Contractor at Work
By Treena Hein
Hodgman Drainage knows the importance of a solid plan.
By Treena Hein
There are few business stories out there where the importance of solid planning is as evident as it is in the story of Hodgman Drainage of Claremont, Minn. Wise plans and careful management by members of this family-owned business have allowed the company – even during very difficult times – to maintain its position and prosper.
Hodgman Drainage Company was established in 1982 by Don Hodgman with the help of his son Scott. Shortly after, Don’s other son Dan joined the operation. In 1994, the company was incorporated, which changed the ownership structure to include Scott and Dan as owners. By 2003, Don was ready to retire from the business and Scott and Dan continued day-to-day operations. Throughout the past 30 years, the company has grown and changed not only in size of workforce, which averages about 30 employees year-round, but also in areas of expertise.
“Initially the focus of operations revolved around farm drainage, but has since grown to encompass earthmoving, site preparations, aggregates and municipal sewer and water projects,” notes Dan. “Farm drainage, however, remains the main focus.” The first tile machine the Hodgmans used was a seven-foot Zor plow mounted on a Steiger Tiger four-wheel drive tractor. “We then went to mounting Zor plows on D-8 Caterpillar crawlers,” Dan remembers. “Since 2002, we’ve used self-contained drainage plows made by Interdrain and Bron.” The self-contained plows they now employ incorporate the use of GPS technology, which Dan says allows for precise, accurate and efficient grade control of tile installation. “The yield monitors for crops that farmers use today also guide us in identifying issues and pinpointing trouble areas on farms,” he says. “All this improved technology enables us to design drainage systems to custom fit each farmer’s needs and provide specific mapping for future reference.”
In 2003, as Don retired, Scott and Dan began the buyout process of Don’s stocks. With the death of Scott Hodgman in November 2012 in a tragic automobile accident, another buyout process began, which will result in Dan becoming the sole owner of the corporation.
“Fortunately, through the wise direction of our consultants [at a company formerly called AgStar and now called Lookout Ridge], a buy-sell agreement was put in place in 2003,” notes Dan. “At the time, we had no thoughts of actually having to exercise the agreement, but it has provided a fortunate road map for the future of this company in a time of sorrow.”
Through the transition, the company is accessing help from a circle of knowledgeable experts in the areas of insurance (RJF, a Marsh & McLennan agency), business consulting (GROW, the family business advisors), financial consulting (Lookout Ridge and CliftonLarsonAllen), and a variety of legal experts.
The agreement is a plan for moving forward that has allowed the firm to maintain stability and allowed all involved to have certainty that the company would survive. “This has been very important for our customers and our employees,” Dan says. “Though Scott’s role in the company can never be duplicated, our employees have instinctively stepped up to fill the gap left by Scott’s death. We cannot be more proud or pleased with our people, several of whom have been here with us for 15 years or more.”
Dan considers each employee a critical component to the company, each one making their own unique contribution to the big picture. To reach the goals of quality jobs and satisfied customers, everyone fulfills their roles and works together.
Several family members are employed at HDC, including a cousin, three nephews, one niece, one of Dan’s sons, and Dan’s wife, Lori. “The dynamics of family businesses can be challenging but also extremely rewarding, because we are in this together and we succeed or fail together,” Dan says. “The non-family employees of HDC are equally as important, and we could not have the success we’ve experienced without our quality, committed people. Having been in business for more than 30 years, we’ve experienced great technological changes, regulatory and other changes, yet thankfully several of our employees, family and non-family, have made a good share of the journey with us.”
Dan notes that during the time since Scott’s death, the employees have not wavered in their commitment to Hodgman Drainage and its future success. “For that, we are truly grateful,” he says, “and we are anxious and excited to turn the page in the history of Hodgman Drainage towards new opportunities and growth.”
Hodgman Drainage is now looking forward to the delivery of two 2013 Interdrain 2050 GP self-contained tile plows, which were purchased through Northland Trenching in Waseca, Minn. “We’re making this purchase because we need to stay current with new technology and equipment in our industry,” says Dan. “We chose Northland Trenching because they are well known for great customer service. We’ve had excellent experiences with them and with Interdrain as well.” With the purchase of these plows, the company’s team will accomplish faster, more efficient installation, better accuracy of installation, and better dependability in keeping up with demands for pattern tiling to improve cropland and increase yields.
“As we move forward, Hodgman Drainage will continue to be innovative and employ cutting-edge technology in all our operational areas,” says Dan. “To be competitive, you have to stay current and that’s what we strive for in order to bring value to our customers and to provide opportunities for our employees.”
Along with staying current in technology and education, the company will also be breaking ground sometime this year for a new shop and office complex between Claremont and Dodge Center, Minn. “Our plans are to build a 110-foot by 160-foot shop with additional space for an office,” Dan notes. “This plan was in the works prior to the automobile accident and it will move forward to allow for a better working environment for our employees and customers.
“We are committed to growing the business and capturing new opportunities,” Dan adds. “With this additional, updated space, we hope to meet the challenges ahead and find continuing success in the world of agriculture.”
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