Jim Rucci – Invaluable to HGI’s Early and Continued Success
By Jeff Harrington
Jim Rucci is the most trustworthy, hardest working, selfless individual I have ever known and has been a good friend since our college days together. These facts came in handy back in the late 1980s as I was getting Harrington Group, Inc. off the ground and was beginning to actually fly her. In 1988 I was skimming a little too close to the tree tops for comfort and knew I needed more lift. Jim Rucci was the one person I knew I could count on to provide it. There was only one problem, he was not in the least interested in changing jobs at that time.
Jim had a safe and secure job with one of the largest and best power companies in the country. It was as if I had asked him to leave his first class seat in a Boeing 747 jetting along at 30,000 feet to join me in my trusty (but well used) Cessna 172 crawling along at 500 feet (on a good day). Why would he hesitate? Well, that is what I asked him, and his wife, Nancy. Nancy actually thought it might be good for Jim to come on board, but Jim said thanks but no thanks. I did not take no for an answer, and kept bugging him about it every time I saw him. I tried to convince him that the security he cherished, which he associated with working for a large corporate bureaucracy, was just an illusion and that working for a small business that you have ownership in is where real security can be found. Yes, I know, he did not buy it either, at first.
As fate would have it, in 1988, Jim’s safe and comfortable 747 hit some major turbulence. His employer, without warning, laid off over 1,000 employees, including some of his immediate co-workers and good friends. Jim survived this round of layoffs, but he expected there to be more in the not too distant future, and he figured he might not survive them. In 1989, Jim finally came on board HGI and took the co-pilot’s seat. Jim’s immediate dedication to the mission, and endless hours of hard work, helped HGI gain a lot of altitude over the next few years. We did not realize at the time that a major storm was brewing ahead that would almost ground us permanently, the 1990-1991 recession.
When Jim first came on board, he helped us develop new work related to data center fire protection design and commissioning, requiring Jim to be on the road almost continuously throughout the southeastern United States. He was a regular at small-town, one-story motels with names like Thunderbird Inn and Deer Acres Motel. Jim’s wife, Nancy, was not as happy with me as she initially visualized. But, Nancy is a strong and dedicated person with a deep and abiding faith, and supported Jim unconditionally throughout the very difficult first few years, and every year since.
We had climbed above the clouds and the sun was shining brightly, and then the recession hit. It hit the southeastern United States particularly hard, which is where most of our business was at the time. In addition, it hit the building design and construction business very hard, resulting in a significant number of architectural and engineering design consulting businesses in the region to fold. At this time, HGI derived over 60% of her revenue from this business sector, and in 1991 came very close to folding. I explained the situation to Jim and said that we would need to stop receiving any income from the business in order for it to survive. Jim agreed without hesitation. We went on for months with no salaries, working long hours on what little project work we had, and otherwise “hitting the bricks” all over the southeast looking for work. I think near the end of this period, we were willing to do anything at all: landscaping, lawn-mowing, car-washing, whatever!
Jim and I, and our families, were completely tapped, and we both agreed that we could give it only two more weeks. And then, one by one, the small miracles happened. A little work came in here and there. Some old receivables were collected. Two weeks went by and we were somehow still flying. History would show that we would steadily gain altitude almost continuously until the next unforeseeable catastrophe, which occurred on September 11, 2001. We recovered again until the next one, the Great Recession of 2008. We recovered yet again.
Through it all, Jim Rucci has been tirelessly dedicated to Harrington Group’s success, in good times, yes, but most importantly, during the toughest times when even hope was in short supply. As I write this, HGI is flying high above the clouds, and the sun is shining very brightly. It is HGI’s 30th anniversary year, and Jim Rucci is still my senior partner, in his office, with his nose to the grindstone. Jim and Nancy Rucci, thank you and God bless you!