Is America approaching a fiscal cliff? That depends on who you talk to. According to Alan Beaulieu, there doesn’t seem to be a fiscal cliff approaching. He thinks these rumors are much like the Y2K scare years ago.

“It looks as though it will be more like a gradual slope with a mild recession in 2014,” he explained. “An increase in taxes is expected to reduce cash flow.”

Beaulieu is the chief economist for the Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) and president of ITR Economics. As one of the keynote speakers during the 2012 HARDI Annual Conference, Beaulieu addressed the current and possible future economic climate to hundreds of distributors from across the nation. By his estimate, “Business will be the most challenging in the next 10 years,” and he encouraged distributors to ask themselves, “How can I continue to do more with less people?”

More taxes and slow growth are contributing to the economic situation developing and, according to Beaulieu, the U.S. federal budget isn’t projected to balance until the year 2060.

“Austerity will cause your business to take a hit in 2014,” he predicted. “You should plan on higher taxes.”

Despite the concern for increased taxes and the consequences of the Dodd-Frank regulation, Beaulieu did encourage attendees that if they are planning on growing their businesses, now is the time to do it. The reason he gave stems from the semi-loosened grip on credit along with the current interest rates that are at an all-time low.

“If you can pay it back in seven years or have the option to refinance, borrow as much as you can and use it to grow,” said Beaulieu. “It’s the 1970s again. That’s what we are going back to.”

Not only did he stress economic caution, Beaulieu also encouraged distributors to use marketing to develop demand as opposed to waiting for business to grow organically.

Speaker Unveils Invisible Web

“Develop demand. Success is deliberate,” was the theme of the HARDI conference, and each speaker and session delivered information and practices that could help distributors do just that. Encompassing receptions, meals, charity functions, hospitality events, a booth program, entertainment, and the passing of the gavel to a new president, HARDI’s conference provided a place for its members to be educated and equipped for the year ahead.

The talk of the conference was keynote speaker Sam Richter, founder and CEO of SBR Worldwide and the Know More! program. His presentation centered on finding and leveraging the information available online to improve sales calls.

“When it comes to a sales call, you are almost always worried about what you want to say,” said Richter. “You should focus instead on what the customer wants to hear.”

He continued to explain that the golden rule is important but in selling, he suggested following the platinum rule — Do unto others as they would like it done unto themselves.

“What is the other person hearing when you’re making a sales call?” he asked. “Figure out what the other person wants as opposed to what you want to tell them, and that will improve the sales call greatly.”

To assist in figuring out what the other person is looking for, Richter took attendees through an online workshop that provided step-by-step instructions as to how to effectively search the Internet for information. Instead of coming up with millions of results that didn’t mean much to his client, Richter was able to find some detailed information using Boolean search techniques. He also provided attendees access to the invisible web. Inside the invisible web are the pages and information that Google cannot see, which according to Richter accounts for approximately 95 percent of the web.

During the presentation, Richter only demonstrated the searches and tools that were free to users and showed how to access and successfully use some of the information in making sales calls.

“You really need to be genuine and genuinely interested so as to avoid using the information you find in a manipulative manner,” Richter cautioned. “Do your homework on who you are going to see. In business the little things mean everything and people do business with people they like and trust.”

Conference Happenings

During the conference, several committee meetings occurred. These committees were established to help HVACR distributors conduct business more effectively as well as to examine the ins and outs of operations. One of the committees spent its time discussing supply chain technology. Its emphasis was on investigating the usage and effectiveness of e-readers, tablets, social media, etc. The question also came up as to which was better between Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and web-based programs. The committee will be investigating both of these topics. Other committee topics included packaging, shipping, supplier communication, and more.

The conference wrapped with a special closing ceremony sponsored by Distribution Center magazine featuring a Cirque Dreams performance. Attendees dined and were entertained by the acrobatic and imaginative acts of the special performance. They were also given the opportunity to have their photos taken with the Cirque performers that evening.

The final item on the agenda was the passing of the gavel from HARDI president Bud Mingledorff to incoming HARDI president Brian Cobble. Cobble is currently the president of G.W. Berkheimer Co. Inc., a wholesale supplier based in Portage, Ind. He is looking forward to focusing on the issues of the industry and continuing the work of HARDI.

For more information, go to

Publication date: 12/10/2012