At the close of HARDI's 2012 annual conference, Brian Cobble accepted the position and became the latest president to lead the association. Cobble is the president of G.W. Berkheimer Co. Inc. in Portage, Ind., and the company's involvement with HARDI over the years was a catalyst to his acceptance of the new association position.
Berkheimer is a 75-year-old wholesaler. Along with South Central, a wholly owned subsidiary, Berkheimer has 27 locations and several thousand HVAC contractor customers. Cobble worked at the company when he was young. He went on to pursue and earn multiple degrees, including a Masters in management from Northwestern University, and an industrial management degree from Purdue University. His degrees led him to different opportunities as his career advanced. It was in 1994, however, that he returned to his Berkheimer roots where he has remained since. During his career at Berkheimer, Cobble has continued the company's tradition of strong HARDI participation as well as his commitment to team leadership.
"When you belong to an organization like HARDI, you get out of it what you put into it. Berkheimer has been a strong supporter of the industry, going all the way back to the beginning of NHAW," Cobble explained. "Many of the improvements that we have made at Berkheimer have come from our involvement in HARDI. My serving as HARDI's president is our way to give back to the industry."
These are the words of a leader who likes to keep a low profile, concentrating more on the idea of a team effort as opposed to individual actions. Cobble noted that, "It is nearly impossible for one person to leave a legacy in only one year. I would hope that at the end of my term we have advanced our education, advocacy, benchmarking, and networking efforts further down the road from where we are today. If we can do that, it will have been a successful year."
LOOKING AHEADTo maintain and advance the momentum of HARDI's initiatives, Cobble has already been coordinating plans during the first 60 days of his presidency. Team building remains a core objective as he intends to spend time with HARDI staff as well as attend meetings with industry partners such as the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) and the Air Conditioning Contractors Association (ACCA).
As his term continues, Cobble and HARDI will continue to work toward legislative advancements among other industry-beneficial initiatives.
"Our goals legislatively are closely tied to the regulatory and legislative threats facing HARDI distributors," he said. "Our top priority is making sure HARDI is doing everything it can to protect and promote the interests of our distributor members, regardless of who is in the White House or Congress."
There is no crystal ball for issues that may face Cobble during his presidency, but he did note that the industry is facing issues that to date have not received much attention, especially gross margin pressures at all levels.
"We need to enhance and develop benchmarking and objective measures that will improve distributor-supplier partnerships, i.e., vendor scorecard," said Cobble. "We also need to drive greater channel efficiencies through robust implementation of electronic business relationships that are standard practice in other industries."
Compromise is something that Cobble thinks will help both distributors and HARDI as they reach for legislative and overall industry success.
"Working with all of the various constituencies of the industry with everyone's disparate priorities to reach compromise solutions could be one of our biggest challenges," he said. "It seems that compromise may be a lost art with some. There do not have to be winners and losers. If we all work together, and we all give a little, we can find the best solution for everybody."
MEMBER HELP IMPERATIVEHow can HARDI members help the association and Cobble achieve maximum influence in the coming year? According to Cobble, open and honest communication with the association as well as active participation is key. He said he is looking forward to the opportunity to represent HARDI members at meetings and with industry partners, but that it will take a team effort to achieve success.
"We have so many challenges facing the industry that the only way we are going to continue to advance and prosper is by pooling our collective resources and working together," he explained. "While we all have our individual businesses to operate, and each business faces unique challenges, we all face the same big picture issues: estate taxes, threatened repeal of LIFO, and regional standards, just to name a few."
Cobble stressed that HARDI members need to be ready to respond to calls for action, requests for information, and to participate in the 2013 Congressional Fly-In.
Overall, Cobble is looking forward to serving the membership and the HARDI organization while keeping a low profile.
"This presidency is not about me, it is about the members," he said. "As an individual, I don't really matter. What matters is what we accomplish as a team."
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