Back in 2000, Netflix had to make a decision.

“We were on track to lose $30 million,” Netflix co-founder Mark Rudolph told the audience during his keynote address at HARDI’s annual conference in early December in Orlando, Fla. “We explored our options. That’s code for how do we get out of this.”

Netflix decided to take the innovation route and transformed the company into the entertainment juggernaut it is today. “How do you respond?” he asked the group. “What you do is innovate yourself and disrupt yourself before someone else disrupts you. Anyone can do it and any company can do it. You don’t need to be a company in Silicon Valley or have special training.”

Rudolph told the HARDI membership there are two key ingredients needed in the innovation process. “You need a tolerance for risk. That is fundamental to any type of innovation,” he said. “And you need ideas. Ideas are the basis of innovation. It doesn’t need to be a big idea or a complex idea. It doesn’t even need to be a good idea. If you can’t tell what is a good idea or a bad idea until after it happens what do you do? You have to do something. Take a risk.”

Rudolph said the easiest way to find ideas is to look for pain points. “Look for things that are making peoples’ jobs harder and get good at that. They are all around you,” he said. “The key to innovation is not about having good ideas. It’s about building a system where you can try lots of bad ones.”

HARDI members also heard from former Amazon executive John Rossman, who provided insight into some of his company’s former strategic principles, as well as plenty of practical business tips based on his experiences there.

“The No. 1 determining factor whether a consumer chooses to make a purchase online was not selection or price, but trust,” he says. “Trust is paramount to digital shoppers.”

Rossman encouraged individuals in leadership positions to think big. “Leaders create and communicate a bold vision that inspires results,” he said. “They think differently and look around corners for ways to succeed.”

Attendees also heard from ITR Economics’ Alan Beaulieu, who gave his usual industry forecast. “2016 will be better than 2015 and 2017 will be even better than that,” he said. “The country is in good shape. Consumers are in great shape and the world is relatively calm. Banks are lending, retail sales are rising and non-residential construction is improving. It’s a healthy outlook going forward.”

HARDI officials noted this year’s event was its highest attended in nearly a decade with 1,342 total attendees in Orlando.

During the conference 2015 HARDI President Bill Bergamini (ILLCO) passed the ceremonial gavel onto 2016 President Michael Meier (Meier Supply). Tom Roberts (cfm Distributors) now is president-elect, while Troy Meachum (ACR Supply) is vice president. New to the executive committee is Brian Peirce (Peirce-Phelps).

The 2016 HARDI annual conference takes place Dec. 3-6 at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo.


This article was originally titled “Looking forward” in the January 2016 print edition of Supply House Times.