Though it sounds very simple, one of the greatest challenges of any trade association is keeping current with the changes in its member organizations. HARDI recognizes that — just like staying on top of market information and changes in the HVACR industry — it is important to update and improve our knowledge of our members. The reasons are quite plain: the more we know about our members, the more we can fine-tune and tailor our member services and offerings to meet our member needs, exceed their expectations and provide the utmost value.
One approach to this issue that HARDI has always favored is meeting and talking in person, whether at a regional meeting, conference or simply stopping by on the way through town. These are likely the most important interactions we have — an opportunity to put a real face to our members, and likewise an opportunity for our members to put a face to HARDI.
However, with industry changes and increasing government involvement in the HVACR business, we need to be able to access the leverage of our membership to tackle the issues ahead and be fully prepared with the best information possible. The more solid statistics we have on the HVACR industry and our members, the more we will be able to provide irrefutable evidence of the power and influence of our industry. Whether we're fighting a legislative proposal that will disrupt HVACR trade, or working with states to try to ensure that efficient heating and cooling products get the maximum government rebate, it is crucial that we base our information on facts and not just assumptions.
With that in mind, HARDI has increased its efforts to gather statistics from our members. However, gathering all of this information is not as easy as stopping people in the hallway and asking, or listening in to conversations around the “proverbial water cooler.” With a large membership base that is spread across the United States and internationally, HARDI has opted for a more comprehensive and efficient approach to gathering information, i.e., the survey.
With the launch of the HARDI Member Profile Questionnaire in late July, responses began trickling in at a rate on par with what most experts had predicted (right around 10 to 15 percent). But after many personal e-mails and phone calls, we managed to achieve a very satisfying response rate of 50 percent from our wholesaler members.
The main goal of our first large survey this year was to establish points of contact in certain job functions, such as training, purchasing, sales management, etc. With these new contacts, we will be able to direct information that pertains to specific fields directly to the people who need that information the most. This would effectively streamline our communications with members, and speed up the exchange of knowledge needed on some regulatory and legislative issues. From the 50 percent of our wholesaler members who participated, we made over 700 new contacts with whom we look forward to building relations.
Another goal we have is to map out different wholesaler job classifications, and create a basic yet comprehensive summary of the duties and expected knowledge level of each position. With our survey, we were able to gather contact information on nearly 300 training professionals, with whom we hope to collaborate to really define the various competency levels for each job description. With these in hand, we will be able to help raise the overall expectations for employee proficiency and professionalism, and create easy-to-use criteria in the hiring process.
The Member Profile Questionnaire was also very helpful in gathering quantifiable statistics on our members and the HVACR market. For instance, one might expect the number of employees that each of our members have to look something like a bell curve, where most companies would cluster in the middle, and then taper out in either direction. However, over two-thirds of our respondents reported having less than 100 employees, whereas some reported multiple hundreds and sometimes thousands. Thus, a graph of the number of employees for our members would peak very early, and then have a very long and slow decline. This reflects how HARDI represents a few very large firms, and many smaller companies. In fact, companies with 20 employees or less might be surprised to know that companies like their own actually make up about 22 percent of HARDI's wholesaler members, which is a very significant portion. The following table shows what the typical HARDI wholesaler might look like:
Full-Time Employees: Median: 51 | Mean: 191
Number of Branches: Median: 5 | Mean: 17
States of Operation: Median: 1 | Mean: 3
Residential Sales Percent: 58%
Commercial Sales Percent: 37%
Other Sales Percent: 5%
Whether a wholesaler has 20 employees or 200 employees, we can draw upon some of these statistics as proof of different wholesaler needs in the midst of discussion over public policies that impact business. This is exactly why HARDI hopes to continue receiving such valuable feedback from its members. We will continue to conduct surveys in the future, but will keep them short and to the point. HARDI intends to collect the best information we can use to benefit all our members. Please be sure to respond to surveys in the future, even if you did not have time over the summer to complete the Member Profile Questionnaire. Your input is still very valuable, and greatly appreciated.
Alex Gregory is HARDI's project specialist. For more information or to participate, contact him at 888/253-2128 or firstname.lastname@example.org.