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The 2008 Annual HARDI Fall Conference: A Primer for Suppliers

The 2008 HARDI Fall Conference is fast approaching, and in just four short months, we will all be gathering in Phoenix for an educational and valuable agenda that will help guide us into the future.

As a supplier to HARDI distributors for many years, I can tell you that there is no better venue for gaining knowledge, developing relationships and growing your business than at the HARDI Fall Conference. The conference isn't as large or distracting as the AHR show, where you have many, many manufacturers and import/export people, trade people and students passing through. This show focuses on the suppliers who are doing business with HARDI distributors, and only the HARDI distributors will be walking the trade show. You are also not limited to meeting with just members of any given buying group. This show is for all HARDI distributors, HARDI buying group members, buying group principals and the suppliers who provide them with the products or tools to help them grow their business. Every year since HARDI's creation, the Fall Conference has grown in attendance. The quality and quantity of speakers, expanding councils and the large trade show participation have all been contributors to the success of the Fall Conference.

In order to maximize your time and cost at this event, I suggest that your organization begin reviewing who should participate in the Fall Conference and what are your organization's goals and objectives.

If you are a new supplier or a supplier member who is planning to attend for the first time, I strongly recommend the HARDI Ambassador Program. It is even valuable to those who have attended in the past but have not done so in recent years. Although many things remain the same, some change. The HARDI Ambassador Program is offered by HARDI supplier members who regularly participate in this event and who have volunteered their time to help new suppliers or first-time attendees better understand how to prepare for the event and guide them through the conference. They are available to answer any questions regarding the show and in many cases can handle introductions to some distributors or other suppliers you may be interested in meeting at the conference.

Once you determine who will be attending from your organization and have defined your organization's goals and objectives, it will be time to review the agenda for the Fall Conference. The agenda will help you determine which speakers your organization would benefit from most, which councils have the most bearing on your business and what time is available to schedule meetings with distributors and/or manufacturers' representatives during the conference. If there are several items on the agenda that you think your organization will benefit from, make sure you have enough people attending to cover all the bases. I have heard too many times at the closing dinner or after the show that people wished they had brought more members from their organization because of the conference's value.

In reviewing the agenda, it's important to note that the open time for suppliers does not always coincide with open time for distributors. Please avoid scheduling meetings with distributors that may conflict with distributor programs. You probably would find these meetings cancelled or rushed by the distributor, and you would lose the value of the scheduled session.

Once you have established who's attending and your organization's goals and objectives, and you have reviewed the agenda for the meeting, it's time to start planning your trip to Phoenix.

The months leading up to the conference are the time to make contact and establish the meetings you would like to have. Distributors tend to book up fairly quickly due to the amount of time they are participating in the conference. If you wait until the last few weeks before the show, you will discover it is more difficult to find the open time needed to meet with the people you want. Plan early and secure the meetings that will help you succeed in accomplishing your goals and objectives.

Many suppliers like to utilize the conference to enhance or build relationships with distributors, and this is one of the benefits of attending. The opening reception is always a well-attended event, and this is the one time during the conference that you are likely to make contact with most of your regular or potential customers. If you are participating in the Ambassador Program, this is the primary event in which your ambassador can make introductions. The opening reception lets you maximize your exposure to the majority of the attendees. It is usually a couple of hours long, which has been sufficient in the past to make your introductions. Make your travel arrangements in order to arrive in time for the opening reception.

Once the conference begins, it's time to work your schedule and ensure that your organization is working toward the goals that were set!

The closing dinner also has been an excellent time to get exposure and to enhance relations. Many suppliers depart the conference after the trade show and don't stay for the closing dinner. Suppliers who stay generally receive the reward of having more time to mingle with distributors who participate in this event. HARDI does a good job of securing quality entertainment for this event, and the mood is always festive. This is a great way to close out the conference.

To summarize, the Fall Conference is the best venue in the industry to work with HARDI distributors. You need to plan ahead and be prepared in order to have a successful experience, utilize the HARDI Ambassador Program and participate in the events that will maximize your organization's participation.

Sam Roti is the chair of the Suppliers Committee and the aftermarket sales manager of Philadelphia-based Arkema. Contact him at 800/533-5552, ext. 8023, or [email protected].

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