Jason Harrington on Maintaining Healthy Business Relationships
Coffee Lunch Coffee
In our second episode, Jason Harrington, CEO of HB Construction, joins host Alana Muller as he delves into his experiences as both a contractor and developer in the construction industry. Harrington explains how he maintains healthy business relationships with his wide variety of clients from medical professionals to legal professionals. “You've got to genuinely care about other people, and try to promote other people. That's really what creates those deeper connections.”
Alana Muller : Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success and cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host, Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire, and empower community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode. Well, welcome to another episode of Enterprise.ing. I'm delighted to have all of you here today. I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine, Jason Harrington. Jason is the CEO of HB Construction. He has been since 2005. He's also a member of the company's board of directors and is a nearly 30 year veteran of the architecture, engineering, and construction industry. Jason, welcome.
Jason Harrington: Thanks Alana. It's great to be here.
Alana Muller : Great to have you. Tell us a little bit about HB Construction. I know that you have, you personally have experiences, both a contractor and a developer. Talk to us a little bit about what your company does.
Jason Harrington: Yeah, it's interesting. Our company was started by actually our mom and dad at our kitchen table and it was one of those things where my dad wanted to do his own thing. He wanted to live in alignment with his values and he got the family together and it was a family discussion and we decided that it was worth the risk and he was going to quit his day job. And we were going to start a construction company and 30 years later here we are, and it's just been an incredible experience. And I get to work with my brother every day and that's been an amazing experience. And so he's our CFO, his name's Adam. And yeah, it's been great.
Alana Muller : How cool is that? So sitting at your kitchen table. That to me is inspirational. Having both on my side and my husband's side, we both come from long lines of entrepreneurs, family businesses. I always think that it's just so special. And the fact that you were there when it was born, that's quite amazing. What did you think when your dad said he wanted to launch something new on his own?
Jason Harrington: Oh gosh. I thought I was so naive at the time, to be honest with you, Alana. I'd gone to a Catholic high school and the demographics of that school was all over the board and I just knew people of all different races and financial positions. And I thought that if you owned your own company, that meant you were really financially successful and really had no clue at the time, the amount of hard work and the amount of time that it would actually take to make any of that a reality.
Alana Muller : Basically it's a child that never grows up. It's,
Jason Harrington: Right.
Alana Muller : Always an infant, right? You're always,
Jason Harrington: Exactly.
Alana Muller : Always worried about that. So, well, congratulations to you and your family on building such an incredible company. One of the things that I was really sort of, again, inspired by as I was learning more about you and your company is just the wide range of industries that you're involved in. So I noticed medical, higher education, justice defense, commercial, et cetera. With so many sectors factoring into your professional life, how do you actively manage your network? So are there particular activities that bring you into contact with various connections? How do you do that?
Jason Harrington: Well, I think there's a couple ways. I think one is, very organic way of doing it and that's just getting out in the community and that's being part of a family that's very active. My kids are 14 and 12. My wife is very active in the nonprofit sector and so we're out and about a lot. And so that gives us the opportunity to really meet a lot of people and build relationships and really be part of this community. The other way is a much more intentional way of managing a network and actively engaging in it. And anybody that's ever worked with me knows that I carry a yellow legal pad with me everywhere I go. And that comes from my first day on the job where my dad literally handed it to me. And just very bluntly said, write everything down on this legal pad and when you finish it, check it off. And so,
Alana Muller : I love that.
Jason Harrington: So what that did is it made me a very intentional person. And so, I think about people a lot and who I want to be around and who I want to spend time with. And sometimes that's an email, and sometimes that's a lunch, and sometimes that's a handwritten letter.
Alana Muller : Well, I mean, and what's so great about that is what you're talking about are just different touch points, different ways to touch the people that you're coming into contact with. And from my point of view, networking should never be one and done. It should never be transactional. Although I recognize that transactions are really important, but what you're describing is knowing your audience, knowing what form of communication is important at this moment. So as you described an email, a phone call, a face to face meeting. So I love that. And is there a way that you sort of parse that out? Is that just kind of, is it case by case, or do you have a preferred mode of communication with your contacts?
