Welcome to the Rock!By Charles Cohon
A manufacturers’ representative walked into the gift shop of the former United States Penitentiary at Alcatraz. Among the various souvenirs offered for sale, he came across a copy of the Institution Rules & Regulations issued to each new inmate, written by Warden Paul J. Madigan.
Leafing through the facsimile of the original 19-page mimeographed pamphlet, he paused to read Rule Five, titled “Privileges,” which states: “You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege. You earn your privileges by conducting yourself properly.”
“Sweet deal,” he murmured quietly to himself, softly enough so the other tourists couldn’t hear him speak. “In manufacturers’ representative agreements you aren’t entitled to anything, and you have to earn everything.”
That manufacturers’ representative summed up the reason that MANA members are really the entrepreneurs’ entrepreneurs. Because this is the group that heard the offer, “Who only wants to eat what they kill themselves?” and swiftly, confidently replied: “Sign me up for that deal! I will do better looking after myself than I would ever do working for somebody else and expecting them to look after me!”
Which is why it is such an honor and a pleasure to be CEO of an association built around that special breed of entrepreneurs and the companies that use those entrepreneurs who take their products to market.
There is one more reason that it’s such a privilege to be the CEO of MANA. It’s because our industry is so welcoming to industrious individuals who are determined to build a business but have little more than just their own individual drive, ambition and perseverance to make it happen.
Unlike other more capital-intensive businesses, a successful manufacturers’ representative firm can be built with just a strong work ethic, a serviceable car, a cell phone, a laptop, business cards, and just enough savings to squeak by and pay expenses during the first year while the new firm builds its book of business.
The best predictor of which firms will succeed is how hard the founder works and how lucky the founder is. And the harder the founder works, the luckier the founder seems to be!
What a pleasure it is to be surrounded by entrepreneurs who at some point in their lives just said, “I can do this.” And then they did.
It’s rarely easy, but it’s almost always rewarding. Because when it comes to manufacturers’ representatives (with apologies to Dr. Robert H. Schuller for paraphrasing the title of his book): Tough times never last, but tough manufacturers’ representative firms do.