Steve Hoogenakker "Audaces Fortuna Juvat"


The original blog I created to honor the memory of my dear friend, Mark Wirkus is being changed to a new system in May, 2010. There is no way to save it, so I’ve created a new blog that cannot be changed, so Mark’s information will be available to anyone who might want to remember Mark, Erin and Vaughn.

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I was at a volunteer function for the Multi Housing Association Friday.
We were framing hundreds of pictures for the upcoming golf tournament next week.
There were a room full of people putting these things together and everyone was grabbing pictures out of piles on the desk. After about a half hour, nobody had grabbed ANY pictures out of the pile in front of me and I thought that was weird. Then I looked at the top picture. It was a picture of Mark and Andy Marchant at the golf tournament last year, both with big smiles leaning against the car that Andy’s company was giving away for a hole in one. I told Mark last year to show up to the golf tournament to see old property manager friends even though he was still in the mortgage industry.
I was surprised and very happy he showed up and spent all day with us. Even though Andy, and a bunch of landscape salesmen were there to get leads for landscape jobs, all of us just stayed at the table and laughed with Mark the whole evening and never gave “landscape sales” another thought.
Then here’s his picture sitting right in front of me a year later, missed by the other volunteers??

I thought about saving the photo for Erin, but I’m going to see if Andy or Chris happen to sit at the table with Mark’s picture on it on August 13th. Chances are less than 300 to 1, but who knows! That would be really weird! I’m not telling Andy, but if he finds it, I’ll take it out of the frame and scan it into the website!


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Pictures of friends of Paul Olson.
Most of these people had a happier life because Paul was in it. They bring back memories of Paul to me and I hope one or more of these pictures bring back the fond memories of Paul for you as well….

We can honestly say that we have nothing but good memories of Paul and his jokes and smile.
We were lucky to have him as long as we did.

Teri and Steve

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From Mark’s Mother-in-law, Erin’s Mom, Vaughn’s Gran ….

I’d think about Mark every day even if I didn’t look at my beautiful kitchen floor, which he installed for Jim and me last fall. He did this without thought of payment (well, maybe a little lunch) just because he believed that you give your time and talent to family. It wasn’t an easy job but he never complained – at least to my face! Because I do see my floor, Marks’s face automatically appears in my mind and I talk to him about how much we miss him. I thank him for the love he gave Erin, and for being a funny, roughhouse, rambunctious dad to Vaughn. He put up with our goofy Christmas traditions and once I heard him laugh in spite of himself. Then, he began to participate by helping Erin make her Nah-Nah’s famous Swedish meatballs for Christmas Eve. He swept into our family easily and we will always love and remember him. As my eyes well up with tears writing this, it is testimony of the effect his brief stay has had on our lives. Thank you Mark for living long enough for us to love you and feel that love right back.


Steve Hoogenakker

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I recently received a letter from Donor services, and wanted to let everyone know what Mark was able to contribute to others:

They were able to recover and place one kidney; the recipient was a married man with no children (yet). The kidney has allowed him to discontinue his 3 dialysis treatments per week, which have been going on for the last 2 1/2 years. He is a school counselor and a volunteer for the Red Cross. They say he is doing well, and they have high hopes that the kidney will take.

Two corneas were placed; one with a 27 year old woman and the other with an older man. Both had lost their eyesight due to an untreatable eye disease.

Two heart valves were placed and the recipients are doing well.

The bone contribution could improve the lives of up to 50 different people. They use them for bone grafts for reconstructive surgery to correct certain defects. The skin tissue goes towards grafts for people with extensive wounds or burns.

All in all, Mark could be helping hundreds of people lead improved lives. I hope that gives you all some comfort, I know it has for me.

Thank you all for your cards, thoughts, prayers, phone calls, visits – the list goes on and on. I can’t thank you enough for the support – I never would have made it through the first three weeks without some of you! I will continue to update this as I hear news.

Please remember how Mark would want us all to live, and make the most of every day!

Steve Hoogenakker

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From Mark’s Big Brother Mike…This is something I read from a book about birthdays I found in my wife’s(sherri) desk…January 19th… Diplomats, writers, teachers, and lovers of the fine arts are born on this day. You have a kindly disposition, consideration and a desire to help others. Poetical, artistic, and affectionate, you are capable of entering into almost any profession or field and be successful…I am sure after you all reading this you will say “damm straight” that was Mark to the “T”

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Mark would stop by our office to see us almost daily for a few years. What I remember most about him is the constant smile he had on his face. It was like no one could wipe that smile off for anything. Always in a good mood and put you in a good mood when he showed up. He knew how to get us to tuck our troubles away permanently or only for a few moments. After his passing, it makes me think this is how I want to be remembered. Sometimes you don’t know what you have lost until it’s gone or what you had when it was here. He was a good man at a time when they are an extinct breed. Someone you could trust as a friend. I will always remember that permanent smile he had and I will endeavor to be more like him throughout my years left on this earth. Heaven is a better place now that he has entered. God bless Marcus as I used to call you that. And god bless your family. 