Jason Harrington: Well, I think it depends on the level of relationship you have with that person. Sometimes it's an email, sometimes it's a handwritten note. Sometimes it's lunch, sometimes its happy hour. It depends on where you're at in that relationship with that person.
Alana Muller : Yeah.
Jason Harrington: I think the important part is to meet that person where they're at, to make sure that they're comfortable. Right.
Alana Muller : Right. That makes great sense. And one of the things that I wanted to ask you about is how do you make your connections mutually beneficial? I know for example, I know you're deeply involved in the community. You've already described how your entire family has gotten involved from your wife to your children. I know that you personally have been involved both philanthropically and from a community building perspective. How has that factored into your ability to grow your relationship base?
Jason Harrington: Yeah, I think that's really important. I think people recognize right away if you're just out for yourself and whether, like you said, if it's transactional. And to me, you've got to give more than you take. And I think that's really important. And I think people see that. And I think you've got to genuinely care about other people. And when you do that and you try and promote other people, I think that's really what creates those deeper connections.
Alana Muller : Tell me a little bit of about where you're located and what it's like. My understanding is that you're in, is it the Albuquerque area that you're primarily based? And then I know you have locations elsewhere as well.
Jason Harrington: Yeah. We're headquartered here in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We've got an office in Las Cruces, New Mexico and one in El Paso, Texas as well.
Alana Muller : That's great. And do you see differences from community to community in terms of the way that you engage or the way that the community receives you?
Jason Harrington: Interestingly enough, I would say no. I would think that there's a common thread of humanity amongst all of us. And I think,
Alana Muller : Love it.
Jason Harrington: We all want to be seen, heard, and celebrated. And I think if you can, again, give more than you take, be a part of somebody's community. I think people resonate with that. And I think people really are inspired by that and want to be with you and do business with you as well.
Alana Muller : Agree with that. Absolutely. I want to maybe get into a few examples. Can you tell us about an interaction that you had with somebody, a client, maybe a vendor or a partner that resulted in some sort of breakthrough for you personally or professionally?
Jason Harrington: Oh, I mean, honestly, I think it was probably my very first interaction in business, which was with my dad.
Alana Muller : Love it.
Jason Harrington: My dad was practicing mission, and vision, and values before mission, and vision, and values were cool. Right. And what I mean by that is, he didn't have to write them down. He didn't have to post it all over his website. He didn't have to verbalize it even.
Alana Muller : Yeah.
Jason Harrington: But what he did is he lived by it. And so you knew his decisions were easy because he was so clear on what was important to him. And so that just really was impactful for me at a very young age.
Alana Muller : Was there something for him that you think sort of, I don't know, established that knowledge of his values, and sort of his principles, and ethics, and the way that he practiced business?
Jason Harringto...: Oh, I think the way he was raised. I think that's an important part for all of us. Certainly the people he surrounded himself with and growing up in the construction business, he saw things that he didn't like also. And so I think that helped form a sense of ethics and a sense of values that really helped guide him. I think you learn from everybody, right? Whether it's positive or negative.
Alana Muller : Oh, yes. That is for sure. We know that for sure. I know that one of the areas that you personally focus on is the culture and customer service for HB Construction. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe talk a little bit about the specific values that have shaped the culture and what you try to foster internally?
Jason Harrington: Yeah. I mean, our values are very clear. It's service, it's community, it's integrity, it's teamwork, workforce, sustainability, and safety. And so, everybody knows that. We talk about it all the time. We celebrate it when people represent that. We make sure that people are highlighted for doing that. And so, we're very intentional about our culture. When you are brought on to our company, you go through a very thorough training of who we are and what we're about and our history and where we are now and where we're headed. And so, I think, at the end of the day, people want clarity. They want to understand what you're about. And I think that's what resonates with people. And I think that's what helps build that culture.
