Harrington Group, Inc. Celebrates 30 Years in Fire Protection Engineering!
Patience is a virtue, and everything happens for a reason. Clichés, maybe, but Jeff Harrington has learned over the years to let things fall into place, which is precisely why Harrington Group, Inc. is celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer.
“You can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. It has to be the right time,” says Harrington. “Part of maturing professionally is learning not to force things and to be patient, and just let things happen in their own time. It can be very difficult, but it bears more fruit than you could ever imagine if you just kind of let things happen the way they naturally should.”
Harrington stumbled into fire protection engineering when he was a sophomore at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a school he didn’t even know existed until his high school guidance counselor suggested he look into it. He learned early on that electrical engineering wasn’t for him, and during his sophomore year he began to question whether he was on the right track with mechanical engineering. Just when he was thinking about taking a break from school to get some hands-on work experience for a couple years, he found himself working on a project that would forever alter the course of his professional life. He and a buddy were examining project descriptions posted on a bulletin board on campus–only a few projects were remaining, and the one they arbitrarily chose just happened to be related to the field he would work in for the rest of his life.
“It looked interesting,” Harrington says. “I didn’t know anything about fire protection engineering at the time, and the rest is history.”
The undergraduate project inspired him to pursue a minor in fire protection engineering (with a major in mechanical). Like a lot of engineers in the industry, the idea of putting his skills toward a career that would help keep people safe appealed to him.
“There’s something about fire protection, it’s somewhat easy to think about fire safety,” he says. “It’s something people can visualize and it really resonates with you. You think, hey, I can be an engineer and apply my abilities in an area that can save lives.”
In the following years, Harrington worked for three different fire protection engineering firms. Turns out he was pretty good at it, and it didn’t take him long to recognize the challenges of working for someone else.
“My main motivation for starting my own firm was that by the time I had been working for nine years, I had seen commonalities that were very dissatisfying to me, and the longer I worked, the more experienced I got, the more dissatisfied I became,” he says. “The companies I worked for in various ways were holding me back and they were preventing me from fully serving my client.”
When Harrington launched the firm nearly a decade after graduating from WPI, the demand was certainly there. In fact, his first couple clients (some of whom he still works with to this day) hired him on the spot, before he had even officially left his previous job. And despite economic downturns that affected everybody in 2001 and 2008, as well as some growing (and shrinking) pains, he’s pleased with
the way Harrington Group has bounced back, evolved, and grown over the years.
“What we’re finding now is because we have such a great network of clients and the economy has come back and is stronger right now, we’re starting to get tremendous pressure for us to grow,” he says. “We want our client needs to drive our growth. I’m not interested in growth just for growth’s sake, and none of the owners want to just sit back and manage. None of us want to have the biggest firm in the U.S. or in the world. We don’t care about that. We like being senior engineers and serving our clients.”
At Harrington Group we pride ourselves in providing for our clients in a way that’s efficient and economical without sacrificing quality. Here’s to another 30 years of providing that same service!