Old School Client Services / New School Technologies

An Interview with Roger Williams, Harbinger’s Patriarch

Harbinger’s patriarch, Roger Williams, has always been committed to new technology. But when it comes to customer relationships, he’s totally old school.

“These days,” he laments, “people will buy from you that have never seen you or met you before.” Roger misses the face-to-face interactions with clients that helped him build Harbinger to the national sign provider it is today. But when creating, fabricating, and installing sign programs for clients all over the country, you can’t always have that face-to-face. Often communications happen via online meetings and phone conversations.

Roger recently moved to Chairman of the Board, transitioning the Chief Executive Officer position to Steve Williams, who is more adept at new and emerging technologies that will help Harbinger meet new client needs, as well as the new forms of communicating with them. In spite of changing technologies and relationships, Harbinger retains Roger’s steadfast personal commitment to treating customers right and making sure the person who writes the check for the sign gets the value he or she expects.

“In the new marketplace,” says Roger, “the assumption is that your sign is your sign. It’s no different than anybody else’s. That’s absolutely not true.”

Making Better Signs Is Better Business

The relationship between Harbinger and 7-Eleven began in the mid-90s. Harbinger served as their secondary custom sign provider, but were able to fill a gap when the larger primary provider couldn’t.

Harbinger’s commitment to relationships, building the best signs in the business, and its defining reputation for adapting the latest technologies is why large clients such as 7-Eleven decided to use Harbinger. When 7-Eleven ordered 3,000 LED signs from their previous sign company, that organization didn’t properly understand LED technology and the signs were failing. So they called Harbinger and they’ve never looked back.

“They asked if we could cover them until they got another company, so we said ‘of course.’ We started installing signs nationally. Then they picked up another national provider and we became secondary again. Well, that company went bankrupt…” Like a good friend, Harbinger was always reliable and glad to help. Stability and reliability may not be as sexy as new technology, but they are something you look for in a long-term relationship.

Innovating Toward the Future

Roger has been to China five times looking for the next generation of products. Asked what the coming thing is and he replies with a list of emerging technologies and ideas: “Nano and liquid LEDs come to mind. There’s going to be something totally different, like lighting a sign face without any lamps at all. Everything we’re doing right now is going to change, and the market potential for that is unbelievable.”

Roger built a company that treats clients like an old-school small family-business (which it is) that builds the best signs and is always on the leading edge of available technologies. Building better signs, keeping up with industry innovations and treating your customers like gold has always been Roger’s business model and it is what continues to make Harbinger a different kind of sign company.

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