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084: Talbot Gee on association member engagement, government advocacy and workforce development at HARDI

November 24, 2021

If a trade association is only as good as its leadership, then HARDI––the Heating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Distributors International Association––is very good indeed, thanks to the energetic and innovative direction of CEO Talbot Gee. Jason chats with Talbot about his formula for providing consistent, top-notch value to HARDI members. The equation includes plenty of workforce development, government advocacy, and gratitude for the biggest little industry most folks know nothing about.

“You could be a supremely educated college graduate, or you could be someone who never once even considered or wanted to go to college. Maybe [you] barely got through high school.” Talbot confides, before revealing distribution’s best-kept secret: “You could end up being a multimillionaire in this industry if you got the right stuff and work hard at it.” He has the stories to prove his supposition, committed to video for the documentary Hot Commodity, a  behind-the-scenes look at young people finding success in the HVAC industry. It’s one of the many workforce initiatives that Talbot has been involved in, a concerted effort to build relationships with the next generation of decision-makers. In doing so, he’s securing the current and future health of the industry.

Whether he’s promoting the HVAC industry, pushing the envelope of member offerings, or expanding his organization into Mexico, Talbot is laser-focused. HARDI’s membership appreciates his work, especially regarding the many congressional fly-ins he’s participated in on behalf of sector-specific issues. It’s a form of advocacy that Talbot has helped foster. “I know people get uncomfortable when you talk about the connection of money in politics,” he says, “but there's a reason that all exists. I'm not saying it's perfect, but it's not all bad.”

One of HARDI’s strengths lies in its ability to drive member engagement, reaching out rather than waiting for membership to respond. Talbot says the organization continues to lean into and learn from those efforts. “That's kind of one of those dynamics of just how our business is so different now than the way it was before,” he says, referencing not only the period just before the pandemic but also HARDI’s overall evolution. 

The organization has grown to three times the size since Talbot first arrived and has become a more consultative entity in the intervening years. That growth suits Talbot, who’s constantly tuned into creating mutually beneficial strategies and partnerships for the people he serves. “Man, when you solve a problem for them,” Talbot says, “it's like best friends for life. They're the absolute most gracious people you could ever meet.”

Watch Hot Commodity, the documentary mentioned in this episode, for free.


Hot Commodity

DT069: Steve Deist on career paths and recruitment strategies in wholesale distribution







Distribution Talk is produced by The Distribution Team, a consulting services firm dedicated to helping wholesale distribution clients remove barriers to profitability, generate wealth and achieve personal goals.   

This episode was edited & mixed by The Creative Impostor Studios.


“Few people find this industry. This industry finds you in terms of association management.  It can attract people with interests and talents all over the map because that's kind of what we do.”

“If you have a next-generation who's on the path to be the next leader, well, then they better understand how all this policy impacts them, and make those relationships with those representatives who will have a big, big impact on the future of their businesses.”

“The whole point here is, we're actually the biggest little industry that you never heard of.” 

“I've even told my daughters, I think the branch manager position is one of the coolest things in the economy.”

“I think it's more about making an impact than always, entirely, just kind of making people happy.”

Special thanks to our sponsor for this episode: INxSQL Distribution Software, integrated distribution ERP software designed for the wholesale and distribution industry.


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