Opening Keynote


Matthew “Griff” Griffin is the co-founder and CEO of Combat Flip Flops, a footwear and apparel company that sells goods manufactured in conflict and post-conflict zones. Griffin founded Combat Flip Flops in 2006, after graduating from West Point and serving four tours of duty as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan and Iraq. The company uses their profits to aid the areas in which they are made as a part of Griffin’s mission to encourage peace through trade and “business over bullets.” A powerful and emotional speaker, Griffin is known for a moving TEDx talk on the power of persistence, creativity, and respect, as well as for his successful appearance on the entrepreneurial television show, ABC’s Shark Tank, where he secured a deal with not only one but three “sharks” including Mark Cuban. Griffin is a firm believer that “anything worth doing is worth overdoing” and shares his inspiring and motivating story of chasing big goals and creating positive change with audiences globally.



Our closing keynote speaker is a speaker not to be missed. This speaker has traveled the globe and has worked with some of the world’s most influential individuals including world leaders, actors, musicians, athletes and artists. The stories that this individual has will be an inspiration to all our event attendees. This speakers’ has an international reputation and has created a legacy that will most certainly go down in history.

Stay tuned for an anouncement on our closing keynote speaker.



One of the country’s most informed economists, Dr. Alan Beaulieu is a principal at ITR Economics where he serves as President. Since 1990, he has been consulting with companies throughout the US, Europe, and Asia on how to forecast, plan, and increase their profits based on business cycle trend analysis. Alan is also the Senior Economic Advisor to numerous domestic and international trade associations. Alan is co-author, along with Brian Beaulieu, of books Make Your Move, Prosperity in the Age of Decline, and But I Want It. He has also penned numerous articles on economic analysis. He makes up to 90 appearances each year, and his keynotes and seminars have helped thousands of business owners and executives capitalize on emerging trends.


Frances Stroh is the award-winning author of BEER MONEY: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss, which chronicles the rise and fall of the Stroh Brewery Company, a fascinating American saga, and one linked inextricably with the decimation of Detroit, its longtime headquarters. In her memoir, Ms. Stroh recounts the demise of a dynasty and brings to life the fractured family at its center: her own. Though she eventually forged her own path, attending college on a Fulbright scholarship and becoming an installation artist as well as an investor, Ms. Stroh’s experience was formed by the profligate spending, alcoholism, drug abuse, and rebellion that came with a $700 million fortune, and predicated its loss. She now advises family businesses on thoughtful succession and setting up future generations for personal success.


After years as an executive with billion dollar brands, Gerry O’Brion is now a professional speaker and strategy consultant who uses big company strategies to grow businesses of all sizes, regardless of their budget. His keynote address has helped thousands of CEOs and executives create disruptive change in their industries. Gerry teaches a framework of influence that shows distributors how to become the first choice for customers, even in crowded industries. Gerry began his career in marketing at Procter & Gamble and then was an executive for Coors Light, Quiznos, and Red Robin.



Barry Brandman is widely recognized as one of the country’s top business security experts. He is the CEO of Danbee Investigations, an organization that provides professional asset protection solutions and investigative services to manufacturers, distributors, retailers and transportation companies domestically and internationally, including many companies in the pharmaceutical supply chain. Danbee Investigations specializes in security problems such as inventory loss, fraud, product tampering, counterfeiting, diversion and sabotage. Barry Brandman is the author of two texts, Security Best Practices and The Executive’s Guide to Business Security. He has appeared on network television and been interviewed by publications such as USA Today, Forbes and The Journal of Commerce.


Susan Frew is Co-Owner and President of Sunshine Plumbing, Heating & Air in Denver, Colorado. Sunshine has grown from 1 truck in 2012 to 12 in 2016. This was accomplished by using the “12 points of love” method of customer service along with a strategic and laser-focused marketing plan. She was formerly an International General Manager with AT&T Wireless, certified and licensed business coach, ESPN radio host and SBA trainer. Susan is also the President of the Colorado PHCC, National Zone 3 Director for PHCC, Trustee: Quality Service Contracts, Adams County Workforce Board, Emily Griffith School Advisory Council, Board of Directors, North Metro Chamber of Commerce. Susan is also a member of the National Speakers Association. In her free time, Susan runs a bus tour called Thriftinista, that supports nonprofit organizations. She has a love for saving money and getting the best deals so Thriftinista was born. This tour gets people from the community together and helps them learn how to find the best bargains at thrift stores.


