PHOENIX — Distributors from all around the country traveled to Phoenix for Heating, Air-conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International’s (HARDI) annual conference. The theme for the 2013 event was “Evolve: New Pathways to Success.”

Saturday night began with a few sessions held just prior to the opening reception and Helping All Live On (HALO) silent auction. Steve Deist, partner at Indian River Consulting Group (IRCG), led a supplier and manufacturer session examining the results of the HARDI Foundation’s Demand Quantification Project. He gave the audience an overview of how distributors look at and evaluate manufacturers’ lines, as well as how they make decisions about investments in manufacturers’ lines.

The opening session on Sunday had HARDI vice president and COO Talbot Gee addressing the crowd. Gee focused on the ways the HVAC industry has been working together.

“We are at risk when we are fractured. We have made a lot of strides already,” Gee said. “There are so many things coming at our industry from all different angles and we need to be aligned. It is important to note that while we will not agree 100 percent of the time, what gets lost is that 99.9 percent of the time we do agree and work together.”

Gee mentioned the HVACR Workforce Development Foundation as an example of the industry coming together.

“Also AHRI [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute], HARDI, and ACCA [Air Conditioning Contractors of America], have been heavily involved in creating an organization to help improve and advance energy-efficiency initiatives in California,” Gee said.

Demand Creation

The main event on Sunday was the presentation of the results from the Demand Quantification Project, a landmark research project launched in an effort to better understand distributors’ roles in the demand creation process. Conducted by the HARDI Education and Research Foundation, in partnership with IRCG, the study used leading-edge research methods, which have never before been applied to the HVACR industry, to investigate the strategies, practices, and resources involved in distributor demand creation. Based on some of the research findings, Mike Marks, managing partner, Indian River Consulting Group, encouraged distributors to segment their customers by how the customer wants to buy. He also noted that, according to the study, 87 percent of contractors already know what they want or need by the time they get to a distributor’s counter.

Later in the presentation, Marks cautioned manufacturers and distributors to take a close look at what they consider to be company growth.

“Much of what individual manufacturers and distributors see as growth,” he said, “is really share shift within existing markets.”

There were many pieces of information taken from this study, and Marks noted he would be going over it repeatedly to continue pulling specific pieces of actionable information for distributors to use.

North American Technician Excellence (NATE) recognized four HARDI member companies for their outstanding efforts to promote NATE technician certification and the advancement of the HVACR industry. These included:

• 2013 NATE Top Certifier — Mingledorff’s Inc. of Norcross, Ga., was recognized again as the HARDI distributor that certified the most NATE technicians across multiple testing locations.

• 2013 NATE Single Location Top Certifier — Johnstone Supply in Denver, also a 2012 repeat winner, was recognized for certifying more NATE technicians than any other HARDI member at a single location.

• 2013 NATE Most Improved Certifier — Airefco Inc. of Tualatin, Ore., was recognized as the HARDI distributor with the greatest increase in the number of NATE technician certifications from the past year.

“NATE is pleased to continue to partner with HARDI to present the NATE Certifier awards at this year’s conference,” said John Lanier, COO, NATE. “These HARDI members host NATE certification testing because they understand the value NATE certifications provide in improving the level of knowledge, training, and service in the HVACR industry. We are proud to recognize their efforts.”

Financial Advice

Tuesday was the day of financial advice. From Steve Tusa at breakfast to Alan Beaulieu at lunch to regional financial sessions in the afternoon, attendees learned what was happening in the economy and how it was going to affect their business in the near term as well as a few years down the road.

Beaulieu is HARDI’s chief economist, and an ITR economist. He expressed that “The Economy Is on Your Side,” during his luncheon keynote presentation. His biggest advice was to plan for growth now. Although 2014 is predicted to be soft compared to the last year or so, it is not supposed to be as severe a drop as before. Beaulieu emphasized growth as he looked at overall future trends, noting that now is likely the time for a business to smartly borrow money to expand its space, technology, and equipment. He said interest rates are still at a considerable low and it looks as though they will be trending up in the second half of 2014 and beyond.

“Borrow now and pay with inflationary dollars later,” he explained.

Beaulieu’s financial message was one that predicted a tighter second half of 2014 and definite changes to the economic landscape, but encouraged attendees that the end has not come financially. He feels the U.S. is in a period of slow growth as opposed to a recovery.

Andrew Duguay, HARDI and ITR economist, presented his Regional Trends Forecast in separate sessions after the keynote session.

That evening, everyone gathered for a cocktail reception and the closing festivities sponsored by Distribution Center magazine. The Passing Zone, a juggling comedy duo, provided after-dinner entertainment and the passing of the gavel signified the beginning of a new president with HARDI.

Royce Henderson, president of Charles D. Jones Co., North Kansas City, Mo., received the gavel from Brian Cobble, now HARDI’s immediate past president from G.W. Berkheimer Co. Inc., Portage, Ind.

“I see a lot of positive things for the industry and for the economy in general,” said Henderson, when asked about his perspective on the industry. “We’re seeing a lot of good movement in the commercial areas that were somewhat stalled out in the last few years. I’m focused on being positive in the next few years and expanding into some new markets.”

Publication date: 3/3/2014

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