This week, a select group of members and HARDI’s Management Team met in Columbus for our first Strategic Planning Meeting since 2009. Much changed for HARDI as a result of that last strategic planning meeting that led to impressive growth in HARDI’s distributor membership, participation rates, live event attendance, and revenues. HARDI’s expenses have also grown during this period as investments were made in staff with unique skill sets, technology, many new programs, bigger and more complex events, and the leading equity stake in Distributor Performance Analytics, LLC, which created our Distributor Performance Dashboards (DPD). To our leadership’s credit, they initiated this strategic planning meeting now while the organization is strong and healthy to move us to new heights before there’s any opportunity for regression (and this might be the most important lesson of strategic planning: don’t wait until you have to do it for survival, but rather while things seem to be going well).
For any credible trade association’s strategic planning, delivering constantly improving member value is always the first goal, and the purpose of the planning meeting is to determine what those new needed-values will be. This was the case for HARDI. However, we started this latest planning process with a very clear secondary goal of finding ways to generate great value while also growing the association’s net assets to ensure HARDI is always in a position to take advantage of opportunities that unexpectedly arise, to take risks when the leadership sees need to try and experiment with new initiatives, and to proactively attack distribution’s and the industry’s greatest challenges. In a fun parallel to our member companies, this meeting was all about growth, which sparked an entrepreneurial spirit – especially among HARDI’s department heads – to identify areas of members’ needs and consider outside-the-box ways HARDI could serve those needs.
The ink still isn’t dry from all of the flipcharts and markerboards used throughout this latest planning meeting, but members should be looking forward to an exciting time in which their trade association is able to provide new, highly customized, hands-on solutions to their greatest day-to-day and strategic problems. I was proud to watch our leadership identify the HARDI team I get to work with everyday as one of our greatest strengths so we now have to think about ways to better deploy their talents to suit each member’s unique situation and circumstances. How can their excellent abilities to produce world-class events, innovative and quantifiably effective development programs, market data and analyses, and representation be expanded to serve proprietary interests of individual member companies, buying and marketing groups, and other organizations in the HVACR industry or wholesale distribution in other channels?
Two days of exciting discussions and brainstorming like this has me swimming in the realm of possibilities of how HARDI can be a true key to the success of our distributor members, and our Supplier partners who choose to rely on our distributors for their growth. As with most things, our focus is on winning: Our distributors winning verse non-member distributors, our channel winning as the channel of choice for manufacturers, and our association winning as an indispensable, vital piece of our members’ winning strategies.
My tenure with HARDI hit the decade mark in May and it has been the most exciting 10 years I’ve had professionally. This week’s strategic planning meeting, however, has me convinced the ride hasn’t even started yet!