At the time of this writing, the headlines indicate the center of the country is experiencing a “record heat wave” with temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in a large portion of the country. For most people, this is not good news, but for our industry, sounds like great weather.
Since my last article, I have attended the Southwest and combined Central & Great Lakes regional conferences. The Central & Great Lakes conference was very well attended, and exceeded the previous record of participating distributors. Regional chair, Bill Bergamini did a great job organizing the meeting, and Talbot and the other HARDI staff made their usual great contributions to the meeting. The Southwest regional in Destin was also very well attended, and had a distinct family friendly atmosphere. Lance Malone and Carl Ray and the regional board did a great job organizing the meeting, the Crab Island outing was wonderful and the weather was actually cooler in Florida than in Lake Geneva (but not by much). Both regions had Andrew (from ITR) and Talbot providing updates on the industry and financial trends. To this point I'm compelled to put a “plug” in for reporting your HVAC unitary numbers to the trends report. Given the recent position adopted by AHRI on sharing their knowledge regarding dry-shipped units, it is more important than ever to get a good feel for how this issue is affecting our industry which means HARDI distributor participation in this unitary report is invaluable!
One of the great experiences this year has been the interaction with AHRI (manufacturers), ACCA (contractors) and HARDI (distributors). We are fortunate to have so many smart and dedicated people in this industry which is something that gives me great confidence for the future. However, there is one issue that has me a little concerned. In many instances, these three entities are not having the cooperative and collaborative conversations this industry needs. There is a lot of high level conversation about sales, marketing and product improvement — and to be fair, those are critical to our success. However, as I've observed these conversations I have been struck by how little we know about each other's business as it applies to key performance indicators, best practices, financial metrics and cost drivers and how much missed opportunity there is as a result. Most of the contractors I have talked to have never had a conversation with a supplier (be it distributor or manufacturer) about how business can be conducted more efficiently, at less cost and based on business needs outside of product and price. Many of the manufacturers I have talked to are unaware of average overhead, costs of the value add or even sales per employee for distributors. Most distributors do not understand the overhead costs, the capital requirements or the public company pressures that many of our manufacturers live with on a daily basis. If we are going to have a successful future as a supply chain, it is imperative that we have to have a better understanding than we currently possess of each other's business issues and challenges. These conversations cannot begin without some research, education and a collaborative spirit rooted in the best interests and future successes of the industry and those within it. This needs to happen sooner than later.
That being said, the upcoming Annual Conference in Hawaii has an agenda rich with educational opportunities, discussion platforms and networking opportunities precisely geared to address these channel deficiencies by promoting a more collaborative and profitable environment. Hope to see you there.