Face Time February

Posted on Feb 1, 2011 :: Face Time
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo by Glen Hartje of Image Studios

As the fourth generation owner and president of Hoffman LLC, a planning, architecture and construction management firm based in Appleton, Paul Hoffman leads with a clear mission involving sustainable solutions. Hoffman sat down with Insight Editor Margaret LeBrun to talk about how prioritizing the many activities he’s been involved in has been a challenge – until he recognized and was treated for attention deficit disorder

At Hoffman, we take great pains to focus on the business solution and how what we’re going to do is going to improve the organization. We spend a lot of time in the planning and feasibility of a project, and creating the sound business rationale for why and how it will make your company better.

Our company’s mission is, “We make a positive impact on people’s lives and their environment by providing creative ideas and responsible solutions.” In those 18 words, there’s nothing that says anything about design and construction, but in a way, it says everything about it.

The building we built on Cty. Hwy. CB (in 1999) was our learning lab for sustainability. We had 50 percent fewer sick days there than in the building that we came from. It really was just a very positive, productive work environment. In 2006, Kimberly Clark came to us and said, “We have an idea for a design and innovation center and we want to be in your building.” So we started looking at designing a new building – but it didn’t really meet the business solution test.

With John Pfefferle, I had been involved in redoing the City Center block and there was space available. In February 2007, I took everybody down there and we walked into this big empty first floor of what was Gimbles-Younkers-Herberger’s, and it looked like downtown Beirut. I said, “This is going to be our new office.” I thought people were going to cough up a fur ball. They said, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” And I said, “No, we are going to make this the most sustainable office we can possibly create.” And now you couldn’t drag people out of the office – they love being downtown.

My great-grandfather started the company in 1892 with his brother. After my dad retired, I took his place.

In college, I took classes based on the best teachers. I studied psychology, religion, English and theater. I majored in psychology because it was the major that I didn’t have to write a thesis for.
The primary motivators for me at 23 were fear and ignorance. I’d call my dad and say, “I have a question,” and I’d ask him and he’d say, “Learn!” and hang up the phone. And it really upset me at the time. Later on in his life I asked him, “Why did you do that?” He said “Because if I would’ve given you the answer, you wouldn’t have learned.”

Attention deficit disorder can manifest itself in four or five different ways and I probably had all five of them. About five years ago, I recognized that because of the number of activities, businesses and opportunities that I was involved in, it was very difficult to focus and do everything well. At one point in time, I was on 14 boards but I also did speaking around the country for 30 to 40 days a year. I was volunteering for the Associated General Contractors, I was one of the partners in Pfefferle Management, I had the development company with Hoffman and I managed all these real estate partnerships plus nonprofit work. It got to a point where you kind of say, “What’s the point?”

I sought professional help and was diagnosed with ADD. I got on medication and finally had the ability to prioritize the things I felt were important to keep in my life. So now it’s far more manageable.

Having the courage to delegate is important. Sometimes people think delegation is a form of weakness. I think it’s a form of strength. It helps other people grow in their ability to take additional responsibility and to demonstrate leadership.

What I do now is when people come into my office and have a question, I say, “Let’s play Jeopardy. You give me the answer and let me guess the question.” Nine times out of 10, people have the answer.

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →