Hogan Design & Construction: Surpassing Customer Expectations

This luxury remodeling and construction company sets itself apart from competitors by succeeding where others don’t. For this business owner, it’s all about communication and follow-through.

If Brian Hogan were to write a book about his 20 years in business, it would probably only be one page, and that page would simply say two things: “‘Call People Back’ and ‘Follow-Through,’” he says. “Because nobody ever seems to call you back. I’ve never understood it.”

The owner of Hogan Design & Construction (HDC) started his career in the industry in 1997, officially founding HDC in 2000. Since then, HDC has become one of the most sought-after luxury remodeling and home construction companies in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

“I started buying, flipping and selling houses in ’97, and every time I’d do it I’d have to start over with new subcontractors and different people from different areas, and it was just awful getting people to call back. Sometimes it was hard even getting people to show up,” Hogan recalls. “So, I thought if I started a small construction company, I’d have a little bit more control. And that’s what motivated me to look into doing this.”

Today, Hogan Design & Construction, at 21 N. Sixth St., Geneva, is a growing team of industry pros with designers, project managers, carpenters and support staff, all committed to exceeding expectations and going “Beyond Building” when it comes to customer remodeling and new construction projects.

But in the beginning, Hogan and his business partner did all of the work themselves.

“It was a handyman kind of deal,” Hogan describes. “We would do decks, patios, some light kitchen remodeling and painting, and probably around 2002 is when we did our first basement remodel.”

That first basement proved to be a turning point. Hogan discovered that basement remodels were a more systematic process than other projects, with fewer structural issues or other tricky complications. He could start and finish a basement in about six to eight weeks, and costs were easy to control.

So, he focused the bulk of his marketing efforts on basement remodels by passing out flyers door to door.
“Within about three years, we were doing between 50 and 70 basements a year,” he recalls.

In 2006, Hogan and his business partner separated, and Hogan Design & Construction became more focused on commercial work in addition to residential projects. Around 2010, the company joined a support organization called Remodelers Advantage, which Hogan describes as the overall biggest turning point in the company’s history.

“They help construction companies with the business end of things,” he explains. “After we joined them, little by little, we started getting better project management training, better production managers, better marketing and websites – pretty much better everything. We learned how to run a business rather than try to figure it out as we went.”

With more support, Hogan began to take on new construction projects, which involves designing and developing everything from the ground up.

“At first, we decided to only do that for existing customers because we wanted to be sure that we knew who we were working with, since new construction takes a long time,” Hogan says. “Since then, we’ve taken on some development projects – townhouses and little neighborhoods – and those projects were bigger turning points for us.”

The past decade has also been busy with larger commercial projects, including construction on many restaurants and shops in downtown Geneva. “That made us a lot more visible in the community,” Hogan says.

For every project, Hogan’s goal is to build a strong relationship with the customer and surpass their expectations. He realizes he’s selling customers an experience, and not just an end product.

“Every construction company should be able to produce at the same level, if you’ve been doing it long enough and you’re good enough,” Hogan explains. “But the experience is what sets us apart. We’re very, very systemized.”

Hogan Design & Construction uses an internet-based project management software, which allows customers to know exactly what’s going on at all times. By logging in to their account, customers can see all files, contracts, photographs, plans and permits, plus a real-time schedule with daily progress updates.

All communication is also documented through the software.

“There’s never an ‘Oh, I thought we talked about this’ type of moment,” Hogan says. “It’s all very clear. If there’s a conversation that occurs offline, the project managers will transcribe the conversation and send it through the software so there’s a record of what took place, all the time. And customers always know the cost of the project so there are no surprises, ever, on what the final dollar amount is. We couldn’t do what we do as well as we do without it.”

A desire for superior communication is what drove Hogan to start his own company in the first place. So, in addition to the successful implementation of this communication software, Hogan is also particularly proud of the fact that he and his team are easy to contact.

“One of our claims to fame is that once we’re hired, we have a one-hour return call or text,” he says. “So, that’s the longest you’re going to wait for a response from one of us.”

In order to maintain such high communication standards, Hogan has to rely on the members of his team to do their part. Maintaining an employee-centered company culture is imperative.

“In order for the company to be successful, everyone has to have their eye on the same target,” Hogan says. “So, we have a tremendous amount of team-building activities, and everybody who works here receives a lot of benefits with insurance, paid vacation days, cellphone coverage and vehicle coverage. It’s important to have your employees focused on the same thing. We’re trying to get better all the time, and we can’t do that unless they’re taken care of and everybody’s on board.”

Like most businesses, Hogan’s biggest challenges right now are concerned with supply chain. Appliances such as refrigerators may take six to seven months to come in, and lead times for cabinets are about 16 to 18 weeks, not counting the four to six weeks for the installation process.

But, despite these delays that are outside of Hogan’s control, he’s finding people are ready and willing to remodel their homes.

“We’re giving people temporary refrigerators and things like that to make it work, so people can move in,” Hogan says. “But we’ve been very busy and very fortunate, since everyone wants their house exactly how they want it now. There’s less concern about return on investment and more concern about quality of life. If you’re stuck at home, you want your home exactly how you want it to be.”

Hogan advises entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners to set specific goals and concrete steps to achieve those goals.

“I think people are generally like, ‘I want to do more! I want to make more money! I want to make the company bigger!’ But those are all pretty random, unfocused goals,” Hogan says. “If you know you want to have a company with X amount of people, with this much revenue, and this many customers, you will be a lot more focused. I’m a big believer in one-year, three-year and five-year plans. Focus and vision are so important.”