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Mission possible: Hargrove goes the distance



The OFC show increased from 400 to over 1,000 vendors and Hargrove had a 24-hour window to move to a bigger building.

At Adidas, impossible is nothing; at Nike, they just do it; and at Hargrove, Inc., nothing is impossible, and yes, they just did it.

“All of the catch phrases we hear such as extraordinary is ordinary, whatever it takes, no problem; they all apply at Hargrove, we just don’t talk about it,” said Tim McGill, CEO, Hargrove. “Our team doesn’t even acknowledge we are accomplishing the impossible, it’s just who we are.”

For over 60 years, Hargrove has succeeded on both large and small scales. With over 200 full time employees and expositions in the Tradeshow Week 200 and Fastest 50, Hargrove lives up to their unacknowledged accomplishments with a commitment to their services as well.

“It’s amazing to see what we do here,” said Lana Ostrander, director of media and public relations. “We focus on getting the customer what they need and every day people here accomplish the impossible.”

What does the impossible look like? In 2001, Hargrove served the Optical Fiber Communication’s (OFC) fiber optics show in San Diego, Calif. Unexpectedly, the show increased from 400 to over 1,000 vendors and Hargrove had a 24-hour window to move to a bigger building. While building managers and vendors were skeptical, Hargrove beat the clock and the OFC show was saved.

“I remember seeing an army of workers moving in and out of the buildings,” said Will Alvey, senior national sales executive, Hargrove, 14 years. “We’re empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done.”

Accomplishing the impossible sometimes requires mittens, boots, and chattering teeth. Last February, the Washington DC metro area was hit with two blizzards in three days. Nicknamed the snowpocalypse, Washington DC reported a seasonal record-shattering 75 inches of snow. The city was buried and everything from schools to the government shut down. The biggest event in DC that week was a 2,000 person snowball fight in Dupont Circle.

A Hargrove contracted event, the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) 2010 Technology Conference, was affected by the extreme weather. With public transportation shut down and attendees stranded at airports, ASAE cancelled the event and issued participants a full refund. Despite the blizzard conditions and piles of snow, Hargrove still took apart the event.

“It was the winter from hell but that’s what we do,” said Alvey. “We do whatever the client needs us to do to get the job done.”

Hargrove currently manages over 3,000 union and temporary production workers and has contracted every presidential inauguration since Harry Truman. They have become unofficial contractors-in-chief.

“If the secret service sees Hargrove is on the case, they’re confident,” Alvey said.

Hargrove’s headquarters in the Washington, DC metro region is one of the reasons it’s contracted premier events such as the inaugurations and the NATO Summit’s 50th Anniversary.

“It’s a privilege and it’s something we take very seriously,” said Ostrander.

In addition to weathering the DC snow storm, Hargrove also weathered the economic storm. According to McGill, in 2009; Hargrove experienced a 10 percent increase in year-over-year revenue and are predicting a 12 percent increase in 2010. McGill acknowledged that tradeshow sales were soft but Hargrove was able to offset the soft sales with new business and increased market share.


Tim McGill

“Our business model has allowed us to weather the economic storm because we offer an integrated product mix of tradeshows, special events and exhibits,” said McGill. “The result is we did not have to take the drastic measures others in the industry did and were able to control costs by maintaining a consistent labor force.”

Balancing over 1,000 tradeshows, events and exhibits each year with their commitment to green initiatives is not impossible for Hargrove either; it’s just another part of the job. Hargrove has shifted to 100 percent recyclable and biodegradable materials and still maintains a 98 percent client retention rate.

“Clients become colleagues and a lot of them have become good friends over the years,” said Ostrander.

Whether they’re decorating the White House Christmas tree, contracting a Tradeshow 200 event, or helping clients in a snowstorm, Hargrove continues making their clients’ requests possible.

“Our commitment to service is so ingrained in our culture we don’t consider what we do to be extraordinary,” McGill said. “But if you step back and really analyze what we’re accomplishing, it is pretty amazing.”


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