Hoddy Hanna’s rules for acquisitions has Howard Hanna making bold moves

Luckily, the name wasn’t much of a concern for the employees who worked there, and it was a relatively easy decision in the midst of a recession.
However, change is hard for people, so the company typically tries to keep the disruptions to a minimum. It takes time to learn the acquired business. Hanna says you can’t understand a real estate market from the numbers or a map.
“You can’t look at a market and say, ‘Well, this community shouldn’t have an office or this one should,’” he says.
The company sends senior managers to new markets. They spend a lot of time learning the business, the people and interfacing, so Howard Hanna can be a better decision-maker and create what will work for them in that market, he says.
Howard Hanna also can show its programs and products that are unique, which can help both the support people as well as the salespeople and managers.

“You’ve got to be there — and don’t just look at numbers from the last couple of years,” Hanna says. “So, we try not to disrupt too much for a couple of years as we get to learn their business better. But also, as I keep saying, ‘We want to win the minds and hearts of the folks.’ Let them know us; see what we do, the positives we bring to the table.”



  • With acquisitions, you have to know your business better than anybody else.
  • Consider how to blend cultures and business models before the deal closes.
  • Learn about the acquired company before you start making changes.


The file:

Name: Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna III
Title: Chairman
Company: Hanna Holdings Inc.
Born: Pittsburgh
Education: Bachelor’s in political science from John Carroll University; gave the commencement speech at John Carroll this past May.
What was your first job? I was a paper boy, and then I worked around the office. We had three or four people then. I worked around the office the first couple of years — putting up for sale signs, vacuuming the office, that kind of stuff.
My senior year in high school, I passed the real estate exam. I had a summer job lined up at J&L Steel in Hazelwood. This friend of my dad’s was in the real estate business and he knew me from being around the office. He knew I’d passed the real estate exam in May, and he said, “You don’t want to work in a steel mill. There’s no future in that business at all. You’ll make more money this summer doing that, but you’ll learn something in the real estate business.” So, I started to sell real estate that summer and went to John Carroll in the fall. I got so excited about it.
After I graduated, I went into the Army for a little bit, and came back, and sold real estate the rest of my life.
What was the hardest management skill for you to learn and why? For me, personally, it was twofold. One, to work with people rather than lose my temper because something wasn’t done correctly. You want to work with the person, teach them so that they won’t make that same mistake the next time. In the early years that was difficult for me to do. You have to take the team you have and boost that team up.
Second was to allow other people to make decisions. I don’t find that hard anymore, but there was a learning curve. Because if you have a lot of people around you, 9,000 people, and everybody is afraid to make a decision, you have major problems.
You are dependent upon other people, who are managing the day-to-day enterprise. So, you’ve got to build a cadre of people around you who understand the way you want the business to be run and then let them go out there and do it. You certainly can’t make as many decisions.

Howard W. “Hoddy” Hanna III