When he was just starting his career, Pan American Properties President Rick Hoegler didn’t initially set out to join the family business. His father, Richard, had built a successful property management firm, but Rick wanted to pursue his own entrepreneurial path. We sat down with Rick to learn about how he came to walk in his father’s footsteps and how that has shaped his business philosophy.
Following the winds of change
“It all started with Hurricane Andrew,” Rick says. When the superstorm decimated the southern Florida coastline in 1992, Rick was working as an insurance agent at State Farm. The storm created havoc within the insurance industry. State Farm, faced with massive losses, placed a moratorium on sales. Overnight, Rick found himself with nothing to sell.
At the time, Rick was pursuing a business degree at California State University, Fullerton. An aspiring entrepreneur, Rick saw the writing on the wall: it was time to find another opportunity.
Why not property management?
He sought out a job with his father’s Tustin-based property management firm. Believing that real estate owners and investors needed more from their management firms than mere paper pushers, Richard was carving a niche for himself by fostering a more personalized approach to clients, offering them a range of services and professional advisors.
As Rick says, “People fall into this business. Young people don’t aspire to be a property manager when they’re looking at different careers.”
His father was more than happy to bring his son into the business. “He said, ‘I never wanted to force you,’” Rick recalls. “But family businesses are tough. And being the boss’s son can go one of two ways: you are either treated with kid gloves, or you have to work twice as hard to meet people’s expectations.”
Richard had no intention of letting Rick off easy, and Rick welcomed the challenge. He took a job as assistant to the bookkeeper and soon became office manager, switching his schedule so he could go to school at night and work during the day. He immediately bonded with Richard’s partner, the company’s Director of Property Management—they shared an entrepreneurial spirit and were both technologically savvy. But then his new mentor suddenly announced he was leaving the company.
Taking the opportunity as it came
At the time Pan American was managing 19 properties. Rick’s father turned to him and asked, “Want to give it a go?”
Rick was ready. He pursued his broker’s license and got his Certified Property Manager (CPM) designation. And he never stopped building on his father’s commitment to service first and a results-driven philosophy. Three years ago he bought the company from his father. Today, Pan American manages 130 properties, has a booming in-house maintenance and renovations business, and offers everything from accounting services to due diligence reporting and investment advice.
Rick is proud of what he’s done, but most of all he’s proud of his father’s reaction to the company’s growth. “He still comes to the office every day, and he can’t believe how far we’ve been able to take the business,” Rick says.
Growing in a changing industry
When asked how the industry has evolved in the last two-plus decades, Rick says without hesitation that technology has changed everything. “When I started in this business we had pagers. You had to find a pay phone to find out what the emergency was.” He remembers when his father got his first car phone. “It was expensive and never worked.”
Today people are connected all the time. Clients can check the status of their properties on the company’s website, day or night. “Our clients send us emails late at night about tenants moving out and asking what we are going to do about it,” Rick says. “Transparency is inescapable.”
The nature of the industry has also changed. Legal rules abound, and Fair Housing compliance creates layers of process. Add to that the financial and technological sophistication of the industry and Rick can’t imagine managing properties without dedicated professionals. By building a talented, largely female-driven, diversified staff, Rick has positioned Pan American to be highly responsive to its clients’ needs.
“Good enough is not going to cut it here.”
Ultimately, success is up to the numbers. “I’m not a numbers guy by design,” he says. “I’ve had to up my game to look at things through a numerical lens.” Knowing his limitations, he’s surrounded himself with a team with deep experience on the numbers side.
Despite the focus on concrete metrics, Rick says, “property management is a social industry. Talking through problems is more common than looking at the numbers for answers.” To find the right people, Rick has learned to seek out personalities who have a strong affinity with numbers.
“To make ourselves better we are being more and more transparent. It serves a dual purpose: it gives the owner what they want and drives internal improvement. We do a lot of great mentoring here and we want people to succeed, because good enough is not going to cut it here.” Pan American does its due diligence, offering weekly clients customized reports. “Our clients want action, to know the task has been completed, and when we say something is done, it’s ‘done done’—thoroughly reviewed, thoroughly vetted. Professional investors want and expect that.”
His family is his passion
At the end of the day, besides professional satisfaction, Rick also gets what he wants: personal freedom and fulfillment. Rick has had a charitable instinct since he was very young. “My school created something called the Christian Spirit Award to recognize the work I was doing as a kid,” Rick says. He continues to help others today. He currently chairs the board of the private school he attended as a child and has helped it navigate an uncertain future to the thriving school it is today. “It stayed open during Covid in a lawful, ethical way, and has been a huge blessing for the families and children,” he says. “It’s all about integrity, morals and ethics.”
His job has enabled him to be there for his own family. “It has given me freedom to be a husband and a dad. It lets me do things like attending my son’s football games at three in the afternoon.
“My work has given me a lot of blessings,” Rick says. He’s looking forward to seeing how far the business can go.