I just returned from the HARDI Mid-Year Business Conference held this year in conjunction with the Combined Central and Great Lakes Regional Meeting in Lake Geneva, WI. This notion of combining the business conference with a different regional meeting each year has proven to be very successful both from the standpoint of highlighting the various regional meetings to the broad membership and continuing to draw excellent attendance for the work of the various committees and councils. One cannot attend one of these meetings without coming away with the sense of purpose and commitment that so many members have for the future of the Association, wholesale distribution and the various aspects of the HVACR industry. This is not to say that those of you who were not there, whether wholesaler, supplier or rep, were not missed. There is always plenty of room at these meetings, as well as many opportunities to grow your business, to make it worth everyone's time to attend.
I can still recall attending my first meeting in 1983 just after acquiring Standard Supply and Distributing in Dallas, TX. As a graduate engineer, I was entering the industry from, of all places, the cosmetics business. HVACR distribution was about as foreign to me as golf shoes on an armadillo. But that meeting was truly the start of an unbelievable growth pattern for our company, and I attribute a large part of that growth to the openness of the members of this fine organization. Now, 23 years later, I have missed only one meeting, and I am blessed to say our company grew from two locations and $2 million to 13 locations and more than $65 million. Members in this Association, then and now, have an uncanny ability to put aside their sense of self and competitive concerns, and openly share their successes and mistakes with everyone, regardless of experience in the business. I don't find this happening in many other associations or industries. In my opinion, if you have never experienced the value and sense of camaraderie and community afforded by this Association and this industry, you have missed a great opportunity. It works because everyone involved is totally committed to its success.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to address one other important item concerning the HARDI regional meetings and specifically address it to all of our 450 wholesale distributor member firms. The regional meetings are an important part of the culture and the future of our Association. Wholesaler attendance at the various regional meetings is not reaching acceptable levels, in my opinion and that of the Board. We have made a commitment to put forth whatever effort is necessary to change this situation. Speaking for myself and many others, there has been a concern that some of the regional meetings may not provide enough value and content to warrant time away from the business. Many of the regional meeting planners, assisted by the HARDI staff when needed, have committed to work at changing their traditional regional meeting model for next year and to put together a content-filled program that I believe will give every wholesaler a reason to attend and to send staff. Next year's programs may well include full-day sessions with professional speakers and trainers in sales, business operations and other critical subjects related to every businessperson, including in-depth networking opportunities, mini-meetings with vendors and the opportunity for recreation, if desired. For those who have not attended before, I hope you will take a renewed interest in these changes. For those who never miss a meeting, we'll see you there.
Have a great and prosperous summer!
Best regards, Bill Shaw