Steve Hoogenakker

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American Building Contractors, Inc., the largest exterior insurance restoration company in America, is proud to announce the addition of Tosh Tricas CMCA, AMS, PCAM to their team as National Marketing Director. Tosh is an active member and energetic advocate for the Association Management Industry and CAI in particular.  Tosh has served as a member of the Minnesota Chapter Education Committee, a Founding Member and Co-Chair of the Minnesota Chapter Golf Tournament, as well as numerous other volunteer roles within the Chapter. Tosh believes that CAI’s dedication to Manager and Board training and advocacy has elevated the industry and its professionals to a level never before experienced. American Building Contractors, which is licensed to operate in 44 states, will use Tosh’s industry knowledge to develop programs that target management company and manager needs. American Building Contractors has developed exclusive programs specific to Condo and Town home Insurance restoration process and is dedicated to providing its clients with a “BEST IN CLASS” customer service experience. ABC looks forward to working together with CAI and its affiliated Companies and Managers.

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The Rain Garden: A  beautiful  contribution to cleaner water

By Steve Hoogenakker, Concierge Landscape and Jenn Morrow.

Many folks are not aware that the rain that runs to our storm sewers does not go to the municipal plant for treatment. It used to, but as growing communities increased pressure on treatment plants, cities nationwide disconnected storm sewers and routed them directly to the nearest lake or stream. In Minnesota, pride in our natural resources is strong, and residents are willing and eager to do their part to protect water quality.

Raingardens are a fabulous way for property developers/managers to protect water quality. It is a garden or landscaped area with a very slight depression (usually 6-8 inches). A raingarden is designed to capture stormwater from rooftops, driveways and even streets, allowing it to soak into the ground along the deep root channels of beautiful plants (some native and some conventional).

Some of the benefits to CICs include an aesthetically appealing landscape feature, increased bird and butterfly activity, and credit for reduction of stormwater -which some cities are beginning to charge fees for! The list of benefits to the environment is long.

The current system of storm sewer pipes contributes largely to flooding and poor water quality in all water bodies. The water runs off so fast, our natural systems cannot absorb it. Prior to urbanization, stormwater soaked into the ground. Some of it made it all the way down to aquifers and some of it flowed slowly and laterally through the ground to lakes and streams. By the time rainwater reached a surface water, it was scrubbed clean by soil and microbes and cooled to the temperature that fish and other aquatic critters enjoy. Gutters and pipes allow over-heated stormwater to flush all the pollutants that collect on impervious surfaces to water bodies that are not able to treat or absorb the impurities nor are they able to accept the sheer volume – leading to serious flooding. Raingardens begin to repair the natural mechanism that slows, cleans and cools stormwater.

What about all the stormwater ponds that CICs have, aren’t those meant to protect water quality? The quick answer is, yes, they were originally intended as an answer to the Clean water Act mandate that stormwater be treated on site in new construction over five acres.  They do keep stormwater and pollutants out of local lakes and streams, unfortunately they merely collect and concentrate those pollutants.  They, just like natural ponds, do not have the capacity to treat stormwater. In addition they often become eyesores. 

To intercept the stormwater that is piped directly into storm ponds (and would not be served by a buffer), raingardens can be installed in the path of down spouts and near the curb with curb cuts.  These curbside raingardens allow water from streets to flow into the garden.  They are designed to over flow back into the street if their capacity is exceeded, not into the lawn. All raingardens are designed to be dry within 24-36 hours after a storm to keep mosquitoes from breeding in them. Mosquito larvae need seven to twelve days of standing, stagnant water to mature. Raingardens actually act as ‘traps’ when mosquitoes lay eggs in them and the water drops since they cannot mature! In contrast, raingardens provide vital habitat for many desirable critters like birds and butterflies.

The city of Burnsville recently studied the effectiveness of raingardens.  They installed 17 residential raingardens to capture street and roof runoff and measured an 82% reduction in runoff in 2004!  They measured a 90% reduction in 2005 and a 93% reduction in 2006- illustrating that as the plants mature (and the root structures create more channels) the infiltration rate increases! The city of Maplewood has actively employed raingardens in city street reconstruction projects for over 10 years! Cities across the country are embracing simple raingardens to address serious stormwater problems including Kansas City, MO (with its 10,000 raingarden program launched in 20060, Portland OR and Chicago IL.  The ‘ground work’ has been laid and practitioners have learned how to make raingardens work and look beautiful!

