Michael Hess discusses culture and the importance of putting employees first

In a recent interview with Alex Orfinger of the Washington Business Journal, Michael Hess, Executive Vice President of HESS Construction, discussed the firm’s leadership transition, culture and values, and goals for 2022.

Over the past several years, HESS has gradually transitioned leadership from Andrew Hess to Mike Hess. For over 43 years, HESS was led by Andrew Hess, Mike’s father and the founder of HESS Construction.  Mike began interning at the family firm while still in high school and joined the company after graduating college. He worked his way up, managing projects and forging relationships with clients and HESS employees.

 “In the past years the leadership has shifted from my father, Andy, to myself. I grew up, working at HESS during all breaks throughout high school and college. So, it was an organic transition, that really maintains the family ownership and the family values.”

To summarize and reflect on the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mike praised his associates for how they “rolled with the punches” in both their personal and professional lives during this time.

 “It’s no surprise that 2021 was a tough year, not only on the business front, but on the personal front as well. I think our associates did a fantastic job managing the wrenches that were thrown into their personal lives on top of any wrenches thrown on their professional lives. I have two young kids myself; I understand that the hardships that came with the past year. And ultimately, if I had to pick one thing to be most proud of it would be the way that the HESS associates really rolled with the punches.”

A family-centric culture has defined HESS’ corporate culture since the beginning. HESS places a lot of importance on employee retention and has impressive tenures to show for it.  The firm’s average tenure for project managers is 17 years, and 18 years for superintendents. Mike made a point in his recent year-end reviews to speak candidly with associates inquiring about what has inspired them to stay with HESS and what sets HESS apart.

“In asking those individuals: what is it that really drives HESS home to you guys? The underlying tone is really culture. We’re a family-owned firm. I think the family values really resonate throughout the company in more ways than one and I think it speaks volumes that right now in our industry, we are all competing for a small talent pool. And to have the tenure-ship that HESS has, speaks volumes of the culture. I think it sets us apart from the competition.”

Job security is not always guaranteed for construction workers. They work on projects that span several years and unless their firm has lined up work back-to-back, employees can often feel apprehension about what the future holds after their project ends. As part of the culture discussed above and the importance of employee retention, HESS offers its employees job security.

“In 43 years of business, we’ve never laid anybody off for lack of work. I think the associates out in the field really appreciate that and it puts their minds at ease.”

Looking forward to 2022, Mike plans to continue his transition into leadership, dive into the mixed-use market, and strengthen subcontractor relationships.

“We’ve built over 450 educational facilities in this area in the past 43 years. We just broke ground on a mixed-use retail building in Bethesda, Maryland. It’s very exciting.”

Mike ends the interview recognizing that subcontractors are the “lifeblood” in the construction industry and how he plans to make them a top priority in 2022.

“One of the most important focuses for 2022 is really strengthening subcontractor relationships. In our industry, subcontractors are a lifeblood. We’re successful when they’re successful. And unfortunately, during COVID, we really weren’t able to reach out as much, hold these in-person meetings. So now that we’re slowly, hopefully, coming out of the COVID cloud, it gives us the opportunity to have more in-person meetings, whether it be subcontractor appreciation events, post-project feedback:  what did we do wrong, what could we work on, what did we do right? So, in 2022 a huge focus of ours is strengthening our subcontractor relationships.”

Full video interview: https://www.bizjournals.com/washington/news/2022/01/21/executive-insights-mike-hess-executive-vice.html

HESS helps relocate a tree planted by MCPS students

Wednesday, October 27, 2021 – HESS assisted Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) with relocating a 15-year-old tree planted by two former Tilden Middle School students.

In June 2006, two Tilden Middle School students, Andy Miller and Matt Bernstein, with support from their teacher Hope Schmidt, planted trees from Shag Bark Hickory nuts in the fields behind the school. The nuts sprouted, the trees grew, and the surrounding community was able to witness the trees grow taller and taller. Since then, Tilden Middle School has been relocated from Old Georgetown Road to a new location on Tilden Lane, and the Old Georgetown Road location will soon see the return and reopening of Charles W. Woodward High School.

The Tilden seedlings, planted by Andy and Matt, came from a 150-year-old tree that grew from nuts brought over from Germany in 1850 by a family that settled in Chevy Chase, Maryland. When the community shared their desire to preserve this history by relocating a tree planted by two former students to the new Tilden Middle School, the HESS Team worked with MCPS and the community to develop a plan to carefully remove the tree from the former Tilden Middle School field, transport and replant it behind the new Tilden Middle School/Rock Terrace School.

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Huguenot High School

Huguenot High School Featured in Education Snapshots

Huguenot High School

Moseley Architects was tasked to design the new state-of-the-art Huguenot High School to better serve students in Richmond, Virginia.

Huguenot High School replaced the existing high school, which had been in operation for almost 50 years. Constructed on the same site, the 253,821-square-foot facility serves 1,400 students and includes academic, athletic, and community-use functions. It houses a 3,800-square-foot health clinic for the community, which features two classrooms for adult education and a parent resource center for functions like job searches.

Classrooms are designed to serve a variety of uses and feature smart boards and cord-reels, which provide a retractable power source to transition between a teacher-led instructional space. Casework extends the learning environment and provides access to sinks and storage for STEM classes.

Huguenot High School

Additional multi-use rooms provide access for entire classes to learn specific programs together as well as small-group development programming. Large storage rooms provide a safe environment for student work to be housed until the next brainstorming session. Many of these spaces feature an abundance of glass to support supervision and foster collaboration, which includes the forum that provides space for student testing, school board meetings, community events, and collaborative meetings. The natural palate in the forum also features wood paneling, exposed brick, and natural light pouring in from multiple angles.

Huguenot High School

A two-story media center is designed to take advantage of exterior views and encourage student participation from both floors. By reducing the volume of books needed, the center is less traditional and offers a welcoming environment for down time and collaboration. Low shelves with solid maple tops provide space for student work to be exhibited and viewed from a distance.

The design features materials, textures, and colors that foster a secondary education. Display cabinets at the main entrance and throughout the building showcase student work. Paint, floor tiles, furniture, and other interior elements are inspired by colors found in the outdoor environment. Natural light brightens and warms interior spaces. A yellow accent handrail was utilized at all stairs to provide a pop of color and sense of wayfinding throughout the space.

Huguenot High School Auditorium

The school is strategically placed on the site so that the dining hall overlooks the 50-yard line, which offers an incredible view and brightens the space. The dining tables easily fold to be rolled out of the way. The tall ceilings and length of the space can accommodate ROTC drills, cheerleading practice, basketball scrimmages, and even transform into Friday night box-seats for the homecoming football game.

Huguenot High School

The blue panels on the exterior walls in the courtyard enhance the visual appeal of the shell. The softer blue line separates the finished floor and ceiling line making the facility’s multiple stories distinguishable.

This project is LEED Gold certified with the U.S. Green Building Council and offers a vegetated green roof for socializing and learning.

Source: https://educationsnapshots.com/projects/15264/huguenot-high-school/ 

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