Giving Life to Harrington Group
Written by Jeff Harrington, CEO/Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.
Some think of me as the father of Harrington Group, Inc., since I founded the company. Well, I am here to tell you that Harrington Group also has a grandpa and a grandma; my folks, Dean and Barbara Harrington.
As I was turning 30, back in the fall of 1985, I was beginning to formalize my thoughts about going out on my own and starting a fire protection engineering and consulting practice. At the time, my wife Kathy and I had two children, both boys, Daniel who was 5 years old and Tommy who was just over 1 year old. We had no money in the bank, and truth be told, were significantly in debt due to another entrepreneurial idea I had been pursuing for the previous several years. In the spring of 1986, I had an epiphany that helped me decide on my business focus and enabled me to complete a business plan in short order. I decided to resign from my job and start up Harrington Group within a few short weeks from that moment, which I did, officially on the first Monday of June, 1986.
There was only one problem. I had no cash money and was in debt. By the way, I do not recommend this approach to anyone thinking of starting their own business. I applied for several more credit cards and for some reason I got them. I would use these to live on for a while until I was able to build up some cash flow from my new business. But, I needed some additional capital to invest in computer equipment (IBM XT, plus a monitor, printer, modem, etc.) and an initial set of code and reference books for my working library. So I did what any young American entrepreneur-wannabe would do, I hit up my folks.
I figured I would need about $7,000 for the computer equipment and library books and some additional money to help with cash flow needs (like groceries to feed my family). At this precise moment in time, my folks happened to be traveling out of the country, perhaps in Japan or in Hawaii, I don’t remember exactly. I had a copy of their travel itinerary, which included the hotel they were staying in on that day and the phone number. I called the hotel, got my folks on the line, and literally the rest is history. Somehow, I convinced my folks to loan me the money I needed to take the plunge. With that, I served my resignation and used my remaining paid time off to make the first phone calls to find business for Harrington Group.
At first, building the business and the related cash flow was slow going. Making an actual profit was even slower. Eventually, Harrington Group paid my parent’s loan off with interest. Along the way, we would tap them two more times, each time paying them back with interest. Each time we made our last loan payment, we did it as a company event with fanfare. We invited my parents to join all of us at Harrington Group for a special lunch in their honor, and made a big deal of presenting them with the final check along with our collective heart-felt thanks and appreciation. From the beginning, my folks have always felt that Harrington Group was my baby, and have been proud and happy to play the role of grandparents offering support, both moral and financial, as needed. I can honestly say that without their support in both forms, Harrington Group would probably not have gotten off of the ground or would have eventually crashed after take-off.
Both of my parents are alive and well today. My dad is about to turn 94 in October and my mom turned 95 this past May. I am excited that they both will be joining us at Harrington Group’s 30th anniversary party in September to celebrate HGI’s accomplishments with us, and to be celebrated in return and thanked for their loving support over all these years. Harrington Group has been immeasurably blessed to have Dean and Barbara Harrington as grandparents!