This March issue is a little different — in a very good way, I think. It contains a number of interesting articles: Talbot discussing the “state of the union” of HARDI, Emily giving us some insight on the competitive advantage of training and development of the workforce, John on advocacy, Richard on the Counter Certification Program and a discussion on the Distribution Learning Network (DLN) training network offered by HARDI. The content of these articles ensures that our members have the information to maximize the value of the organization to their companies.

As this issue reaches your desk, our company is in the middle of planning and budgeting for the next fiscal year. Our year ends in March, and when reviewing the contents of this month's publication, I reflected on how much we have used the organization's tools in recent months.

In Texas, we are a very seasonal business if the focus is on air conditioning. We never have enough people in the summer, and we have a lot of extra time in the winter (although I'm not sure all of our employees would agree). We tend to do things in the winter that revolve around training, the ability to see customers that are usually very busy in the summer, budgeting, strategizing, benchmarking and opening or upgrading branch locations. We have used the DLN for training our employees and are very pleased with the ability to keep track of all the courses our employees have taken, the breadth of courses available and the online aspect of the courses. We use the HARDI profit report for checking our performance metrics against both average and high performing companies. If we are not performing as we should, this becomes part of our plans for the upcoming year. We use the TRENDS reports to validate our projections for the upcoming year and pay close attention to the phase management suggestions.

Alan Beaulieu, HARDI's economist, suggested we were in phase “A” in our region last year, and we started some of the suggested action plans, including hiring people, investing in infrastructure and introducing new product lines. We learned more about the Texas A&M methodology to stratify our inventory and our customers last year, ran several test cases, have refined this over the winter and will be using this new approach in the upcoming year.

We have utilized Talbot's and Jon's communications and efforts to influence our representatives concerning issues such as LIFO and 25C in recent months; at the time of this writing, we are aware of two issues originating from the NLRB concerning (potentially) published notices in our workplace, and the issue of access if you allow any other organization (such as blood drives or charities) into your place of business.

Finally, I recommend that everyone read the NAW publication, Facing the Forces of Change: Decisive Actions for an Uncertain Economy, authored by Guy Blissett. I've been a longtime fan of this series, and this edition is very thought-provoking. We are using this book as a guide for some of our strategic planning. HARDI and its association with organizations such as Texas A&M and NAW bring huge amounts of value to our company.

Enjoy this issue — I think you will find it very rewarding; it is worth reflecting on all the ways you do or can use the resources of the organization.