LAS VEGAS — Heating, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) took one small step for HVACR and one giant leap for two-step distribution at its 2017 Annual Conference: NOVA, Dec. 2-5 at the Aria Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

The event set new annual conference attendance records as 1,557 individuals used Las Vegas as a launching pad to propel their businesses toward otherworldly success.

“What an incredible annual conference we had this year,” said Talbot Gee, CEO, HARDI. “Based on the feedback we have received from NOVA attendees, we continue to hit milestones not just in attendance and registration but also in the value and variety of content we deliver.”

Discover, Deploy, and Deliver

The conference was presented in three distinct paths: Discover, Deploy, and Deliver. Each track was tailored to provide attendees takeaways that can be implemented immediately.

Paul Giudice, CEO of CoMetrics, offered his take on the Discover track with his “Beyond Benchmarking: When Apples-to-Apples Comparisons Aren’t Enough” presentation.

“We have to focus on specific measures and determine a worthwhile goal,” Giudice said. “That’s why we make the time and energy investment in benchmarking. That said, the number of active technicians is not a KPI [key performance indicator], revenue is not a KPI, and total expenses is not a KPI. We can’t just say we’ve achieved something because it exists; we need to set targets for how many active service technicians we need, how much revenue we're aiming to earn, etc.”

James Ellis, an employer brand and talent strategist, represented the Deploy track with his “Seven Ways to Win the War for Distribution Talent” presentation. While it’s difficult to locate qualified talent, Ellis insisted the goal should always be quality over quantity.

“Your inclination may be that you need more people to apply,” he said. “You may believe the goal is to simply get people in the door just so you can look at their résumés. That is wrong. The answer is not to make the haystack larger but to make it smaller so that the needle is more obvious. Spend less time pushing the wrong people away and more time on the smart, qualified, ambitious, driven, and dedicated people. The best way to make that happen is to clearly define who you are as an employer before they apply so that you're attracting the right people.”

Shama Hyder, CEO of Marketing Zen Group, devoted her time to the Deliver track through her “Selling in the Digital Age” presentation. Hyder shared how distributors can capitalize on technologies and strategies that companies outside the HVACR supply chain are utilizing.

“Selling in the digital age is not about changing the way you’ve always done things; it’s about finding success your way with the tools that are available today,” Hyder said. “You’ve got to start thinking about social media differently. Social media has evolved. People are now the media. Every single one of us is a media company whether we like it or not. To win today, you have to out-educate your competitors and build better relationships.”

Several other presenters spoke at the conference, including HARDI’s human resources consultant, Pam Krivda, who also serves as partner at Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP; Herb Meyer, former Reagan administration intelligence official and founder and president of Storm King Press; Tony Taccone, strategy consultant and founding partner of First River Consulting; and others.

International Relations

HARDI officially established its HARDI Mexico division at the 2017 annual conference.

Prior to implementing this vision, HARDI staff spent more than two years studying the viability of establishing an international division.

Guitze Messina will serve as executive director of HARDI Mexico. Messina began his career as an industrial engineer before transitioning into a sales role. He’s also spent time working as a consultant, most recently at RSM International Management.

“About two years ago, HARDI connected with a few Mexican distributors and a conversation began to take place,” Messina said. “HARDI sponsored a few events where Latin American distributors made up the majority of those in attendance and recognized how they were hungry for information.”

Following a lengthy visioning process, Messina and the HARDI brass believed 2018 was the proper time to expand the organization’s reach.

“HARDI Mexico is dotting the ‘I’ in HARDI and making the organization truly international," Messina said. “There is a leadership and generational change occurring in Mexico. Mexican distributors are hungry to learn new ways of doing business. We have many Mexican distributors that are welcoming second- and third-generational leadership and are seeking guidance. Therefore, we’re asking our American distributors to help them by offering ideas and best practices that can be implemented in Mexico. With the help and support of HARDI’s staff and American distributors, there’s no way we can fail.”

Gee said the Mexican division will adopt HARDI’s mission, though the strategy and tactics will change.

“We are here to provide all the experience, knowledge, and resources we have built to assure Mexican distributors remain the channel of choice for manufacturers and contractors in their market,” he said.

When first introduced in October 2017, HARDI Mexico had three members. Prior to the annual conference, its membership had grown to 60. During the HARDI Annual Conference, HARDI Mexico added 16 new members.

Presidential Inauguration

During the event’s closing ceremonies, HARDI’s outgoing president, Tom Roberts, president, cfm Distributors, Kansas City, Missouri, passed the baton to incoming president Troy Meachum, president, ACR Supply Co., Durham, North Carolina.

“I’ve known Troy for several years, and he is the consummate thinker, planner, and student of organizational structure,” said Roberts. “He’s one of those rare data-driven individuals. His understanding of what motivates people, personal ethics, and foundational principles provide the basics for his understanding and personal growth. Troy is one of the most generous people I’ve ever met. His work to change people’s lives at home and abroad is remarkable. HARDI is really in for a treat this upcoming year.”

Meachum said he’s excited to bring the South back into HARDI’s leadership team.

“Y’all ready to get your redneck on?” Meachum asked the annual conference crowd, eliciting a room full of laughter. “I have a sign on my desk that says, ‘I am responsible.’ I have no one else to blame but myself when something goes wrong. This also serves as a reminder that I have 87 families depending on me to do the right thing. Think about the total number of families represented in HARDI’s membership. We’re responsible for the livelihood of thousands of individuals. Are we going to stand by and let some e-commerce conglomerate gobble up our industry? I don’t think so. Are we going to sit and complain about being unable to find the right people? I don’t think so. In fact, I know we won’t.”

Meachum said his main focus for 2018 will be to build an exceptional industry culture and brand.

“We need to attract rock star millennials,” he said. “I’m not sure my generation can figure out this whole e-commerce thing, but we have some rock stars coming up through this industry who can. We have to embrace those talents. I love Talbot’s vision in this area. He’s really pushing and positioning us to be successful and relevant going forward. We must strive to create organizations that people get up every day and want to be a part of. I’m absolutely sure we’re going to do just that.” 

Publication date: 01/09/18


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