Lisa Harbert: Owns Her Future and the Success and Failures of Her Efforts

Top 5 Influential Women Leaders in Business, 2021

In 2001, Lisa Harbert and her husband, Roger Harbert, chose to invest in themselves. It is after they felt the need to own the success and failures of their efforts. And this need to own their future led to the creation of Digital Display Solutions (DDSAV), a San Antonio, Texas-based full-service Audio-Visual System Integration company.

Equipped with strengths, talents, and wisdom gained from what their life had taught them, Lisa and Roger stepped out to make it on their own. Lisa, President at Digital Display Solutions, remembers when she had taken out $350,000 from a savings account they had for many years. “I had a certified check created at the bank made out to Digital Display Solutions,” she says. “The sweet teller asked me, ‘Do you know these people well to invest like this?’”

“I was investing in myself and my husband. I answered, ‘Yes!’” Lisa adds that investing in oneself is scary, but one gets to own and “mostly” control their future. She uses the word “mostly” due to the Pandemic, which made them realize that life sometimes throws challenges at them that are way beyond their control. “We can’t plan, but we have to react as best as possible,” Lisa says.

Since the formation of DDSAV, Lisa and Roger have overcome challenges by maintaining their basic principles of “Doing the Right Thing” for the company, their clients, their employees, and the community.

Digital Display Solutions

Digital Display Solutions, or DDSAV, operates in a highly technology-driven world. “We are commercial audio-video integrators,” Lisa says, adding that they specialize in complex and difficult projects such as emergency operation centers and mission-critical meetings like the Water Systems Board meetings.

“We are Zoom certified integrators, and we can help anyone create a Hybrid Zoom experience at the office, higher education, churches, or help anyone who wants in-person or virtual environments,” Lisa says. “We can design to a budget or develop system functionality.” Since its inception 20 years ago, the company has won numerous awards at the national level for its projects and the fortitude of its leaders. “We are God-based, and we are humble and seek to serve our clients and community,” Lisa says.

Designing Success 

For the success of the DDSAV business, Lisa and her team focus on three major areas. They are Customers, Employees, and the Community. And Lisa says that in order to achieve success, they always define the vision where they need to be.

As someone who grew up in her business knowledge during the “Steven Covey Era,” Lisa uses his tactic of “Start with the End in Mind,” which means having a clear vision of what someone is aiming to achieve. She says at the company, the team establishes how they need to end on each goal by asking, “What does success look like?”

“We describe, in as much detail as possible, how we want to end and analyze the broken aspect that is stopping us from the success we designed,” Lisa adds. She also says that this year, they have simplified their Mission Statements to three objectives: to be identified as the best AV+ company by customers; to be identified as the best place to work by employees; to be identified as the best company by the community.

And, for each mission, they have also identified the goal and the measure, Lisa says, adding that they gather data from many sources. For example, for the customer, they use Quickbooks, Google Reviews, customer emails or comments, and overall, how the installation was done- from a customer’s point of view. “It has really helped us to design to success and fix what is messing up our defined vision of success,” Lisa says.

For Lisa and her company, employees are as critical to success as customers. They put a lot of their time and energy into training and employee discussions. “Our goal is to discover the employee’s strengths and passions,” Lisa says. “We use tools such as the “Strength Finders” book and testing.”

“Knowing or even caring about employee’s true passion, strengths, and gifts are energizing to the employees,” Lisa adds. “People do their best work when they are working in their strengths.” And they use information gathered from different sources to determine where an employee can best contribute and be happy. “Our employees stay with DDSAV. They grow, learn, improve, and know that management desires to have them working at things that use their strengths and gifts,” Lisa says.

And, at DDSAV, “Family First” is the mantra for all employees. Lisa says that this goes a long way in ensuring that the employee is committed to the company. “Employees can leave early for team sports or sickness or big events for their kids or spouse,” she adds. “We ‘walk the talk’ consistently- Family First.”

The company also focuses on community and believes in giving back to it. “At one of the largest children shelters, we donated at Christmas a complete conference room makeover for audio-video,” Lisa says. “The Children’s Home Board met in the Board room, and you had terrible audio for the call-in Board members and those attending in person. We upgraded everything for free.”

And, when the Pandemic started, Food Bank needed volunteers to hand out food. “Our team volunteered together,” Lisa says, adding, it was an honor to work with teammates and put food in folk’s auto

One of the reasons for DDSAV’s success is that it is constantly defining success. Lisa says that they are purposeful in defining success. They design what success looks like, establish multiple measures, and are in a constant mode of improving. There is also a purposeful dissatisfaction with where they are. Hence, they are striving to be better, Lisa adds. “It drives our success at DDSAV to have a constant defining of success. It changes as the world changes around us.”

Pressure Turns Coal into a Diamond

Lisa believes that challenges make one stronger. “It’s Biblical, and if you study things that turn out beautiful like diamonds and butterflies on Earth, it takes pressure and pain to get to the beauty to enjoy,” she says.

She and her husband did not build a super-successful entity called Digital Display Solutions in a day. “We have been to hell and back,” Lisa says. They (endured) employees stealing from them and take over their customers. They had to fight cash flow and forces that were beyond their control.

