70th MANAversaryBy Charles Cohon
The year was 1947. Harry S. Truman was president, the World Series was televised for the first time (the New York Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games), Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and on October 17, 1947, the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association joined the community of not-for-profit trade associations.
Fast forward to July 1949, and MANA members discovered the first, 24-page issue of The Agent and Representative magazine (eventually renamed Agency Sales) in their mailboxes.
Digging through the first few issues of The Agent and Representative reveals how much MANA has changed, and also how much it has remained the same.
In those first few issues we find sentences like: “I know it’s customary for men who call themselves and believe themselves to be ‘practical men’ to pooh-pooh anything savoring of academic classification in salesmanship.” No thought of women as salespeople or as customers in those earliest editions. But in today’s MANA, woman-owned firms are common and the first woman to join MANA’s Board of Directors does so in May 2017.
Another glaring change since 1949 is that, although manufacturers were invited to advertise in our magazine, the articles in that 1949 issue focus solely on the needs of manufacturers’ representatives. Today Agency Sales strives to be relevant to both manufacturers and manufacturers’ representatives and includes articles for both audiences. And, also for the first time, a manufacturer will join MANA’s Board of Directors in May 2017.
Those are things that have changed, and changed for the better. Yet, some articles from those early issues could be reprinted today and most readers would have no hint that they were written in 1949. In the very first issue of The Agent and Representative is the story of Bill Herendon, a manufacturers’ representative whose customers pressured his principals to fire Bill and cut the price by the amount of Bill’s commissions. And how Bill, lacking a written agreement, had no recourse when the principal’s new sales manager agreed to that customer’s request.
As part of our 70th MANAversary celebration, each Agency Sales magazine from this issue through October will include a “blast from the past” from those early issues. In this issue, we share the first full page of “Agents and Representatives Wanted” advertising published in The Agent and Representative magazine, from the September 1949 issue. Next month, we’ll reprint the story of Bill Herendon.
On a personal note, it is humbling to read these early issues and realize the legacy with which MANA’s current staff and Board of Directors has been entrusted. It falls upon us not only to maintain and grow the services we provide to our members, but also to ensure that some future MANA CEO can write a similar editorial for MANA’s 100th anniversary, musing on how hard it must have been for manufacturers’ representatives in 2017 to get through traffic and make sales calls without flying cars.