What an exciting time to be a distributor in the HVACR industry! As we are in the second month of the New Year already, there is much to be grateful for, including working in an industry as forward thinking as the HVACR industry.
That’s right – I will say it again – the HVACR industry is forward thinking. Many people outside of the industry may disagree with my statement when comparing HVACR to the IT, automotive, medical industries, etc., but forward thinking it is, and the HARDI 2015 conference is a perfect example of how the industry is staying on pace and reinventing itself due to the many technology shifts and changes that have happened and are on the horizon.
Besides technology, the labor shortage is another issue that was taken up at the conference, and it seems that we have all wrapped our head around what the challenges are to recruit new blood into the industry; now we need to take action.
I was a first-time attendee at the HARDI 2015 conference — if you have been reading my editor’s note for the past year, you know I am new to the distribution industry (I inherited HVACR Distribution Business last year and have enjoyed taking a deep dive into the issues that are important to industry professionals).
I was impressed with the HARDI conference as a whole, and enjoyed meeting and networking with the distributors and manufacturers that make the industry what it is. I had many takeaways from this conference, and I will share one with you right now - simplicity can be the mother of invention.
(I have other takeaways, one being what to do about the labor shortage, but you will have to wait for my next editor’s note to read my thoughts on that.)
Regarding simplicity, during both keynotes, speakers talked about being innovative, mentioning how keeping it simple is beneficial.
You will learn more by doing something than studying something; ideas come from business models and new technology,
—said Marc Randolph
Marc Randolph, a veteran entrepreneur, high-tech executive and consultant most notable as the co-founder and first CEO of Netflix, gave examples of how companies can effectively create an atmosphere that fosters innovation.
Randolph said that a key to innovation is to have a tolerance for risk and how an idea doesn’t need to be grandiose. “Try something that is different without knowing where it goes,” said Randolph. “Ideas are basis for innovation. An idea doesn’t need to be huge — it can be simple.”
And what exactly is a good idea? The thing is nobody knows, so you need to take a risk and do something.
“You will learn more by doing something than studying something,” said Randolph. “Ideas come from business models and new technology. “It is good to train to see world as an imperfect place — look for the pain — what’s wrong. Also, look at things you are familiar with. You need to dig for ideas… There is usually no eureka moment.”
When John Rossman, the author of “The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company,” spoke he discussed what make a good process when being innovative.
Rossman, like Randolph, believes in simplicity. “Invent and simplify — keep it simple,” said Rossman. “Simple approaches scale well. Amazon is the master of starting small experiences and growing them.”
Also, during Justin King’s breakout session, “Innovating the Customer Experience” I was reminded that distributors need to know their audience first and foremost — a very simple concept.
As King pointed out, distributors need to watch out for Amazon because Amazon thinks they have the majority of this figured out. However, the distributors have one core strategy.
“Business to business is different than retail; business to business is much more complex,” said King. “Customers come to your site because it’s their job. Your job is to make the customer’s job simple and easy. We want to sell something and tell at great story!”
Again, simplicity comes to the rescue here — your job is to make the customer’s job simple and easy!
Paul St. Germain, IBM’s Wholesale Distribution Industry Leader, also sang the praises of the distributor channel during his presentation, “Data or Decay: Using Big Data to Flourish.”
“Distributors are in the middle — they have information upstream and downstream,” said St. Germain. “This puts the distributor channel in the middle. The Internet won’t take away the role of the distributor and what we offer. The distributor is providing more and more value.”
St. Gremain didn’t mention anything regarding keeping it simple, but his message is in line with the idea of a core focus — providing value to the customer — another simple idea.
I realize that in theory it’s simple to keep it simple, but in reality it’s a bit harder since everything is moving 110 mph. If we can all take a step back, have time to generate ideas, and ask the proper questions to figure out what needs to be done to be innovative that is a step in the right direction. Plus, attending industry conferences, such as the HARDI convention, is valuable. It’s a time that the leaders of the industry can meet, network, discuss issues, and use the conference as a springboard for growing their businesses.
I’m looking forward to my second year covering the HVACR distribution industry and reporting on the issues most important to industry professionals!