When Lisa was working at P&G, she learned to look at failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.  She now follows that principle while dealing with setbacks at DDSAV. Instead of looking for scapegoats, she and her team try to study why things turned out bad and apply learning to the future.

“We don’t beat the employees for the mistakes or issue but ‘seek to understand’ what happened and always, always ask “WHY” before we jump to conclusions,” Lisa says. “We also address issues in the present and don’t let issues linger.”

Only when employees start to repeat mistakes, Lisa and her team write to them and clarify expectations. They also ask the employee to sign that they agree and note that such behaviour is not acceptable.

Strength as a Leader

Lisa, who holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas Tech University, worked for P&G for 25 years. At the multinational consumer goods corporation, she learned a lot about developing a good team and overall management. And her greatest strength as a leader has always been her ability to listen.

An incredible listener, Lisa likes to ask open-ended questions and “seek to understand.” She asks “WHY” a lot to find out a person’s reason for decisions or actions. “More time than not, I know the answer, but I always try to be open and make sure that I listen carefully and respond slowly,” Lisa adds.

And, Lisa also likes to use her knowledge and talent to create things, based on strategy and goals and listening carefully to others. Later, she allows her team to respond. “I have found that they respond best to an idea that has been roughly created,” Lisa says.

She points out that most team members are great critics, but they seldom can create from scratch. “It’s easier to start with an idea and let the team to modify or re-write,” she adds. “I don’t take it personally, but I have found that this is a good way to get buy-in and have the employee’s opinion and voice heard.”

Responsibilities as President

As President of the company, Lisa’s responsibilities include creating an incredible culture that maintains happy and non-drama employees. “I work on culture daily,” she says.

Lisa also cooks for her team of engineers, programmers, and operations and spends time with them. “I even understand “love language’,” she says. “There are normally 4-5 ‘love languages’ –defined as how people receive acknowledgment and praise.” It’s some words of affirmation, some gifts, and touch – handshake or pat on the back – and it’s also quality time spent with them. “You must work hard to understand each one. I know many of their kids’ names, ages, and activities,” Lisa adds.

“I am also responsible for all the financial plans. And I work on improving processes daily, and I try to help if there are issues by applying pressure from ‘The President.’ I review job costing and financial outlook. I oversee HR and onboarding,” Lisa says. “The numbers and the feel of the place are all on me.” She nurtures their supplier’s relationships as well, to keep them at the top.

And Lisa monitors the developments of new products daily. However, she usually depends on her team to know the details. “I like my team, and they like me. It’s a happy place to work.”

Maintaining Balance between Professional-Personal Life 

Lisa and her husband work together. She owns 52 percent of the company, while Roger owns 48 percent. At her home, their talk does not always revolve around work. There are some days, especially Saturday, when Lisa implements a no-work-talk rule. Lisa is also a Senior Minister at a church in San Antonio. “At the church, we have great audio-video – installed by Digital Display Solutions – and we stream every Sunday,” Lisa says.

“I have a deep faith in God, but I cuss sometimes,” Lisa adds. “I’m a sinner, but I am a Toastmaster trained speaker and I love teaching about The Bible. It helps me keep things in perspective and focus on a positive future.”

Lisa tries to run her business like she runs her life: “Honor God.” She says that it keeps her grounded. “My faith has been critical through the whole journey of Digital Display Solutions ownership – in my heart and soul,” Lisa adds.

Future Plan for Digital Display Solutions

The Audio-Video industry is rapidly growing. It is expected to grow at a rate of 32 percent in the year ahead. DDSAV wants to continue to expand and be a leading player in the market.  In January of 2022, DDSAV will open its commercial showroom on a major freeway, located right next to the San Antonio airport. “We have two state-of-the-art conference rooms that will show the latest products for Virtual Collaboration or in-person meetings,” Lisa says.

Lisa also says that they are changing their name to DBA Digital Technology Solutions (DTS). It will help them expand the company’s abilities. They intend to become the technical experts for conference rooms, board rooms, or anything that helps communicate and stay safe.

Additionally, “We are looking at an exit plan for us in the next nine years,” Lisa says. “Our dream is to expand the technology showroom/toy store to other markets.” She also points out that they have a team that plans to create unique products for the company to sell, under the brand. “We are knowledgeable, and this team could create products for collaboration and business, and excellent audio and video that solves a need,” Lisa says.

Message to Aspiring Women in Lead

“I would tell aspiring women to find yourself,” Lisa says. “Know yourself inside and out. Be humble and always seek to understand before you speak. Be kind. Don’t be afraid to take care of your employees and feed them.”

Highlighting an old expression, ‘if you feed me, then you love me,’ Lisa says that women leaders need to care for others and aspire them to find their strengths, passions, and natural skill. She encourages them to listen to both sides of a situation and gather those quality experts around them who can advise them. “Have smart and humble people around you,” Lisa adds. “The most important thing is to listen to your heart. Always follow your heart.”

She also points out to women leaders that it is their name, their debt, their responsibility to lead the team to success. And, the women leaders should never be afraid to admit that they are human and they made a mistake, but they should never speak out of anger because it results in loss of intellect.

“Believe in yourself and invest in your health, mind, heart, and soul. You can do it! Persevere. Never ever give up,” Lisa tells aspiring women leaders. Her success can be credited to her persistence and I-don’t-let- go attitude.