Ian Heller is President/COO of Modern Distribution Management, the most trusted resource for market intelligence and industry insight to wholesale distribution executives and industrial product marketers since 1967. He began his distribution career as a truck unloader in a Grainger branch in college. He left that company 15 years later as Marketing Vice President and has held senior executive positions in marketing and eCommerce at GE Capital Rail, Newark Electronics, Corporate Express and most recently as VP Marketing for HD Supply White Cap. Ian also founded and ran Real Results Marketing, a distribution-focused consultancy, for seven years.


Mohammed Ali was born in Columbia, SC and moved to Austin, TX at the age of 5. Mohammed is a serial entrepreneur and futurist. He has formed and operated several businesses in both the technology and entertainment production fields. He most recently, in January 2016, founded Austin VR Lab which focuses on delivering Virtual Art, Commerce, and Experiences. Being raised in Austin, TX provided the perfect environment that has propelled him to achieve new heights in the ever-evolving industry of Virtual Reality. Mohammed is regarded as an expert in Virtual Reality production, distribution and education.


Danielle is the Executive Director for the North American Sustainable Refrigeration Council (NASRC) and has worked in the energy efficiency and sustainability field for the past ten years. She has experience working with the grocery and food retail sector to optimize and reduce overall energy consumption with a specific focus on refrigeration. Prior to her role at NASRC, Danielle oversaw the EnergySmart Grocer program, a third party energy efficiency program serving the grocery sector in the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) territory. Under her management, the program saved over 100 million kWh from energy efficiency retrofits primarily in refrigeration.


Richard Hadden is an author and workplace expert with a focus on Leadership and Employee Engagement. He is a co-author of the popular “Contented Cows” leadership book series, and the book Rebooting Leadership. His latest book is Contented Cows STILL Give Better Milk. A former Information Technology Manager and college instructor, Richard has, since 1990, spoken and conducted leadership training for more than 850 audiences on five continents. He has appeared on CNN and MSNBC, and his work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Inc. Magazine.


Mark Chaffee is currently the Vice President of Governmental Affairs & Sustainability for Taco, Inc.  He has worked at Taco for over 20 years and during that time has held key positions in new product development, product management, brand management, and business development.  He participated in the DOE rulemaking process for both commercial & industrial pumps and circulator pumps and is chair of the Hydraulic Institute’s committee developing the Energy Rating and labeling program which aligns with the DOE rulemaking.  He also serves as an industry leader and hydronics advocate through his roles at the Radiant Professionals Alliance (RPA), Hydronic Industry Alliance (HIA-C), board member of the Hydraulic Institute and a committee chair with the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).


Susan Rider is a Consultant in Employee Benefit & Human Capital Management.   Recognized in 2016 by Employee Benefit Adviser among the “25 Most Influential Women in Benefit Advising.” Susan was recognized also a Rising Stars in the Employee Benefit Advisor Magazine in 2011.  She serves as an integral extension of the benefits/finance/HR staffs of private and publicly traded businesses. Susan is a business advisor who brings added value to employers by identifying options to mitigate rising costs, improve the health of employees and their dependents, and represent them in complex negotiations with insurers over how best to design and finance their health and benefit programs and ancillary coverage lines. Susan is a market innovator who has expertise in alternative coverage mechanisms such as self-insurance options, including Captive solutions.  Susan regularly meets with legislators on behalf of her clients to help transform healthcare policy that is business friendly. Susan joined Gregory & Appel in 2008.  She leads our compliance committee as well as the Human Capital Management division.  Susan is a member of our International Vertical and her primary focuses include: Wholesale/Retail, Captives, Public Entities, Manufacturing, Technology Firms, Start-ups as well as Healthcare. Susan received her Master’s Degree in Strategic Leadership (HR) from the University of Indianapolis – Capstone Project “Human Resources Transformed by Process Efficiency”.  Susan obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies with a Concentration in Organizational Leadership from IUPUI. Susan holds her Human Resource Certificate. Susan’s certifications include: ACA, Certified Self-Funding Specialist (CSFS), Advanced Self-Funded (ASF), Consumer Directed Health Care (CDHC) & Wellness.


