The Measure of Success
Mark Haug Construction redefines the GC status quo with a family touch
Every top general contractor draws on sound management qualities, such as communication, coordination and a commitment to the customers, the team and the project mission. A select few push those attributes to the next level, combining a problem-solver attitude with a willingness to improve the status quo in the office and on the job.
Mark and Linda Haug drew on all of those characteristics to establish and build Mark Haug Construction Inc. (MHC), a family-owned-and-operated general contractor based in Pine City, Minnesota. As their two sons grew up and looked to join the family business, they taught them all they’d learned and challenged them to continuously improve service to customers and to care for employees, partners and the community.
It’s a lesson the boys have taken to heart as they continue to build on the carefully crafted legacy formed by their parents.
Building a Foundation
Back in 1975, Mark Haug was a carpenter by trade, a husband and a first-time father. He was commuting to the Twin Cities metro area for work, but had a desire to work closer to home. He pitched the idea of starting a construction business to his strongminded wife, Linda, and she agreed to give it a try. Mark and Linda worked the business side-by-side in the office and on the jobsite, too, primarily focusing on residential renovations.
As word spread about their skills, they expanded services to full residential construction, self-performing framing, roofing, windows and doors, while hiring subcontractors for mechanical, electrical and plumbing specialty tasks as needed.
While they worked primarily in the Pine City area, the Haugs began to grow connections and opportunities further into rural Central Minnesota. They were taking on larger, more complex jobs, such as townhomes, apartment complexes, and even developing their own residential subdivision.
Within a couple of years, they moved the operation from their home to an office and shop in town, all while building a business and raising their two sons, Troy and Todd, with the same work ethic and love for construction.
The Next Gen
After high school, Troy went to Dunwoody College of Technology, where he earned a degree in architectural drafting and project management in 1994. He went to work for the local lumberyard to get some outside experience and made connections with other local contractors. Looking to return to his family roots, Troy rejoined MHC in 2000.
The younger son, Todd, found his talent as a skilled craftsman and after graduation went to work for MHC on the job. Today, he is the company’s lead field superintendent. He knows that it’s the small details that make a difference with the final result.
In the meantime, the company continued to grow in scope and scale of projects, realizing new opportunities in commercial and office building work in the public and private sectors with higher education, military and retail clients.
While both retain partial ownership of the company, Linda retired from day-to-day operations in 2011, and Mark followed her into retirement in 2014. Today, the Haug brothers actively run the family business. Troy handles the estimating and project management side of the construction business, while Todd prefers the hands-on component of being a field superintendent.
While small in number (seven), MHC employees are extraordinarily loyal, with a majority retained for more than 10 years. Two of its superintendents, Todd Johnson and John Plasek, have been with the company for 28 years and 30 years, respectively. Troy confirms, “I’m the shortest-term guy here.”
While fair wages, company vehicles and good benefits are certainly contributors, the primary reasons for employee loyalty is the hands-on expectations and the owners’ emphasis on finding ways to make the job management more streamlined with technology and schedule/budget- tracking practices.
Because MHC self-performs framing, doors and hardware tasks, the company superintendents are all skilled craftsmen.
Troy says, “We have always had working superintendents. My dad believed that a superintendent should be a problem solver, and part of that trait is the ability to actually do the work. So our guys are out there networking with the tradespeople to make sure they have what they need. If they see something that can be taken care of ahead of time, they step in and get it done.”
For instance, about five years ago, Troy introduced the two-week look-ahead schedule to go along with the traditional milestone schedule. The two-week look-ahead schedule provides a more detailed look at tasks, which allows subcontractors to plan accordingly.
He explains, “We found that while long-term milestone scheduling is considered a best practice in the industry, our superintendents were better equipped to keep jobs on track with a more detailed report. That two-week look- ahead is circulated to subcontractors, suppliers and owners so everyone is on the same page. It allows our superintendents to focus the project team on specific tasks scheduled for that week and what’s to be done the following week.”
The real value of that short-term schedule shows when unexpected events happen, such as weather. Troy recalls one project that slid off schedule when the project site received 7 inches of rain in a few hours. The two-week look-ahead helped get everyone back on track and reschedule accordingly.
“Our success is measured by customer satisfaction because we know that the best advertising out there is a good recommendation from a pleased customer.” Troy Haug, Owner, Mark Haug Construction Inc.
In and Around the Community
For any general contractor, trade partner relationships are vital. Since its founding, MHC has made it a priority to find and develop quality relationships with subcontractors from all trades—and find ways to build even stronger bonds.
“We have some subcontractor partners that have been with us for 25 to 30 years,” Troy says. “We’re careful about who we team with in terms of quality and timeliness. Once we have someone we trust, we do our best to take care of them.”
The MHC team also emphasizes local presence on every job. Troy explains, “Construction is a community business and sometimes the build and renovation work that happens is vital to the livelihoods of the individuals in those communities. For every job, we look to source local talent.”
And that local involvement extends to community activism. The entire Haug family is active in their local Pine City community through building local establishments, working with local contractors and volunteering alongside customers, subcontractors and neighbors. On any given weekend, a Haug is likely flipping pancakes at a Lions Club event or serving beer at the county fair.
Now in its fourth decade of business, MHC’s reputation is established for completing quality construction projects on time. With its small team of employees, which includes office staff, project managers and job superintendents, the company completes commercial and residential projects from $1 million to $10 million in scope and scale.
MHC projects range from retail build-outs, storage buildings and residential structures to government buildings and big-box buildings, and in scope from $200,000 to $5 million. One of the newest projects is the $3 million North Pine Government Center building for Pine County. MHC is the construction manager on the project. “As construction manager on this project, we have been able to provide a real-world working knowledge from the conceptual design through breaking ground, and look forward to seeing the final building for years to come,” Troy says.
While the MHC team primarily focuses on the 100-mile area that includes Central Minnesota, the company has done some jobs as far away as Arizona for one of its many repeat customers.
Troy notes, “We stand behind our projects by offering additional repair or remodel services as the customer’s needs change over time, and our customers appreciate knowing they can contact us if they need additional services—even years later.”
Over the last 15 years, the company has expanded its bonding power—but as the old adage goes, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Troy explains, “We’re not taking on more jobs or more work than we can keep our arms around, and that way we can be effective. I want our talented team to be able to provide effective service.”
Building the Legacy
On every job, large or small, Troy and Todd continue to build on their parents’ legacy. One of their hard-and-fast business lessons is: Everyone else gets paid in a timely manner.
“Mom and Dad pounded that message into us from an early age,” Troy says. “And we’ve never been a company that spent more than we can swing either. They have been through multiple recessions and interest rate crises and survived. They regularly reinforce the lesson that we need to be wise with time and money and not push beyond our capacity—and to do a quality job. Our success is measured by customer satisfaction because we know that the best advertising out there is a good recommendation from a pleased customer.”
With lessons learned and reinforced, MHC is well on its way to many more decades of success with the second-generation ownership in charge.