The first two Focus 2013 conferences are in the books and attendee feedback has been positive regarding the new format. Both gathered a strong mix of HARDI members and their key staff members that most closely related to the regional topics presented. What did they learn while there?

The first two Focus 2013 conferences are in the books and attendee feedback has been positive regarding the new format. The Marketing Optimization Conference was the first to be held. It was hosted by the Western region at the Surf and Sand resort in Laguna Beach, Calif. Later in April, the Southeastern region hosted the Human Resources and Organizational Management Conference at the Saddlebrook Resort in Tampa, Fla.

Both gathered a strong mix of HARDI members and their key staff members that most closely related to the regional topics presented. Before getting into the details of marketing and human resources though, each of the conferences spent a morning in sessions that provided a brief overview for HARDI and the hosting region, Capitol Hill survival techniques with John Melchi, and economic reports and suggestions with Andrew Duguay.

One of the challenges issued from the overview session came from Russ Greary, chair of the regional board in the West.

“The total number of contractors involved in the Air Conditioning Contractors of America is less than five percent,” he said. “How can we encourage contractors to get involved with this association?”

Another central message from the overview came with the introduction of Toby Swope, manager of Data Quality and Analytics, D&R International. Swope is overseeing the Unitary Study that HARDI is asking all members to participate in on a regular basis.

“We want to make the sales reporting process easy and simple for each of you,” said Swope. “It is important that you begin to report on a monthly basis. We are looking to eventually move from a quarterly to a monthly report.”


During the report on Washington, Melchi, director of government affairs for HARDI, stressed the importance of distributors beginning to engage and understand the approaching changes in health care insurance. He stressed that non compliance fines and fees could potentially cripple a business and that ignoring the changes or the deadlines was not wise. Health care reform was just one of the topics he addressed; others included sequestration, debt talks, labor relations, and refrigerants.

As for economics, Duguay, senior economist with ITR Economics, called for approximately 3 percent growth in 2013. He announced that there was still some recovery left both for the United States and globally. He did cite that 2014 might possibly yield a recession. The causes of this possible recession could be many, but a market correction predicted for 2013 sometime may be what triggers the 2014 downturn.

Another portion of his presentation stressed the importance of putting economic data and business data facts into perspective to get the bigger picture. To do this, Duguay suggested that distributors keep in mind the rate of change that is occurring in their business.

“Rates of change are early warning signals as to what the momentum of the company is doing,” he said. “These rates of change can help predict the top and the bottom of financial trends.”


Susan Smith, professor of Marketing Practice at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, kicked off the afternoon sessions during the Marketing and Optimization Conference with an innovation tournament. The tournament could be explained as an afternoon of collective team brainstorming that culminated in the sharing of two final ideas from each team and a vote for the top 10 in the room.

Before turning the groups loose to work, she defined innovation as the new and novel match of a solution and need that creates value. “Most innovation is about the need, and creatively matching it with a solution,” explained Smith. “The novelty can be in the solution, the match, or the need.”

Another suggestion to participants was to come up with more ideas than necessary.

“Don’t just come up with five innovations, come up with 50,” she instructed. “You will still throw out 45, but you will have better innovation.”

After finishing the whole of the innovation tournament, Smith encouraged participants to return to their workplaces and host their own innovation tournament.

“The keys are to invite the right people who are willing to think differently, set aside three to four hours away from duties and distractions, and choose people who will discuss, brainstorm, and bounce ideas around,” she said. “It’s a good way to open the windows and run some fresh air through things.”

In a separate session, Nicole Reyhle, founder and editorial director of Retail Minded, discussed strategies to help maximize distributors’ sales. The entry/exit, warehouse, and point of sale (POS) area were all places that she said could be adjusted to help customers feel more welcome and possibly spend more money.

For the entry/exit, Reyhle explained the need for open and easily navigated spaces. She also suggested offering customers a basket and a place to hang up a coat. Later she encouraged distributors to use color signage for product location and consider asking vendors for display racks.

“Welcome touch and demo opportunities into your store,” said Reyhle. “If there isn’t one available, you can create one of your own. And don’t worry about double exposing select products. It’s OK to have items in multiple spaces.”

Near the end of the presentation, she began passing around examples of truck stock and impulse buy inventory items that may be successful at a distributor’s POS area.

“Challenge your staff to achieve three add-on sales a day,” Reyhle said. “Track what’s selling and keep it in stock. You might be surprised at the results you get.”

The final sessions came from Bluff brothers Brian and Eddie. Together they covered search engine optimization (SEO) and company websites. Both are the co-founders of Site-Seeker Inc., an Internet marketing firm, of which Brian is the president and Eddie vice president.

As they showed attendees how to maximize marketing on their websites, one of their key instructions to distributors was to be mindful of their Google ranking. According to the Bluff brothers, Google holds 68 percent of search market share. Of this search market share, the No. 1 spot below the sponsored links receives approximately 37 percent of the clicks, 13 percent for the second spot and 10 percent of the third spot.

“Page two doesn’t matter,” warned Brian. “It is important you find out how people are searching and you can do that using the Google’s Keyword tool.”


The conferences weren’t all work and sessions. Attendees took time to golf, enjoy hospitality suites, and participate in networking receptions near the ocean or by the pool.

The next Focus 2013 conference, Strategic Leadership, is scheduled for June 2-4 in Lake Geneva, Wis.

Visit for more information.