Chad Morris excels in designing industry-leading cost containment strategies to improve organizations’ employee benefits programs.  He is an innovator and works to build programs that best align with each employer’s company culture. An analytical communicator focused on problem solving and providing impeccable service, Chad establishes valuable relationships with his clients by asking vital and sometimes tough questions to positively impact their organization.  He listens and views his client relationships as mutual partnerships built on integrity. Chad joined Gregory & Appel in 2011 and serves as a Vice President and Senior Benefits Consultant.  He has spent over a decade in employee benefits design and consulting.  His direct experience includes serving clients in a variety of fields that include higher education institutions, manufacturing and public entities – just to name a few.  Backed by a skilled team at G&A, Chad can identify the best strategies and technologies that will move the needle for his clients. Chad is ACA certified through the National Association of Health Underwriters (NAHU) and is a graduate of Indiana University (Bloomington) with a concentration in business. When he’s not working, Chad is spending quality time with his family and friends.  He enjoys rooting on the Colts and Hoosiers, traveling and staying active.


Charlie Warren is CEO of Convex, the leading data analytics business for the HVAC sales and service market. With a team from MIT, Carrier, and Honeywell, Convex works with mechanical contractors to improve the efficiency of their businesses using predictive analytics. Charlie has over 10 years of experience in energy analytics, building data, and enterprise software development. His research has been featured by Forbes, Marketplace, and the U.S. Department of Energy. A proud Midwesterner living in Silicon Valley, his family runs a residential and light commercial HVAC business in the Detroit area.


Dan leads a team to provide market data and building science analysis to a variety of projects. He is a key technical support specialist for DOE’s Weatherization Assistance Program, was a subject matter expert for DOE’s National Standard Work Specifications for multifamily buildings, and is a member of the DOE Multifamily Working Group. Dan is also the principal analyst for the HARDI Unitary Market Report. He has performed numerous benchmarking and evaluation activities for utilities and regional efficiency organizations.


Palmer Schoening is President of Schoening Strategies LLC, a government affairs and economic consulting firm that advises associations and family businesses on tax policy. Palmer is the founder and chairman of the Family Business Coalition. Palmer has been a key player in the fight to repeal the federal estate tax and helped to usher in repeal of state transfer taxes in Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Palmer is a graduate of Hillsdale College and George Mason University’s School of Public Policy where he earned his Masters in financial economics.


Alex Ayers has been with the Family Business Coalition for five years serving previously as director of public policy. Alex has published papers and studies in various policy areas including taxes, energy, agriculture, and economics and has testified on tax policy. His research has been cited by organizations such as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes and the Tax Foundation. Alex has a Master of Public Policy from Iowa State University.


Dave Neely is a training consultant from Kingston, Ontario.  As a former sales trainer with IBM Canada, he has delivered many successful sales workshops over the years which focus on connecting to a prospect’s inner motivation.   His Association clients include CIPH (Cdn Institute of Plumbing and Heating) and DHI (the Door and Hardware Institute)


Marilyn was the previous Global Program Leader for Executive Development at GE’s Crotonville Leadership center who is a highly experienced learning professional, facilitator and executive coach. Using Lean Startup and change-management practices, she has been able to deliver key cultural outcomes, helping business leaders around the world build credibility and confidence through challenging and application-rich training solutions focused on delivering business impact.


James (Jim) D. Bennett, Jr. MBA, CFP®, CRPC®, has been a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial for the past 26 years. He has earned designations as a Certified Financial Planner, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, and Business Financial Advisor.  He has a MBA from Clemson University and an undergraduate degree in Economics and Business Administration from Furman University.  Jim has served as an adjunct business, finance, and marketing professor at a local community college since 1999.  Jim was the first adjunct professor to receive the distinguished Business Professor of the Year Award.  In this role, Jim developed an acclaimed entrepreneurship program and has worked with students and business owners in the community to start, grow, and wind down their businesses.   Jim believes that we all start businesses for different reasons and for many of us it is a legacy.  We want to provide the best products and service for our customers, but along the way, we want to be compensated accordingly and build an asset of value for ourselves and our families. Jim is noted for his great sense of humor and his strong desire to mentor young professionals and give back to his community.


Panel Moderator

Steffan Busch

Nexstar Network

Alex Mesalam

Best Choice Supply Co.

Jessica Vanhuss

Century A/C Supply Co.

Stevenson Johnson

Johnstone Supply of Central New YorK

Alex Rodgriguez


Marisa DiFabio

Johnstone Supply

Corey Salyards

ACR Supply Company

Josh Golgowski

APR Supply Company

Dave Radmand

Geary Pacific Supply


Panel Moderator


Modern Distribution Management

Bill Shaw

Standard Supply & Distributing Co.

Randy Tice

APR Supply Co.

Bud Mingledorff

Mingledorff’s Inc.

Larry Golen

Heatcraft Worldwide Refrigeration (Retired)

Dave McIlwaine

HVAC Distributors, Inc.

Tom Weinrich

Denver Winair Co.