The Heating, Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Distributors International (HARDI) annual conference will kick-off this December in Las Vegas. This year’s theme – NOVA – is part celestial underpinnings, and part bright new talent showcase. I spoke with President of HARDI, Talbot Gee, and learned more about the conference and some new initiatives spearheaded by this organization.
Danielle Galian: This year’s celestial theme – NOVA – is chock-full of inspirational speakers and sessions. How did HARDI come up with this theme, and why?
Talbot Gee: Every early spring, our leadership and team take a step back and assess the landscape in which our distributors are living and the single biggest theme was that of rapid change, untapped potential, and a serious questioning of the status quo. We are feverishly studying several major topics affecting wholesale distribution, which bred the concept of discovery and implementation. That’s what NOVA is all about: discovering new opportunities and threats, deploying ideas and strategies faster and more efficiently within your respective organization, and delivering the new value created to your customers and strategic suppliers.
DG: What makes Las Vegas, and the Aria Resort, the perfect location?
TG: First, there are absolutely no capacity constraints at the Aria, or Las Vegas in general. While we were still able to grow the annual conference last year in Colorado Springs, we know our growth was hampered by hotel room availability despite using three hotels. Second, the HARDI membership is the epitome of “work-hard, play-hard” and there is no better place for that than Las Vegas. The social networking between distributors and their suppliers, reps, and service vendors is absolutely crucial, and Las Vegas provides endless venues for such interactions long after the packed schedule of meetings and sessions have adjourned. Finally, the Aria provided our members with an extremely affordable room rate and, as the only LEED Gold Certified property on The Strip, enabled us to offer incredible behind-the-scene tours of its world-class IAQ and energy management systems.
DG: The “conference paths” noted on NOVA2017.com are Discover, Deploy, and Deliver. Share what these mean to members and how they’ll learn more about each.
TG: It is not unusual to see strong companies that are good at reading the tea leaves, or implementing strategy within their organization, or delivering exceptional value profitably to their customers and strategic suppliers, but it is rare to find organizations that are excellent at all three at once. We wanted to build a conference that plays to the strengths of any well-balanced management team of strategic thinkers, planners and operational experts, and sales and marketing demand-generators can all return home with renewed senses of purpose, motivation, and innovation.
DG: Last I checked, NOVA2017 has 16 speakers! How do you go about searching and choosing these dynamic speakers?
TG: Emily Saving, our vice president of services and operations, is the mastermind behind the fantastic content at the annual conference and our Focus conferences. She spends countless hours researching, interviewing, and vetting subject matter experts to bring innovative ideas and knowledge to our members. She also networks constantly with other organizations who share HARDI’s desire to push the envelope to see who they have worked with and who gave their audience the most “ah-ha” moments.
DG: Some exciting news recently from HARDI – the Mexican division is set to launch sometime in 2017. Please share how this expansion came about?
TG: We have been discussing this topic for almost as long as I’ve been with HARDI, but it wasn’t until last year when a group of Mexican distributors came to us and said they were ready to make something happen. Since then, we’ve been talking with anyone who was willing with experience working, selling, and operating in Mexico to learn how to properly staff, support, and launch such an organization. All of that due diligence really paid off when it helped us create the profile we wanted for an executive director, Mexico and led us to a perfect match in Guitze Messina who joined our team in August.
DG: What are some short-term and long-term goals of the Mexican division?
TG: First, it’s important to make clear that this new Mexican organization will share HARDI’s mission of making wholesale distributors the channel of choice for HVACR manufacturers and contractors. However, we are committed to empowering this new organization to be as unique to the needs of Mexican distributors as possible so, in the long-term, it is advancing those distributors in-line with our mission even if that means doing so in ways very differently than we do it today at HARDI.
Ultimately, we want this organization to position the distributors in Mexico as the unquestioned best strategy for manufacturers to attack the Mexican market, grow market share, and advance the channel into a truly scalable, profitable, and technically-sound enterprise.
DG: Is HARDI planning to open offices in Mexico and hire local staff?
TG: Our due diligence consistently recommended that we start with U.S.-based staff, preferably in a location with access to direct flights to major Mexican markets, and we were able to accomplish that with Guitze who’s based in Pompano, Florida with easy access to Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Orlando airports. Someday I’m sure Guitze will grow this organization to the point where we need more staff and indigenous support, but that is likely several years down the road.
DG: What has been the response so far from HARDI U.S. and partners?
TG: Perhaps the most exciting things so far since we publicly announced this new venture has been the pride and excitement our U.S. distributor members have in the expansion of HARDI’s mission into Mexico, and the overwhelming support committed already by so many key, strategic suppliers who want to see the distribution channel be that channel of choice for such a rapidly growing HVACR market.
DG: What are the plans for those interested in the new division who are attending NOVA2017?
TG: We are proud to announce the first-ever Mexico Market Summit the Tuesday afternoon and evening of our upcoming annual conference. This summit will be unique and exclusive to those companies operating in or selling to Mexican HVACR wholesale distribution. Those new to HARDI will have the opportunity to experience parts of our annual conference and U.S. manufacturer members will have the opportunity to attend the summit, but they will be clearly separate and differentiated events. We’re investing in translation tools for aspects of our annual conference, while also preparing for the summit itself to be a predominantly Spanish-language event. We’re really excited for what will be the official kick-off of this new Mexican organization featuring expert presenters and panelists from the industry and distribution.
DG: How many attendees are you expecting at NOVA2017?
TG: We have every expectation that this will be the largest annual conference in the association’s history. Last year, we had well over 1,300 attendees in a space-constrained venue, so I believe the sky (or stars more appropriately given our NOVA theme) really is the limit this year.
DG: Special shout-out to sponsors!
TG: Every HARDI event in which we seek sponsorship support, I always make a point to hammer home how absolutely essential that support is to put together what we strive to be world-class events and content. Every sponsor should know that their investment in us becomes an immediate investment in our distributors through content, tools, and new programs each and every year. To our distributors, our leadership and I make clear that it’s not just a request, but an expectation that our distributor attendees make it a point to introduce themselves to every sponsor and be sure they don’t leave the meeting venue until they at least know what each sponsor has to offer. We greatly respect and honor the investments our sponsors make in us and are committed to helping them generate powerful returns on those investments within the greatest community of HVACR wholesale distributors in the world.
DG: NOVA2017 is such a great way to cap off the year. What are you most looking forward to at the conference?
TG: Energy, innovation, and collaboration. That’s what I look forward to every year and I think NOVA17 provides the best context yet for those three things to happen. Every year we challenge our members, seek out ways to make them uncomfortable, and hopefully open doors to new ways at looking at their businesses for an even more successful future. Every year I am proud to say that our annual conference is our Super Bowl, and we will put every ounce of effort into making it the most meaningful time a HARDI member spends throughout the year. You can check back with me in January to see if we were successful.
For more information on HARDI’s NOVA2017 conference, visit nova2017.com.