The economic recession in the early 1990s hit the real estate markets hard between 1990 and 1992. Architects suffered because new commercial and industrial construction dried up during this period.  As a small fire protection engineering firm, Harrington Group struggled to survive, as well, since architects represented our largest client segment at this time.  We made it through these tough times by diversifying our client base, working very hard, and just refusing to give up.

Not only did we survive, but we began to grow at an accelerated pace through the mid and late 90s.  Meeting the demands of this growth meant adding new fire protection engineering staff while maintaining high levels of quality and productivity.  There were many areas we sought to improve as individuals and as a company to continue our advance towards success. Improving overall productivity could make the business more efficient and increase profit margins, but what is the best way to improve productivity while maintaining quality?  The answer needed to come from within each employee instead of from the top down.

“A rising tide raises all of the boats.” – JFK

I had read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and thought that it fit perfectly with Harrington Group’s culture. Through facilitating personal development, we can develop as a company. To engage all key employees, I created a company study group for the 7 Habits book. We read together and met weekly to discuss topics as we progressed through the book. As a little bonus for going through the process, all participants who finished this study group process were treated to a leather-bound day planner of their choice from the Covey 7 Habits format collection. A good prize before the time of smartphones! That year, our productivity skyrocketed and our profit rose to double digits. The group strategy befitted everyone.

The 7 Habits

Most of the information in self-help books isn’t new and the fundamental truths of the 7 Habits book weren’t the exception – Covey did not invent them. What made the book successful was how the truths were linked to activities. Covey told us what made successful people effective, but more importantly, he showed us how to be effective. The 7 Habits turned out to be an effective method of conveying a message because it was actionable.

I believed in the importance of improving my own effectiveness and applied it to my personal life and to Harrington Group, but the message was universal. Anyone could apply the principles, develop habits based upon them, and achieve real, measurable improvements in life and happiness – at home and on the job.

How Did We Grow?

Following the 7 Habits as a guideline for individual and team performance worked because the 7 Habits are all based upon fundamental principles – natural laws governing human behavior. At Harrington Group, we try to manage our interactions with our fire protection engineers, support staff, management, and our customers in a manner that is consistent with Covey’s 7 Habits and the timeless principles that underpin them.

By Jeff Harrington, CEO and Founder of Harrington Group, Inc.