Alana Muller : Well, and it sounds like you're really giving people almost a sense of ownership in the company and the direction that it's going. So whether literally or figuratively, you're making people feel like their part of something and conveying that to them. And I assume that as people do come on, that they know they're going to go through this orientation and that it's a required part of employment. What have people said about that?
Jason Harrington: It's literally been one of the highlights of their careers, which is the very first day, right, in some cases. Because it is so meaningful. I mean, people like to hear your story, people like to hear where you came from, where you're about, how you got to where you're at, how the mission and the vision and the values were actually formed instead of just handing them a piece of paper and saying, this is what they are, make sure you live by them, we get paid on Wednesdays and.
Alana Muller : And good luck to you.
Jason Harrington: And good luck.
Alana Muller : So you're actually, I mean, what's wonderful about it is you're literally handing them the tools in a way, but sort of guiding them through almost like a Sherpa. So I applaud you for that. That's great. As you think about, especially, I love how we're talking about sort of bring on new team members to the organization. What advice would you share with somebody who wants to grow or cultivate their own professional network?
Jason Harrington: Well, I think the first thing is, you've got to have a genuine curiosity about people. And if you're not in that mindset and if you're not ready for that, that's fine. But I don't know that you're ready to actually be an effective networker because I think without going in with that type of mindset, I think it's very hard for you to be successful. If you think you're going to go to a networking event and hand out 200 business cards and you're going to be effective by doing that. I think you're mistaken. And so that's the first thing and not everybody's there and that's okay, but you've got to get yourself in that mindset. I think the other thing is, be kind, be human. People don't want to be sold. My name's Joe and I sell widgets and I'd like to sell you some widgets. I don't think people want to be treated that way.
Alana Muller : Yeah. I'll never forget years and years ago, I went to a chamber event and I called it the drive by networking experie, where this fellow approached me, stuck his business card in my face, took my card and off he went and he was specific. He said, okay, sorry, I got to go, I'll send you some information, but I need to go meet more people. And for him, it's what you were describing. He literally, it was like a numbers game. He wanted to collect as many business cards as possible. And frankly, to his credit, he sent me about a $50 package of information, which I immediately put in the trash because that's not the kind of person I wanted to do business with. So what you're describing is like a true interaction, a human interaction. And I just, I think that that's really admirable. And I suspect that that has impacted your business very favorably.
Jason Harrington: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the things is making sure you're in the right places at the right time. And if you're in a position where you're handing out 200 business cards, you're not in the right spot. I can promise you that. And I think if I was going to give some advice to somebody who was wanting to grow their network, I would say, pick three people that are successful that you admire, that you respect and take them to lunch. And those three lunches are going to pay dividends because the questions you're going to ask them is what groups are you a part of? What nonprofit boards are you on? What are you doing outside of your regular job? Where do you network? And once you learn where those three people are engaging and networking, this is not reinventing the wheel. This is follow the people that have done it right.
Alana Muller : Yeah. Well, I mean, just as you described, you can learn from everybody and every interaction and by sort of hearing it from people who have done it successfully in the past, I think that can certainly lead to benefit for each individual. So, great advice. Well, and that kind of leads to my next question. For you personally, are you more of an organic kind of an, I don't know, I guess with less intention type of networker, or are you more deliberate about who you interact with or what events you go to? Can you talk a bit about that?
Jason Harrington: Yeah. I guess it's more natural for me to be organic. I really do enjoy people. One quote that's always resonated with me is treat the janitor the way you treat the CEO.
Alana Muller : Yes.
Jason Harringto...: And I just, I've always treated people that way, regardless of who you are. I think it tells a lot about somebody when you're having lunch or dinner with them and the way they treat the server I think, is really important. So that part of networking has always been really easy for me. I think what has taken a little bit more effort is the intentional part, really thinking through strategically who are your stakeholders? Who are the people that you need to be in front of? And then how often do you want to make contact with them? And how do you make contact with them? Like we talked about earlier, is it an email, or is it lunch, or what is it? What makes them most comfortable? And you've got to be really thinking and thoughtful on all of that.
