The advantages of my position and the use of this column are that I can inform or complain about things that concern me, and the only bad thing that can happen is unemployment. Since the latter is only a minor issue because I just know I will win the lottery any day, I shall proceed.

As many people know, before I joined the HARDI staff, I was a wholesale distributor and a member of the former NHRAW association, of which my firm was a founding member. When I joined the firm, I had a lot of experience in HVACR design, manufacturing and sales, but a limited amount in distribution. After about a year in operations, I was fortunate to become president of the distribution company, which specialized in HVACR equipment, supplies and metals.

As you can imagine, I had a lot to learn and needed to learn it quickly. At the time, my predecessor attended the NHRAW annual meetings and encouraged me to do so. I attended the very next meeting and every one after, including the summer business conferences. I was like a sponge, soaking up every bit of information available. In the process, I found an infinite source of knowledge, experience and friendships that continue today. However, the major problem, and the point of this column, was that the meetings only occurred every six months, and the acquaintances I made were from all over the country. In that nearly 10-year period, I learned a great deal but never had the opportunity to get to know other distributors in my markets and draw from their vast knowledge.

On the other hand, ARWI, the other former association involved in the consolidation and formation of HARDI, continued their very successful regional meeting programs year after year. As a result, there is an ongoing knowledge exchange as well as the continuation of long-term friendships and opportunities for new acquaintances within the markets of the region. It is no wonder long-standing regional meeting attendees never missed a meeting, and the meetings have continued year after year.

In 2003, when the two associations consolidated into HARDI, the ARWI established regional meeting concept was continued. Since that time, it has been difficult to grow some of the regional meetings and, in many cases, draw in the wealth of former NHRAW, now HARDI, wholesale distributors. I may be slow, but this doesn't make sense to me. Why, when such an opportunity exists to gain a wealth of valuable information for the betterment of your business and in addition interface and network with fellow respected distributors in your market, would you pass up the opportunity?

I've heard some say they're too busy for a day-and-a-half meeting once a year. One could argue that is hardly a good excuse when, in most cases, the distributor executive must leave the business for multiple days a year for supplier trips, distributor meetings and the annual conference. Granted, that is for a different reason, but I would submit the results are the same, just a different location and different people.

Then there is the complaint from some that the regional meetings have a golf tournament, and if they wanted to play golf, they can do that at home. No argument with that except that at home, you are still away from the office. Also, if you don't want to play golf, don't go for that part of the meeting or, better yet, set up meetings to get to know all the others who don't play golf. It's truly all about taking advantage of opportunities and making the best of them.

Another reason some have used to not attend is that the programs are not strong enough to warrant being away from the office. I would admit that has been true in some situations, but I know for a fact the regional planners, the HARDI Board and the Events Committee are addressing that issue. Because I am also involved, I can guarantee the situation will be different in the future.

I would ask that if you have issues or questions about the value of the regional meetings, please give me a call at 888/253-2128. I can give you my unique perspective based on experience or I will recommend others who would be more than glad to help. Oh, and since President Mark Faessler and I attend virtually all regional meetings, we would be glad to introduce you around if you are shy. Although, I have yet to meet a shy wholesaler.

Visit www.HARDInet.org for regional meeting dates and details.