As a recently engaged participant in HARDI activities, including serving as the current Chair of the HARDI Marketing Committee as well as a member of the Emerging Leaders Task Force, I have noticed that on a broad scale, many HARDI member companies seem to assume that HARDI directs  the content at its events toward executive level team members. What they might not understand is the importance of sending other managers in their companies to the HARDI Focus Conferences and the HARDI Annual Conference.

The executives within HARDI’s member companies have played a crucial part of making HARDI what it is today. But now, there is something for everyone with HARDI. Thanks to the efforts of these executives and the expansion of HARDI’s staff and its program offerings, the organization is no longer your father’s HARDI.

I can say that with first-hand experience because I have been exposed to HARDI since its inception through my father’s involvement in many levels of the association. I came up through the ranks of our company as a marketing professional, and when I first started 10 years ago, my father and one other person in our company would go to HARDI events. They would come back with an impressive array of information that continued to keep us ahead of our competition. I continually asked, “If HARDI is providing this much value for us through your involvement, how can we engage more employees in these great events so we can cover all the sessions they have to offer?”

Then, just a few years ago, the regional meeting model shifted to the ingenious Focus Conference concept. This concept provides individual conferences for Strategic Leadership, Marketing & Sales, Purchasing and Operations and Logistics. Since then, we have been sending many other managers and leaders in our company to these events.  Wow! What a difference it has made in our company to involve more people.

We return from these events with clear, actionable items that allow us to immediately implement them in each of our departments. Besides the incredible content, we have developed wonderful relationships with other HARDI wholesaler, supplier and service vendor members at all levels within our company. The ideas that come out of the networking side of HARDI events are absolutely invaluable. However, I just returned from the HARDI Marketing and Sales Focus Conference, and although HARDI experienced a record number of companies in attendance at a focus conference, the impression remains in my networking experiences that many companies still aren’t sending all the people they should to HARDI events.

So who should you really be sending to HARDI events? This chart will help you answer that question.

 As you can see, there is now something for everyone to learn at HARDI events. And with the increasingly competitive and ever-changing distributor landscape in the market, we really can’t afford not to invest more in the development of our department managers and future leaders. Using HARDI programs and events as part of that development strategy is an absolute no-brainer. Why not take full advantage of being a member of the first-class trade association that HARDI has become? Imagine how having involved employees at all levels could catapult your company’s success to new levels. In 2015, there are still two more focus conferences scheduled, the Emerging Leaders Summer Conference and the Annual Conference that you can use to engage more of your employees in. Involve more of your team members in HARDI events. You won’t regret it.