Shonna Hammon, owner and president MICO Mechanical
As president of MICO Mechanical—Mechanical Installation and Contracting Operations—Hammon leads a team of six full-time employees who focus on a unique specialty—installing smart HVAC systems and kitchens in commercial and municipal buildings, plus sheet metal and consulting services. The company is known for its value engineering and thrives on a large base of repeat clientele.
“We take on the impossible projects with difficult parameters and find solutions to make them economically feasible and mechanically sound,” says Hammon, who is committed to using MICO’s resources to improve the local economy while engaging in more socially conscious construction. By offering sustainable HVAC design options and maximizing equipment efficiency, MICO helps clients reduce their impact on the environment, cut energy and maintenance costs, and maintain optimal air quality inside their facilities.
Hammon handles the bulk of administrative decision making, while her partner guides the technical and design side of the business. Often starting at five in the morning and ending at midnight, she manages most of the day-to- day issues—customer service, marketing, bid requests, human resources, insurance, outerisland work, shipping, accounting and cash flow—along with co-navigating the long-term direction of MICO.
“MICO is my third child, and there is nothing I guard more ferociously than my children.”
Understanding how important relationships are to any business in the islands, Hammon makes it a top priority to form alliances with general contractors, specialty contractors, developers and property management companies. “I try to schedule peer-mentoring into my day, even if it’s only a tea break or a walk,” Hammon explains. “Meeting with other business owners and leaders allows us to sharpen each other’s minds and companies.”
Hammon’s favorite projects are those involving the redesign and upgrade of existing developed spaces, rather than expanding over new land. Preserving natural resources and enhancing the wellness of Hawai‘i’s people are among her greatest passions. “It’s troubling the amount of preventable health and mental problems that are caused by poor ventilation,” Hammon says. “Moldy buildings destroyed my health in the past, making it a cause I’m personally invested in. Green building and sustainability are also aspects I’d like to see our clients embrace more readily.” Though many of MICO’s direct competitors routinely purchase from fabricators overseas, Hammon has resisted going that route despite the cost reduction. She prefers to keep funds flowing in the islands whenever possible.
As a successful female leading a business in a predominantly male industry, Hammon has learned to pick her battles. “It’s a skill to know how to dance in and out of feminine and masculine power in the workplace,” Hammon says. “When I need to be tough, I’m the bad cop of the company, quick to shut off emotion and handle any task at hand. But I don’t need to go out and prove who I am simply because my name is on the checks. I very rarely walk the jobsites during crew hours out of respect for the working dynamic that exists between the various construction fields. Supervision is delegated to men and women who have paid their dues with tools in hand.”
With an eye toward the future, Hammon is always planning for the next construction downturn and trying to predict how to best diversify MICO’s services. “The recession taught us not to be wasteful or overconfident, “ Hammon says. “I take all constructive feedback very seriously, demanding immediate changes where suggested.” She regularly weeds through new apps and HVAC technologies to find those that will actually improve productivity and equipment performance. She actively seeks opportunities to partner with other companies on hot topics like solar HVAC systems, seawater cooling systems and other avenues for continued progress and relevance in the market. After her daughters head off to college in a few years, she looks forward to mining new business and personal ventures, such as starting a micro-loan foundation for women-owned businesses and finally photographing the Greek Islands.
Through all of the ups and downs of spearheading a growing commercial construction enterprise, Hammon has consistently been a champion for women-owned businesses. “There is nothing more debilitating professionally or personally than feeling voiceless,” Hammon says. “I want everyone, especially women, to not fear taking that leap into business ownership, even in businesses that aren’t often associated with women.” She avows that her greatest accomplishment to date is holding her company together through both a recession and a divorce. “I’m very proud of the fact that I’ve created a new, unconventional version of family that has allowed us to still engage daily to help our children and our business thrive,” she continues.