After attending HARDI’s first Focus Conference of the year (Strategic Leadership in Laguna Beach, Calif.), I was once again reminded  of how essential ongoing professional development can be. Whether the sessions bring paradigm shifts or simply reaffirm existing practices, I wholeheartedly embrace opportunities to expand my professional acumen.

And if my own growth and development, even as the president of a company and HARDI, are valuable to me, imagine how important they are to our employees who are young, hungry and hoping to move up in the world. A great leader provides the resources and educational opportunities to help others grow, develop new skills and work together to achieve a successful outcome. What are we doing to train our people?

Equally important, what can we do to attract the right people in the first place? We don’t have to limit our search to those people with technical skills; let’s find ambitious employees who are eager to learn. I contend that it’s more important to hire the right kind of person with the right attitude and a strong work ethic than it is to seek out someone with technical expertise. Find the right clay and mold it into what you need.

I’m not claiming to have the road map for accomplishing this. What I do know is that finding the answer is critical to the future of our industry – every level of our industry, not just wholesalers. And so we must have this discussion. I’m willing to listen. What works for you? How do you attract talent?

Our industry is full of great, talented people. For more than 25 years, I’ve enjoyed working alongside some of the finest men and women I’ve known, and I hope to see the next generation carry on that tradition.

When you identify talent, use the resources available to you to encourage it and invest in it. Just last month, HARDI significantly expanded its library of training and professional development courses. Enroll someone in HARDI’s Emerging Leaders program; there’s still time to get someone registered for the summer Emerging Leaders event, July 19-21 in Austin, Texas.

If you’re like me, you’re probably preparing for HARDI’s Fly-In. This is a particularly important HARDI event for me, as ILLCO’s chief financial officer Karen Madonia (who also happens to be my sister-in-law) recently testified before a congressional committee on the repeal of the estate tax.

Karen went before Congress on all of our behalves, urging them to eliminate this tax that can cripple small businesses like us. The Fly-In is our chance to stand beside her. I’m looking forward to getting face to face with our members and representatives as we push for the best interests of our industry.

If you can’t make it to the Fly-In, just a few weeks away is the Purchasing Focus Conference in Delavan, Wisc. I attended last year and found it to be greatly beneficial. As distributors, our inventory is often our biggest investment, so making smart purchasing decisions is critical. I hope all of HARDI’s members involved in the purchasing process will make the effort to be there.

In September, we wrap up the 2015 Focus Conference series with Operations & Logistics in Baltimore. Registration is open, so be sure to get your operations and logistics folks involved.

Remember, these events are not only excellent networking opportunities; they’re our chance to continue our own professional development and that of our ambitious employees. With so much opportunity on the horizon, I’m looking forward to connecting with you as we move our industry forward.


Bill Bergamini