By Angela D. Harris of Distribution Center


Evolve ’13 is in the record books. The 2013 HARDI Annual Conference gathered hundreds of wholesale distributors, suppliers, manufacturers reps and other industry players at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix, December 7-10. The days were spent learning, networking and participating in both educational and entertaining sessions. 

From left: NATE COO John Lanier talks to HVACR Workforce Development Executive Director Don Frendberg and Mingledorff’s Chairman of the Board Bud Mingledorff at HARDI’s Evolve ’13 in Phoenix. Photo courtesy of ACHR NEWS


Kicking off Saturday

Saturday night began with a few sessions held just prior to the opening reception and Helping All Live On silent auction. One session was the First-Time Attendee gathering. There a large group of newcomers listened as Russ Geary, regional vice president of Geary Pacific Supply, Sacramento, Calif., explained what could be expected and welcomed those who were engaging the HARDI conference for the first time.

Another session, the Distributor Town Hall Meeting was a closed-door session where distributor members gathered to discuss the specifics of issues needing to be addressed by the HARDI membership and its staff in the coming year.

While occupied with these sessions, Steve Deist, partner at Indian River Consulting Group, led a supplier and manufacturer session breaking down some of the results of the HARDI Foundation’s Demand Quantification Project. He gave the audience an overview of how distributors look at and evaluate manufacturers’ lines, as well as how they make decisions about investments in those lines.

The evening ended with an opening reception and a plethora of items donated and purchased at the HALO silent auction to benefit Homes for Our Troops recipient Marine Sergeant Jordan Maynard. Along with the auction and festivities, there were large-screen televisions broadcasting the football games.


Demand creation

The main event on Sunday was the presentation of the results from the Demand Quantification Project, a landmark research project launched in an effort to better understand distributors’ roles in the demand creation process. Conducted by The HARDI Education and Research Foundation in partnership with IRCG, the study used leading edge research methods, which have never before been applied to the HVACR industry, to investigate the strategies, practices and resources involved in distributor demand creation.

Based on some of the research findings, Michael Marks, IRCG managing partner, encouraged distributors to segment their customers by how the customer wants to buy. He also noted that, according to the study, 87% of contractors already know what they want or need by the time they get to a distributor’s counter.

Later in the presentation, Marks cautioned manufacturers and distributors to take a close look at what they consider to be company growth.

“Much of what individual manufacturers and distributors see as growth,” he said, “is really share shift within existing markets.”

There were many pieces of information taken from this study and Marks noted he would be going over it repeatedly to continue pulling specific pieces of actionable information for distributors to use.


Consultants and solutions center

Significant parts of HARDI’s service to its members are the consultants the association brings in for special sessions and makes available for referencing throughout the year. Not only did HARDI bring in its consultants for the conference, but it showcased their services in the HARDI Resource Center.

There attendees had access to: Nancye Combs, president and chief executive officer of human resources Enterprise Inc., for HR-related questions; Attorney Daniel Beederman from Schoenberg Finkel Newman & Rosenberg for legal advice; Lacey Robinson, vice president of Gregory & Appel, an Indianapolis-based insurance agency, for health insurance questions; Emily Saving, director of the education and research foundation at HARDI, for professional development and training; Jon Melchi, director of government affairs at HARDI, for legislation and government issues; and ITR economist, Andrew Duguay, senior economist at HARDI, for regional and national economic trends.

Each of these consultants and staff members presented sessions during the conference and are available throughout the year to help HARDI members with issues that arise.


Wrapping up Tuesday

Tuesday was the day of financial advice. From Steve Tusa at breakfast to Alan Beaulieu at lunch to regional financial sessions in the afternoon, attendees learned what was happening in the economy and how it was going to affect their business in the near term, as well as looking a few years down the road.

Beaulieu is HARDI’s chief ITR economist. During his luncheon keynote presentation, “The Economy is on Your Side,” he advised attendees to plan for growth now. Although 2014 is predicted to be soft compared to the last year or so, it is not supposed to be a severe drop as before. Beaulieu emphasized growth as he looked at overall trends to come noting now is the time for a business to smartly borrow money to expand its space, technology and equipment. He said interest rates are still at a considerable low and it looks as though they will be trending up the second half of 2014 and beyond.

“Borrow now and pay with inflationary dollars later,” he explained.

His financial message was one that showed a tighter second half of 2014 and definite changes to the economic landscape, but it also encouraged attendees that the end has not come financially and the United States is in a period of slow growth as opposed to a recovery.

Duguay presented his Regional Trends Forecasts information in separate sessions after the keynote session.

That evening, everyone gathered for a cocktail reception and the closing festivities. The Passing Zone, a juggling comedy duo, provided after-dinner entertainment and the passing of the gavel signified the beginning of a new president with HARDI.

Royce Henderson, president of Charles D. Jones Co., North Kansas City, Mo., received the gavel from Brian Cobble, now HARDI’s immediate past president from G.W. Berkheimer Co., Portage, Ind.

“I see a lot of positive things for the industry and for the economy in general,” said Royce when asked about his perspective on the industry. “We’re seeing a lot of good movement in the commercial areas that were somewhat stalled out in the last few years. I’m focused on being positive in the next few years and expanding into some new markets.”