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HVAC distributors face enough critical trends these days to fill three conference agendas. In this environment, HARDI could pack a program with enough key topics to draw a packed house in the middle of December at a hotel beside an airport in Duluth.

Fortunately, distributors traveling to this December’s HARDI conference will find themselves soaking up data, insights, and sunshine in Palm Desert, California. The promise of good information and networking plus pleasant weather has contributed to strong response so far for the event, themed “Motion: Find Your Direction” and scheduled for December 4-7.

“Number are through the roof,” HARDI CEO Talbot Gee told members in a recent video update. In fact, the association’s room block at the JW Marriott Palm Desert sold out by mid-October. However, HARDI is managing a waiting list at the venue, and members can still register for the event and check the official overflow hotels listed at HARDI’s website.



Rather than the common strategy of running multiple tracks of sessions over multiple days, HARDI has organized its session by giving each day its own distinct theme. Setting keynote speakers aside for a minute, Sunday’s theme is “Catalysts: The Forces Igniting Motion.” Attendees can pick the subtopics that most interest them, and what follows is a partial selection of options.

HARDI Annual Conference.

Industry mergers and acquisitions have grown in profile this year, on both the distributor and contractor sides. ACHR NEWS publisher Mike Murphy will moderate a panel examining this dynamic in the contractor space, while an earlier panel will discuss the same trend in HVAC distribution.

A back-to-back pair of session will focus on understanding the customer better. Farmington Consulting’s TJ O’Connor returns for another tour through the annual Voice of the Contractor research study, while Bluon EVP Scott Peirson digs deeper into the Voice of the Technician findings.

In many years, another massive evolution in refrigerant use would be the marquee topic. It may have stiff competition, but distributors still cannot afford to fall behind as this transition unfolds.

Phillip Martin, chair of the HVACR Residential Council and COO of cfm Distributors, will moderate a panel looking at A2L refrigerants. A related afternoon session tackles “Dispelling Myths About A2L Safety.”

HARDI legislation guru Alex Ayers will moderate his own complementary session on A2L-related codes and standards and what they mean for distributor warehouses and equipment.

Distributors were intimately familiar with it already, but 2021 has been the year where the phrase “supply chain” entered the public consciousness. ActVantage’s Pradip Krishnadevarajan and Senthil Gunasekaran will look at real examples of ways to deal with supply chain disruption, including quantitative assessment of supply chain performance, increasing safety stock, and optimizing annual supplier spend.

A global pandemic and how to live with it would also grab more of the spotlight in a less interesting year, and the repercussions are still moving through HVAC and other sectors. Julie Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, hosts an afternoon session examining talent attraction in the age of COVID.

Midafternoon also features HARDI’s team leader of market intelligence and ever-insightful Tim Fisher, distilling market data and what it means in “2021 In Review: An Update On Industry Benchmarks.”

Later in the afternoon, HARDI’s “resident political nerds” Ayers and Palmer Schoening will host a 30-minute Q&A about recent and potential HVAC-relevant happenings in the halls of Congress and the White House.



It’s all about the challenges on Monday as “Friction: The Forces Slowing Progress” takes the reins for content.

HARDI Annual Conference.

After a networking breakfast, moderator and Indian River Consulting Group managing partner Mike Marks will lead a panel through another look at recruiting and retaining talent. More than the underlying causes, this panel will narrow its attention to best practices and what has worked for those companies who have managed to get ahead of the curve.

COVID and consolidation may have achieved high profiles more recently, but evergreen matters like business succession remain as important as ever for distributors. It is one area where the more successful a distributor becomes, the more they have to lose. In their session, Terry Resnick and Lee Resnick of Resnick Succession Group will review vital strategies regarding succession and wealth preservation, as well as transition of business assets.

Dale Norton, chair of Refrigeration Council and director of sales at Meier Supply Co., will look into “Pitfalls to Reclamation” and a topic that will only get more critical amid refrigerant transition and climate change concerns.

Personnel problems may be universal and inventory can get scarce, but at the same time, bountiful sales results are also quite common. Paul Guidice serves as CEO at CoMetrics. At this event, he will also serve as tour guide through a combination of HARDI metrics and data to sort out the impacts today’s unusual confluence of circumstances.

Internships and apprenticeships can represent one tactic for dealing with personnel shortages. HARDI’s own Chris DeBoer will moderate a panel highlighting some success stories in that arena. Meanwhile, in-house politicos Ayers and Schoening return for a conversation about taxes, regulation, and the Biden administration.

Sessions take a breather in the afternoon as a well-stocked Booth Program is the star attraction for attendees.

The final late-afternoon offering is the first Market Intelligence regional outlook exclusive session. Available only to State of Channel purchasers, this session will cover the Southwestern and Southeastern regions.



