The Value of Legal Advice

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I think I need an attorney…

Here, at MANA headquarters, we get this phone call often. The calls are about business issues such as buying-selling a firm, or, more often, about rep-principal agreements. In this situation, you typically need an attorney at two points in time: 1) at the beginning of the relationship and agreement negotiation, and 2) at the end of the relationship when the contract is terminated.

Recall that in the beginning (and once the documents are signed), we all are in “agreement” with the terms and conditions and how each party will perform. Remember too that there is always certain risk, as there is in any new relationship. The legal concern of this new beginning is just one aspect of all of the risk factors. If your attorney says, “I have a doubt” about the agreement, don’t interpret that to mean, “Don’t sign it.” Attorneys are paid to have doubts! If your attorney, however, says, “Don’t sign it” — then don’t.

Contracts are really for contingencies and often times are not needed until either something changes or something goes wrong. Hopefully when you sign a new agreement or enter into a relationship with a new Principal, all goes well for years and years and you never need to take the agreement out of your (fire-proof) file cabinet. However, it is a good practice to do a quick annual review of all of your contracts to be certain that the terms and conditions are still applicable and up-to-date.

MANA has some great resources to assist you in all of the legal aspects of your business:

  • A Manual for the Creation of a Rep-Principal Agreement — a MANA publication updated by a committee of reps and our own Jerry Leth.
  • Phone consultation (15 minutes) with any MANA attorney — for free.
  • Phone consultation with us, the MANA staff (three ex-reps and lots of stories!).
  • MANAfest Conference, May 31 to June 3 — featuring a panel of MANA attorneys discussing the new agreement guidelines. The attorneys will also be available for one-on-one (private!), 30-minute consultations with you. (Hope to see you there!)

Reps are relationship experts and can usually tell if a new principal is going to be really good, good, just ok, or something less altogether. It’s important to spend time on the legal aspects of agreements and negotiations, but don’t forget to get out and sell.

You Have to Get in the Game

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During the football and basketball season, the “games” are certainly of intense interest for many people, especially if you live, as I do, in Lawrence, KS. Getting into the game is the primary goal of a lot of players. Considering that goal led me to start thinking of our own businesses, MANA local organizations and MANA throughout North America. The game is definitely on — and it is a tough one!

Since you are reading this “Editorial in the Field,” you probably already are a MANA member — either as a manufacturer or as a professional sales representative. So you … Read the rest

Seeking Counsel: Attorneys Tackle Rep Issues

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Whether the subject is a rep’s rights upon termination, strategies for dealing with foreign principals or how to react when a customer interferes with the rep-principal relationship, there is no shortage of conversation points when rep-savvy attorneys put their heads together. That was exactly the case last fall when, for the sixth time, MANA sponsored its annual legal symposium. Attended by 19 attorneys and several rep association executives, the one-day meeting addressed a number of concerns of importance to the independent manufacturers’ representative.

If there was a single thread that ran through the discussions during the legal symposium, it was … Read the rest

When Contracts Go Global, International Arbitration Pays Off

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As part of the evolutionary process and in anticipation of inevitable disputes, the desire, if not the requirement, of at least some parties to agreements is to have a method of dispute resolution with which they are familiar, usually in the jurisdiction in which they reside. Thus many of the proposed or executed contracts presented to our firm by our clients contained provisions for dispute resolution under foreign laws and in various foreign courts or by international arbitration. These contract terms are often alien to the clients’ (and many lawyers’) way of thinking and past experiences. While some of the … Read the rest

How to Soften the Impact of Customer Bankruptcy

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A special report for buy-sell reps.

Every day seems to bring a report of another financially troubled business that has filed for bankruptcy, or which is on the verge of doing so. All too often, such companies are more than just headlines in the news. Rather, if you happen to be a “Buy-Sell” rep — one that buys its principal’s products for resale to customers, and which assumes the risk of collection for such sales — a bankrupt company may also be a customer to whom you recently sold and delivered goods on credit.

Survival Tactics for a Tough Economy

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Jim is a small business owner who’s been watching the economy evaporate right in front of his eyes. Stress isn’t the word to explain how he feels. His business bears the entire financial burden of funding his mortgage and lifestyle. If the slowdown continues, not only will his nightly tossing and turning get worse, he may have a full-blown nervous breakdown.

Jim is fortunate to have a neighbor, Ken, who helps small business owners “lead better lives by running better businesses.” Since his business had gone so well for the past 10 years, Jim never felt he needed a consultant … Read the rest

The 10 Traits of Effective Reps, Part II

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Last month, Agency Sales began a series of articles that examine the traits needed for an independent manufacturers’ representative to be successful. The traits are borrowed from a book entitled Ten Traits of Highly Effective Principals: From Good to Great Performance, by Elaine K. McEwan. The first traits we examined were culture builder and communicator. We follow this month with a study of the rep as both a producer and a facilitator.

The Producer

If the independent manufacturers’ representative plans on being a producer, he needs a few attributes that will assist him in reaching that desired goal. That’s … Read the rest

Gear Up to Sell More in 2009

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Even though the economy is in serious trouble, nothing has changed. You still need to make sales. Whatever your industry and whatever else is happening, one task remains — closing sales.

Here’s the problem: even though you may know your products and have the right selling skills, it may not be enough to get you where you want to be in 2009. If your job is demanding in good times, what do you think it will be like in the year ahead? So, here’s the question: what do you need to add that can help you meet your numbers?

That’s … Read the rest

What a Principal Should Expect From a Rep

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Just as conversations in major league baseball’s “hot stove league” tend to take on a life of their own, so too does the following oft-asked question: What should a principal expect from its independent manufacturers’ reps? What follows are a few immediate responses.

Manufacturers expect their reps to:

  • Make sales calls! And, that you sell their products.
  • Communicate effectively, efficiently and truthfully.
  • Report on new business opportunities.
  • Report on major account status and action items.
  • Give feedback on competitors and the market climate.
  • Attend sales meetings and stay current on product and application training.
  • Follow up leads and find new
  • Read the rest

R-Commerce and the Business of Relationship Marketing

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Social networking, open source, and your business success.

Social Networking is a logical extension of relationship marketing or what I call R-commerce. It is the desire for people to connect with others who share similar interests, values, ideas and who can help each other. It is also a sign of how marketing has changed.

In the old days (not that long ago), marketers would craft their message and push it out to the masses. Delivery vehicles included TV advertising, radio advertising, newspapers and other tools. These worked well for taking your message and sending it to the masses.

But today, … Read the rest

Paid Tax Preparers

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“Of course the truth is that congresspersons are too busy raising campaign money to read the laws they pass. The laws are written by staff tax nerds who can put pretty much any wording they want in there. I bet that if you actually read the entire vastness of the U.S. Tax Code, you’d find at least one sex scene.”  — Dave Barry

Tax Preparation Firms

You hire a doctor or lawyer, although you have no technical knowledge about the practice of medicine or the rules of law. Many of you hire your tax preparer just as blindly — and … Read the rest