MAUI, Hawaii - “Work hard. Play hard. That is the kind of schedule we have provided for you this year,” said Talbot Gee, executive vice president and COO of Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) as he opened the 2011 Annual Conference at the Grand Wailea Resort in the island paradise. Nearly 1,000 members traveled to Maui for the annual conference.

Gee reported briefly that he was very pleased with the progress of the organization, but expects continued change as acquisition and consolidation of the distribution business continues. He then turned the opening session over to Richard Cook, 2011 HARDI president, who noted many of the recent accomplishments of the organization. Director of marketing Susan Little followed with the roll out of an exciting branding campaign.


Little told the crowd, “It is not just a new look, but a whole new brand.” Resources that Fuel Your Competitive Advantage is the new primary tagline for the HARDI organization; however, four key resource areas function as pillars around which the organization serves its members. Those four are: Advocacy, Benchmarking, Education, and Networking. Each of the four carries its own logo, and is very easily identifiable by members who may have very defined interests at any given time. For example, those seeking education information can quickly navigate through printed collateral materials or online to find the resources that they need.

Each pillar is more completely described with its own tagline:

Advocacy -The voice of 5,000 distributor locations and 30,000 professionals nationwide.

Benchmarking -Exclusive source for tools distributors need to make data-drive decisions.

Education -Addressing current and future professional development needs for HVACR distribution.

Networking -Encouraging industry growth and collaboration through peer networking and events.

Other announcements on the marketing communications front included a new HARDI website, and myHARDI which is a new private social network, the Center for Energy Efficiency Optimization (CEEO), and the new official publication of HARDI,Distribution Center magazine.


As a precursor to the Monday morning kickoff of the annual conference, Oct. 24–26, a first-ever Distributor Town Hall Meeting on Sunday evening played to a standing room only crowd of interested distributors. The session was closed to all but HARDI distributor members, except for a few intimately involved and trusted counterparts such as Texas A&M Professor Emeritus Mike Workman, and HARDI Chief Economist Alan Beaulieu and economist Andrew Duguay. One industry journalist was allowed entry albeit under gag order. Discussions were facilitated by HARDI President Richard Cook, President-elect Bud Mingledorff, and Executive Vice President and COO Talbot Gee. The event provided a forum for candid discussion on several issues including the Department of Energy’s Direct Final Rule on Regional Standards, data-driven benchmarking from members, and ways to improve manufacturer-distributor relationships. Monday meetings began with an early 6 a.m. breakfast followed by committee and council forums. Tuesday followed the same format, with Wednesday as the only day members were allowed to sleep in a bit later - a 6:30 a.m. breakfast start. However, there were few complaints, if any, as members’ body-clocks were typically geared three to six hours earlier than the Hawaiian time zone.

Members were introduced to several new subcommittee meetings for the HVAC, Refrigeration and Refrigerants Councils, the Professional Development Committee, and the Management Methods Committee.

The HVAC Systems Council met as a group but soon broke into four new subcommittees: ductless, ducted, hydronics, and renewable. The Refrigeration and Refrigerants Council formed three new subcommittees: equipment, recovery and reclamation, and refrigerants. Each day’s luncheon provided a keynote speaker with a key topic of interest to the group, usually centering on one of the four major pillars of the organization.

“Realizing 2006 Profitability With a 2012 Mindset,” the first of two keynotes by Workman of Texas A&M University, was presented on Monday. He told the audience that he expects wholesalers to behave differently coming out of this recession and expects more realignment with the HVACR industry, which may mean another round of mergers and acquisitions.

During Workman’s keynote, the manufacturers and distributors in the audience had the opportunity to participate through interactive polling. Several questions were posed to both groups, and Workman addressed some results at that time. Other answers were used to set the tone of his second keynote address delivered on Wednesday morning. That, too, was an interactive event. During the second keynote session, he honed in on new keys to success and what wholesalers must do in order to position their companies for profitable growth even as many companies operate in survival mode.

Tuesday featured another HARDI first - a contractor panel session with two innovative contractors who discussed how partnerships with their distributors and manufacturers enabled them to enter new markets and begin new divisions of their already-successful HVAC contracting businesses. Dave Kyle II of Trademasters in Lorton, Virg., described how his company created a new government services division and suggested that contractors and distributors did not necessarily have to be in the Washington, D.C. area in order to strike such a successful partnership. Kyle suggested that distributors seek to “grow your best contractors by educating those that have the potential to qualify as set-aside contractors, a.k.a., socio-economic disadvantaged businesses.” According to Kyle, government opportunities for contractors are widespread.

Greg Gill of Action Air Conditioning, Heating & Solar in San Marcos, Calif., told how his suppliers helped him to enter the solar market.

The conference ended with a luau near the ocean front behind the Grand Wailea Resort that was attended by a record number of HARDI members. Upon returning home, attendees found an email with a link to many of the session handouts and keynote presentations.

The 2012 Annual HARDI Conference will be held Oct. 6-9, at the JW Marriott Orlando, Grand Lakes, Orlando, Fla. For more information, visit

Published: November 2011