Having toured some of the darker side of the modern distributor’s environment on Monday, the agenda turns to “Accelerants: The Forces Enabling Quick Industry Response” on Tuesday.

HARDI Annual Conference.

John Willis takes a morning session to talk about how a new technology platform enabled his company to refine inventory planning and maximize supply chain operations.

Hard to believe that e-commerce has slipped this far down the discussion, but it represents another serious pre-COVID challenge that hasn’t gone anywhere. Ian Heller’s session looks at “Foolish Assumption Disguised as Best Practices” and how to get past “conventional wisdom” that may or may not be wise.

Jonathan Bein continues the topic later, noting that revenue going through e-commerce lags in HVACR compares to other sectors. Bein will focus on what HVACR manufacturers and distributors are doing, from current digital capabilities to selling on marketplaces and beyond.

Like company succession, selling the business is another permanently relevant topic. Susan Frew will steer a session going over 8 things that matter to a buyer and what distributors can do about them now, regardless of whether the selling timeframe is 2 years or 20 years.

The post-lunch agenda includes the remaining two Market Intelligence exclusive regional outlook sessions. One will cover the Central and Great Lakes region, while the final 45-minute outlook will cover Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions.


Paying the Cost to be the Boss

HARDI distributors ready mix business with pleasure in Southern California can reserve their spot at

The standard Executive individual registration for this year’s annual conference is $1,200. This includes access to all general sessions and breakout sessions. It also includes booth program admission on Monday.

Guest registrations are available for spouses and other industry guests. This $600 registration delivers access to the general sessions (breakfasts and lunches), opening and closing events, and access to both a local tour and a guest hospitality event.

Finally, perhaps the best deal of all awaits any dependents 12 or under, who may register and enjoy the resort’s environs free of charge.


All Work and No Play …

HARDI annual conferences traditionally offer an impressive amount of business intelligence on Sunday no matter where they are. That’s why the formally scheduled fun starts on Saturday for those coming to Palm Desert.

A golf outing to Desert Springs Golf Club is the main afternoon attraction. The fee is $175, and proceeds benefit Homes For Our Troops.

Goodman sponsors another first-day tradition, the evening’s opening reception.

Sunday’s official opportunities target some particular audiences, including an Emerging Leaders Happy Hour and a reception for Mexico Conference registrants. A broader Solutions Center happy hour lets attendees mingle with industry vendors and HARDI partners.

On top of that, Sunday evening will also see assorted invitation-only hospitality suite events.

Those hospitality suite events will also take place Monday, and then Tuesday night offers the Bluon-sponsored Closing Party and one final chance to gather as a large group.


A Keynoteworthy Quintet

Lisa Bodell

Lisa Bodell

The Great Reset sounds a little daunting, doesn’t it? Sunday morning’s opening keynote speaker, Lisa Bodell, brings some good news: The best innovation comes from times of change and resource constraint.

Bodell will bring guidance for “Embracing a Constraint Mindset” to the stage. Specifically, tactics within this mindset include using microthinking, turning problems into possibilities, and becoming agile with wild-card scenarios.

Hear those and Bodell’s “five easy methods for fast change” over breakfast on Sunday.

Anirban Basu

Anirban Basu

After the first wave of sessions, attendees can regroup for lunch and digest Anirban Basu’s insights. Basu is chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group. His presentation “supplies economic data and analysis juxtaposing the pre-pandemic and pandemic world, and then supplies a forecast for the post-pandemic one.”

Basu will deliver that by touching on a buffet of subtopics including labor markets, financial markets, real estate, construction, consumer spending, business investment, international trade, and government finances.

Kevin Surace

Kevin Surace

Futurist Kevin Surace steps up as Monday’s featured speaker at lunch, and he has what is very possibly the most thought-provoking title of the entire conference: “A Renaissance – The Coming End of Human Work.”

In it, he asks, “How will your team cope with the coming onslaught of AI and robotics? And how can you use it to your advantage?”

On Tuesday morning, Ryan Avery will take the audience through the question of how to grow a leadership team.

“The clock is ticking,” he cautions. “By 2025, more than 60% of your consumer and employee base will be people of a younger generation.”

Indeed, Avery is the author of “Motivating Millennials,” and he will be ready to dish on skills and strategies for effectively communicating, motivating, and engaging to sell products and services to this significant demographic.

Batting cleanup, closing keynote speaker Alex Banayan will open attendees’ eyes to “Exponential Success Through the Third Door” at Tuesday’s midday session.

The author promises to bring a decidedly adventurous and engaging tone to lunch.

“Alex has hacked The Price is Right, chased Larry King through a grocery store, and learned life lessons from Gaga and Gates. Alongside the larger-than-life stories, Banayan takes the principles from his bestselling novel, “The Third Door,” and pushes the ideas to a new level. He makes them practical and applicable for organizations of all sizes.”