moved from Fredericksburg to San Antonio to become a union carpenter and start work with my uncle Buck DeHart and Harvey Hancock of HH Hancock Construction building a lot of the buildings at Southwest Research Institute. So, as a kid, I spent a lot of time there seeing all the different aspects of construction and picking up Coke bottles around the site to sell them.
    Later, when I was in middle school, he had a project building an aluminum plant in Dallas. He introduced me to a hammer and an endless supply of lumber to pull nails and stack.  We worked helping build forms and trenches for the pouring of concrete.   
    Soon after that, he started working for Ed Flume Building Specialties, which was a building specialties company like ours is now, as head of construction and installations. As high school began in approximately 1979, I started spending summers working there doing odd jobs and starting to learn the installation trade. I eventually went full-time just out of high school and worked there for over 22 years.
   
So your dad was able to train you in this business?
    Yes, we would work side by side to review site conditions, layout and start installation projects, trouble shoot ser-vice calls, and he showed me a lot of mechanics of the installation, how to work with and use the proper tools, and metal working until he left around 1986. I did learn a lot from him.  Although I may not recommend my son work for his dad, I wouldn’t give away that type knowledge for the world.
    I didn’t appreciate it when it was being handed to me, but he taught me the dos and don’ts of construction and how to work and work hard.
    As a specialties company, we did small jobs and some larger projects.  I was soon in charge of running projects in the field whether it was coiling overhead doors, operable partitions, or large skylight systems.
    I then moved up into project management, estimating, head of safety and starting a service section for the company. Then, while still doing these tasks, I became vice president of architectural sales for San Antonio and Austin helping architects write specifications and promote some of our proprietary products.
    I also mentored, for many years, under Edward Flume.  His business decisions and financial knowledge helped form my understanding of what it takes in this business.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
    Our current work schedule does not allow for too much spare time. We are trying to allow for steady controlled growth. But, I do enjoy stealing away to the Hill Country Highland Lakes area for some boating, fishing, and relaxing outside along with a little golf or tennis.

Tell me about your family.
    My wife, Michaelle, of close to 29 years now, is very influential in my life.  She has helped me through the good and the not so good times. Today, she runs her own histology laboratory and finds time to help with the daily operations of the company behind the scenes. I couldn’t replace her. She’s very important to me and to what we are doing here.
    Our companies share office space as two separate entities. So, in her spare time, she helps me. She assists our company with the administrative tasks, accounting, and even with some estimating items. We work well together.
    We have two grown kids. One of them works for her. We have one grandson. He’s 14, and he’s doing great. We like to spend a lot of time with him. We like to go fish together and also play a lot of tennis together. Other than that, he likes to beat me at Ping Pong [laughs].

What has been the most challenging part of your career?
    I guess the most challenging was deciding to start [Hohmann Development Services] in the first place. I was always apprehensive about starting my own business – there seemed to be so many obstacles to overcome. It was never a goal or a dream to get the business underway. And when we did, it was a slow and methodical pace that allowed us to make good on the promises we made to our customers.
    When we started the company, we took on jobs as they presented them-selves one piece at a time. Initially, I set out to do site work and concrete that went along with pre-engineered metal buildings we helped design and erect. Since then, we’ve gravitated back to our specialty background in the more finished aspect of construction.  As we grow, we still go out of our way to make good on those same promises.

You mentioned going back to school. What was involved in that?
    I did not start college until later in life and working in the field for 10 years. In 1992, I started night school at San Antonio College with no specific direction except to finish. It took so long that my home-building degree program changed many times. I moved on to finish at UTSA in construction management.
    Ed Flume Building Specialties was influential in my school endeavors. They allowed me to flex my schedule and sometimes take day classes as needed while I was putting in 40 to 60 hours a week at work.   
    I blame my sister for keeping me in school [laughs]. She said, “Keep going; you will see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Did you see that light after you earned your degree?
    Yes, I did, because I had already quit my job, started the business, needed to finish school, and did not have much direction. At that point, I was a little unclear on my direction, but had plenty of light. 

What did your mom do?
    She taught kindergarten and worked at the church, and then she worked at Alamo Heights National Bank until she passed in 1980. She was a great woman and a good inspiration for me. She taught me a lot of core values and common sense.
    A big motivation for me is that I knew she would want me to get my education. That’s why I went back to school. 

Have you been a part of any local or community organizations?
    At one point, I was vice president of the Construction Management Associ-ation of South Texas for a couple of years. While doing this and going to school, I helped UTSA start set up a student chapter of the Construction Management Association.
    I am part of a homeowners architec-tural committee to evaluate and approve residential improvements in our neighborhood.
    We also do a lot of work with the Discalced Carmelite Monastery here in San Antonio, off of Culebra Road by Southwest Research. They have a large property and buildings that require extra maintenance or at least some attention. We like to spend time out there, helping with landscaping, limb cutting, running the tractor, or changing light bulbs.
    We still do that to this day. I will have our crews go out there when they need something. We also provide our services with small construction projects out there every once in a while. This week, we sent guys out there for two or three days to clean up the courtyards and power-wash the area.
    They know we have a special ladder that can get way up in the Chapel to change the bulbs. We have got a great relationship – we love what we are doing out there; they trust us to do it.

Do you have any personal goals that you’re working toward or would like to accomplish in the future?
    I want to try to make sure I can maintain and/or grow the company in a way that benefits the ones that help make this happen. My goal is to make sure we can take care of all the families that are counting on us because we for sure count on them.

What do you enjoy about your work?
    I think coming up with answers for customers, doing research for a project, and trying to find a solution for a problem with a certain product is an essential part of making this enjoyable. I think I’m lucky to be afforded a set of tools to use to help solve these construction-related pro-blems and run the company as well.
    My wife is the biggest part of my life and we are able to share that at work – that helps make this more enjoyable.
    Although I do not plan on retiring any time soon, it is enjoyable to know that we have built something to pass on.

How did you meet your wife?
    Her friend was sponsoring our church league basketball team. We were playing at the Jewish Community Center, and she was in the stands watching and I was riding the pine. It was more of a blind date kind of thing when we finally got set up, but we met on the basketball court.

Have you played many sports?
    I played baseball for eight years with little league and continued into high school. After that, I enjoyed playing basketball in city and church leagues. 
    Now, I love playing bad golf when time permits and tennis with my grandson. –mh


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Mary Hazlett mary@constructionnews.net