Nothing Middle about Our Management
Project Management Makes the Difference
When it comes sign systems for “ground-up” builds and acquisition re-branding, lead times are always getting shorter. The difference between making deadlines on-budget and a project flying wildly out of control comes down to excellent project management working with experienced fabricators that understand the brand. Rick Guarino, Harbinger’s Vice President of National Accounts, shares some insights on how a dedicated project manager that knows the client and the client’s brand makes the whole sign process, from design to fabrication to installation, more efficient and cost-effective.
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“The thing that sets us apart from the competition is that they either excel at production or they excel at project management. We are the only one that really excels at both. Our project management and production abilities are really unique to us,” says Rick.
Another differentiator is the level of ownership Harbinger project managers take of their clients’ projects. The survey, the code check, the initial proposal, creation of the brand book, drafts, managing POs, plans for production and installation, down to the completion pictures and closeup photography of each part of the project. The project manager is responsible for every aspect.
“When a client has a project, it’s my project. From beginning to end,” says Rick.
The Difference of a Dedicated Project Manager
As a privately owned family company, Harbinger has a very different approach to project management than the competition.
“Other sign companies have a revolving door of project managers, so every project brings a new face and all kinds of unknowns,” Rick explains.
Does this person know my brand standards? Have they managed this sort of project before? Are they on my side or only thinking about the sign shop’s bottom line? These are normal questions for a client to be concerned with at the beginning of any project.
“But Harbinger project managers are part of our family. We don’t treat every new sign project like new business, we build relationships with our clients. I am on my client’s speed dial. Every time they need something, they know exactly who to call,” says Rick. “Harbinger project managers are accountable to our clients. We answer late night phone calls and go the extra mile, because it isn’t just work; it’s a relationship.”
When you look at Harbinger’s client list, it is riddled with some of the biggest brands in the world – not only because of Harbinger’s ability to comprehensively deliver better product to the field faster, but because Harbinger builds and maintains relationships that make doing business more efficient and more cost-effective. It isn’t just about smiles and asking about the kids, it is about helping the client get more done while doing less.
“We’ve created, or helped create, or at least maintained their brand for so long that there is a great efficiency in working with us, and that relationship ultimately saves money.”
How a Harbinger Brand Catalog Helps Everything from Planning to Execution
Harbinger maintains a brand catalog for every client with documentation of the basic store types, the pieces fabricated with the client, as well as costs and timelines associated with previous projects. This way clients can reference their catalog to quickly project budget and timelines.
“When they know how many ground-ups they’ll do in a year, they can use the catalog to project the budget they’ll need. Our history with our clients helps us keep their production and installation costs down,” Rick says. “We know what installation challenges we are likely to encounter. We know their brand standards inside and out, so we have very few production errors, which can really slow a project down. We help them keep costs, budgets and timelines–which can be very tight–by knowing them and their brand. Working with us helps them know what their budget is and when they can break ground. We like to be that asset to them. There is a comfort level when a client comes to us. They know us and how we work and we know them and what they need.”
Field Experience Develops Strong Processes for Project Management
“We’ve cut our teeth on project management on the c-store and petroleum side of things. The bumps and bruises that we got along the way with clients like 7-Eleven created our processes. Our project management process is built for our clients, crafted around their processes.”
The people management involved in many of these projects can be as intricate and often more complicated than the actual custom fabrication and installation.
“The biggest key has always been flexibility. Being able to morph into what that particular client needs. With 7-Eleven, I have the executives and development people, various regional managers, facilities and construction managers, and more to manage. Each has their own ways of doing things within the company’s way of doing things. I have to be responsive to all of them.”
It isn’t just the ability to get permits and manage timelines, it is also their ability to listen and be receptive to changing circumstances, to effectively communicate with the right person, or to quickly address situations before they become bigger problems.
“That’s my role. To be out ahead of the project, see challenges before they become problems, make necessary changes to make sure the project doesn’t stall. I am not shy about inserting myself into problem areas to sort everything out before it impacts the project. I’m always eager to listen. I need them to know that I will listen and respond to them until we have a resolution. We aren’t shy about that. We can never please everybody and we know that, but we have no egos about it. We just want to keep the project on the right track.”
Moving Fast for Ground-Ups & Acquisitions
Convenience stores are growing at breakneck pace. They generally grow in 2 ways: Building a new store from the ground up (known as “ground-ups”) or acquiring an existing chain or set of properties and then rebranding them to match their identity.
“Ground-ups typically use standard signage in order to keep the cost down and to save time and money on production and installation. On the rebranding and acquisitions, that is where we really have to get creative because we typically have to use existing sign elements and then we have to incorporate the unique branding image into the existing structure. We’ve come up against some unique challenges in incorporating the brand. A lack of familiarity with the brand and the common challenges can quickly cause project costs and timelines to skyrocket.”
When 7-Eleven acquires stores to rebrand, it is up to the project manager to hekp them manipulate their identity into the existing elements.
“This is a challenge we’ve faced with them over and over. I know what they will and won’t accept. And they trust us enough to be open to creative suggestions. We’ve handled this problem a million times, and even though each time is a little different, or sometimes a lot different, those unforeseen challenges don’t have to slow a project down when the client and the sign company can trust each other to be working for the brand’s best interest.”