He Makes the Most of a Second Chance
By John Van Horn
When you get a second chance, you had better make the most of it. That credo could best explain the success of Tim Haahs, guiding spirit behind his parking consulting, engineering, design and restoration company, Timothy Haahs and Associates.
Haahs was one of the youngest principals at Walker Parking Consultants when he was promoted to that position in its Philadelphia office when he was 30 years old. He was definitely on the move in the industry. Then tragedy struck -- he had a heart attack at 31 and spent a year waiting for a heart transplant.
"The operation was a success," he smiles, " but all that time in the hospital and recovering gave me an opportunity to reflect on a number of things. First, of course, is the fact that saving my life meant there had to have been a tragedy in another's. Second, my faith had to be renewed. Just how important was the work I was doing."
He looked at his father, a minister, and began to throw himself into community work. "I helped set up a soup kitchen and ran the fundraising choir. This time also allowed me to get a sense of the best way to set up and run a company. I had to focus on the people, both as employees and customers."
After a decade, Haahs' company has 35 employees and two offices, one in the Philly suburb of Blue Bell, PA, and the other in Miami.
The philosophy he developed helped build that success - he now enjoys a leadership role in the Delaware Valley and Southern New Jersey, with more than 70 percent of the projects coming his way. But how does it work?
"First of all," Haahs says, "we have to be on time. If you are always late, then there is tremendous frustration not only with customers, but also with your staff. And a frustrated staff can't do their best work. We have three goals here: First, go the extra mile; second, return all calls the same day; and third, keep the client informed. Information is the most important single item in any project.
"In dealing with any project, you must know who all the players are. Not just the owner, or your direct customer, who may be the GC. We have to meet with the actual users of the facility. We must satisfy them, as well as the owner, and other stakeholders in the project. We spend a lot of time interviewing all of those involved. I believe that you must be able to encompass the entire project. We are architects and engineers. We handle the entire project and, as a policy, work only on projects where we can use all the functions in our company.
"My management style is based on the passion that an employee has in their heart. We have had virtually no turnover in a decade. I hire a passionate person. Sometimes they are hired for a position that doesn't fit their passion. Since we are multi-disciplined, we can move them into something that more fits what they want to do. There is nothing worse in a company than a square peg in a round hole.
"Growth is important," says Haahs, "but it must be done with wisdom. We needed some help in that area and I reached out to one of the wisest people in the parking industry, and truly an industry founder, Carl Walker. He sits on our board and advises us on how to grow so we don't over-reach our capabilities. Carl has been a tremendous asset to our company."
Haahs opened a new office last year in South Florida. "The market is simply exploding. We needed to spread our wings, and this seemed like a good fit for us. We were able to hire Romey Valera, who is also well-known in the parking industry through his work with the IPI and the Miami Parking Authority. It is working very well. Other areas? Let's take one step at a time."
Tim Haahs certainly got his second chance. He was able to take time to reflect, and then use the philosophy to attract both good employees and customers.
"All our growth has been by referral," he says.
And this seems to be for good reason.
Article Abstract from September, 2005