Alana Muller : Well, and when you think about the frequency with which you stay in touch with people, does it vary person to person? And how do you manage that? Do you calendar it? You put it on your yellow pad. How do you manage that?
Jason Harrington: Well, I started on my legal pad. It's now evolved to an Excel spreadsheet.
Alana Muller : Nice. Welcome technology. I hope you color the Excel spreadsheet yellow at least,
Jason Harrington: Oh yeah.
Alana Muller : Make it more comfortable for you.
Jason Harrington: It's a shared folder too. We can all see it.
Alana Muller : I love that. That's great. That's great. Well, and this notion of sort of organic and just really enjoying people, that to me seems like it pays dividend for you as well. That again, almost every interaction has some potential benefit and not in a way that's sort of what have you done for me lately, but in a way that truly is mutually beneficial. That your relationship building and building a series of touch points over time.
Jason Harrington: Yeah. I think that's a great way to put it. I think every interaction, regardless of who it's with and what their title is brings benefit.
Alana Muller : Yeah. Well, and you talked about your kids earlier and are you seeing them sort of as natural networkers like you are? Or what are you doing to convey the importance of this to them?
Jason Harrington: I think that both my wife and I, it's pretty natural to us, so I think we've modeled that for our kids. And I think they see the benefit of it. And I think they're, 14 and 12 and they've already got it all figured out, but I think they're still learning a few things from us, hopefully.
Alana Muller : Have they started to get involved in your business?
Jason Harrington: Oh yeah. They actually work at HB Construction during the summer. So they do filing, and shredding, and all sorts of things.
Alana Muller : The important things, for sure.
Jason Harrington: Yeah.
Alana Muller : That's good. You got to keep some order to the place, right?
Jason Harrington: Exactly.
Alana Muller : In closing, I have just sort of a fun question and frankly, you can think of this as it can be fictional or nonfictional, whatever you wish, but if you could meet with one person and I think of sort of like your dream networking interaction, who would it be? Who would you want to meet with and why?
Jason Harrington: Oh gosh. Probably Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Alana Muller : Nice.
Jason Harrington: In downtown San Diego, there's a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade and every 30 feet or so along this sidewalk, there's quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King and he is just so thoughtful and so well spoken and just the way that he was so before his time, I think. And I think we could use a lot of that right now.
Alana Muller : Yeah. You're not kidding. I think, we've gotten to a place of polarization that is just so disappointing based on our ideals and who we have the potential to be. So I think that's a great choice. So thank you for sharing that. I've loved getting to know you. Thank you so much for spending time with us today Enterprise.ing. I know that your insights will be beneficial to all of our listeners. So I look forward to talking with you again sometime soon.
Jason Harrington: Yeah. Thank you, Alana. I appreciate your time.
Alana Muller : Thanks for listening today. To learn more about Jason Harrington and his company, HB Construction, visit them online at hbconstruction.com. Thanks for joining us this week on Enterprise.ing. Be sure to visit our website enterprisebank.com/podcast to subscribe. So you'll never miss an episode. If you found value in today's program, please consider leaving a review on Apple podcasts or telling a friend about us. Enterprise.ing, powering business leaders one conversation at a time.
Can you please update the disclaimer to be: The views expressed by Enterprise.ing presenters or guests are those of the presenter or guest and not, necessarily, of Enterprise Bank & Trust or its affiliates. All content of this podcast and any related materials are for informational purposes only. Enterprise Bank & Trust does not make any warranty, express or implied, including warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose, and specifically disclaims any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information presented. Enterprise Bank & Trust is not under any obligation to update or correct any information provided in this podcast. All statements and opinions are subject to change without notice.