With both raingardens and shoreline plantings, proper plant selection and installation and maintenance are critical to their success. There is a wide pallet of colors and textures that will tolerate the water fluctuations common to these landscapes. Raingardens can be designed to be virtually indistinguishable from conventional gardens and landscapes while performing an important community service!  Be sure to consult a contractor that is familiar with native plants and shorelines when pursuing projects like these.

Even if raingardens and ponds are not part of your landscape, a native garden can achieve environmental goals and can be incorporated into any plan. A simple butterfly garden can bring bright bold colors and delightful wildlife to an outdoor living space. They require less water and no fertilizers or weekly mowing and in that way, conserve water and other resources as well as protect water quality!

If your CIC is searching for ways to help the environment, they need not look far.  Take a close look at how stormwater is ‘treated’ in your community as ask, ’is there a better way?’.

Jenn Morrow is currently is an Ecologist with Urban Ecosystems, a division of Top Notch Treecare.  Jenn feels that a properly designed and installed raingarden is an inexpensive investment in our future. Jenn can be reached at 763-253-8733, or at

Steve Hoogenakker is landscape consultant/contractor with 20 years experience working with cic properties and can be reached at 763-213-2410 or Steve@Landscape.Pro

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Top traits of Great Property Managers – CAI seminar

I attended CAI’s “The Top Traits of Great Property Managers”. It was held for townhouse association managers and property managers. CAI did a good job of organizing and presenting the program even though Julie Adamen, the presenter was unable to get here because of snow.
It was held at the Ewald Center on April 11th given by Marj Peterson of Creative Transitions. Here are my thoughts about the session and the high points. You can join CAI by going to

The seminar covered many principles of property management and strategies for dealing with townhouse association boards. Here is the short version of the top traits. I’ll cover in more detail below.
1. Effective Communicators
2. Present themselves well
3. Are organized
4. Follow through
5. Don’t procrastinate
6. NEVER give an answer they’re unsure of.
7. Value vendor relationships
8. Admit mistakes and fix them
9. Maintain a professional distance
10. Stay current with the townhome and property management industries
11. Deal with Change
12. Have a sense of Humor
13. Value Integrity and Credibility above all else.

The most important traits were Integrity and Credibility. I can vouch for Integrity being important. When designing a mission-values statement for a company recently, I came up with 7-8 goals or principles to live by. Listening to Jerry Porras’ Success Built to Last, he made the point that if you don’t have integrity, then who can believe the rest of the mission statement? Who can believe you? Pretty simple and powerful point. So Integrity seems to be the #1 trait for any professional manager or business. Next, she talked about the 3 steps that people use to judge these two traits:
1. Judge people by first impression
2. When we open our mouth, they start to judge us
3. The Test of Time.

Next, Marj talked about Communication. She said the three C’s of great communication are “communicate, communicate, communicate”. Frequency of communication are certainly important, but we all know that.

More interesting was her thoughts about talking with multiple people on the board. Paying attention to the styles of one person on the board, who might be a visual, driver (director) is a small challenge, but communicating with an entire board that consists of kinesthetics, auditories, influencers, conscientious, etc… might be like communicating with Sybil.

Even though she listed “present themself well” separately, it fits in with communication and judging by first impression too.

Great Managers Follow through. Follow through by returning phone calls and emails, visiting the owner and finishing projects.

Great Managers admint (whoops, sorry)mistakes and take responsibility, then FIX the mistakes.
Don’t give answers your unsure of. Marj points out that as a manager, you are a “generalist” You are not an expert on everything, even if a board expects you to be.

Maintain a professional detachment. Something I find very difficult to do, but I know the wisdom of it. She had a manager that sent emails to every one of the residents in association and they were’nt nice emails.

Mangers stay current with changes in the industry. Joining CAI and Multi Housing are two great organizations and resources for managers. The fellowship with other peope in the industry is always worth the price of membership. You just have to commit to getting involved., Click on these links to get more information.

Organization is obviously important. One of the managers uses a program called Filmaker Pro to organize everything. She said it tracks all tasks, sends them to email and files everything.
Another manager color codes file folders and a couple of people talked about color coding their calendars.

Work on only one thing at a time. Marj brought up the term “Paper Chicken Pox” The question is: If you had to put a dot of your pen on a piece of paper every time you touched it, would it look like it had “Chicken Pox”? Touch papers only once, or preferably, keep everything electronic.
These are my opinions only and not the opinions of the speakers or CAI.
You can subscribe to this feed, comment on this posting, contact me about other questions you have, or send me articles that other professional managers might find useful.

Steve Hoogenakker

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