Not Because You Meet the Same People on the Way Down

© Ron Dale |

© Ron Dale |

Be nice to people you meet on the way up.

No. Not because you meet the same people on the way down.

Be nice to the people you meet on the way up because they are on their way up too!

It’s your opportunity to invest like a venture capitalist, except you are investing in your career instead of your stock portfolio.

Let me explain.

A venture capitalist invests in early-stage ventures with lots of upside potential. Many of these ventures fail. Some break even. And a very small percentage are so wildly successful that they make venture capitalists rich, even after they’ve paid off all their bad bets.

For example, in 2004 venture capitalist Peter Thiel invested $500,000 in Facebook in exchange for 10.2 percent of Facebook’s stock. Thiel cashed out his stock in 2012 for $1 billion. Regardless of how Thiel’s other 2004 investments turned out, that was a pretty good year for Thiel. (Today Facebook is valued at $350 billion dollars.)

Your opportunity to invest in your career like a venture capitalist is to invest your time with people who have lots of upside potential instead of investing your money in early stage ventures with lots of upside potential.

Who are these people with upside potential? Colleagues in your own firm who might need a mentor, perhaps a more experienced executive mentoring a Millennial. A promising manufacturer who has no existing business but who offers independent manufacturers’ representatives a contract that includes shared market development fees and/or “life-of-part, life-of-program” commissions. A startup rep who has the promise to do great things representing your manufacturing company.

Venture capitalists expect that some of the ventures in which they invest will fail. And you should expect that some of the people you mentor, some of the prospective clients you help, and some of the manufacturers of new products will never turn a profit for you.

But if you make a few Thiel-like choices, the big winners will more than cover your losses.

And, perhaps more important, it’s a powerful way to insulate your career and your firm from the commoditization of Internet selling.

Websites may be able to compete with you on price and delivery, but the one area where websites can’t compete with you is in the long relationships you have with important decision-makers — relationships based on the time you gave those decision-makers before they were important, and the trust you built when they were just promising beginners starting on their way up.

If you’d like to know important people who will take your calls and buy your products 10 years from now, invest some time with promising early-stage executives today. One of them could be your Facebook!

The Changing Rep Business Model


Back in 1988, I started a manufacturers’ representative business. Back then, we used fax machines to communicate with each other and thought that was high-tech.

The world and consequently the manufacturers’ representative business changed significantly since then. The question we want to address is, “How has it changed recently and how do we help our MANA members successfully adapt?”

Technology made a huge impact on how manufacturers’ representatives operate today. We all know that, and you adapted and use it effectively. Websites, e-mails, social media, smartphones, tablets, apps, etc. pose no serious challenges. As a matter of fact, technology provides … Read the rest

Has the Rep Business Model Changed?


When a long-standing MANA member was asked a few years ago to define the traditional rep business model he offered, “We’re expected to make calls, follow up, send in orders, and get paid.”

Because he was and still is a planner, an entrepreneur and a forward thinker, that rep would agree that today there’s much more to the job of an independent manufacturers’ representative. Any doubt to that thinking is put to rest in even the most cursory conversations with observers and participants in the rep business model.

For instance, consider that Charlie Ingram, vice president, sales & marketing, Eriez … Read the rest

MANA Seminar Stresses Professionalism


In the previous article the subject of how the independent manufacturers’ representative business model has evolved over the years is discussed. That timely subject reared its head when Hank Bergson was asked to preview the subject matter of next month’s MANA manufacturer seminar.

Details for the MANA seminar may be found on the MANA website ( The seminar is scheduled for October 5 and 6 at the Holiday Inn & Suites, Chicago O’Hare.

According to Bergson, president, Henry Bergson Associates, LLC, “If at one time the manufacturer outsourcing his sales effort to reps had the expectation that the relationship was … Read the rest

The Reputable Rep: Success in Sales and Life


This month’s article is the third in a serialization of the author’s life and career as an independent manufacturers’ representative.

Reprinted with permission from The Reputable Rep, Success in Sales and Life, by Sig Schmalhofer.

Sales Foundations

Cold Calls

Prospecting is typically a cold call, but a cold call with a purpose.

Possessing the fearless willingness to walk into a sales call where “you know no one” and “no one knows you” is critical. In the story below, a wholesaler sales rep investigates a potential new market. The result was a career changer.

“I came out of college at … Read the rest

Someone Is Out to Get You. Count on It!


Most of us work at finding ways to do a better job, advance in a career, and become more successful. That’s commendable, but we may differ on how to go about getting there. While most are straightforward, tackling one challenge after another, others do it differently and their actions leave marks that affect our success.

Most of us can’t choose our co-workers, team members, or business associates. Nonetheless, we can avoid being blindsided by those who, often unintentionally, would throw us off course. Here is what to look for:

  • Those Who Act Too Quickly

In school, they raced to get … Read the rest

No Regrets as This Rep Winds Down


More than three decades ago, Frank King took to heart some rather out-of-the-ordinary encouragement and began what has been a 34-year career as an independent manufacturers’ representative.

According to King, FLK Assocs. Inc., Orchard Park, New York, “MANA member Joe Cook, Eastern Technologies Inc., Raleigh, North Carolina, and I were living the same apartment complex when he said to me that I was in the wrong business. He explained that I was never going to make a lot of money unless I owned the company I was working for. He said that as a rep I could make as much … Read the rest

The Benefits of Working With a Professional Sales Coach


Every professional athlete that makes millions of dollars every year has at least one coach that works with them every day.

Each pro athlete wants to be the best they can be and they rely on their coaches for guidance on a daily basis. These athletes love having a coach because they want advice on how they can improve and they are open minded to making positive changes. Pro athletes know that spending money on a coach is a great investment for them. For the very same reasons professional salespeople need a sales coach. Having a coach is a very … Read the rest

Standing Still Can Kill Your Business


The Importance of Ongoing Training!

I find this statistic unbelievable — The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics found that companies with fewer than 100 employees gave only 12 minutes of manager training every six months. Organizations with 100‑500 employees provided just six minutes.

The following statistic is even more proof that ongoing training is essential for employee development and the growth of a company — a long-term research project commissioned by Middlesex University for Work Based Learning found that from a 4,300 workers sample, 74 percent felt that they weren’t achieving their full potential at work due to lack of … Read the rest

Don’t Be Blinded by Your Own Ego


“The most successful people never stop learning.”

During a recent book signing a woman was checking out at the Austin airport store where my most recent book, The Leadership Playbook, was being promoted. The cashier asked her if she would be interested in buying a copy. She responded, “Nope, I work too much as it is, so I read only fun books.” A conversation ensued on what she did for a living. She answered, “I am a management consultant.” She was then asked if she thought that leadership or business books would benefit clients or herself. She responded, “Nope, I … Read the rest

Blast From the Past — A Digest of Successful Selling Ideas

MANA 70th AnniversaryThe year was 1947. Harry S. Truman was president, 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.

To celebrate our 70th MANAversary year, each Agency Sales magazine through October will include a “blast from the past” article from the early issues of The AGENT and Representative magazine, which eventually became Agency Sales.

These nostalgic looks back at how our counterparts from seven decades ago conducted their businesses and their lives are really eye-opening, in some cases because they conducted their business so differently from … Read the rest

A Positive Return to Reps


If this manufacturer subscribed to the belief that “you can’t go home again” when it comes to revisiting the rep business model, he learned in a hurry that he was wrong.

Here’s his story: “A little over a year after we moved away from using reps and reinstituted a direct sales force, we had to face the error of our ways. Not only did we encounter the economic hardships of finding, employing, supporting and paying factory-direct salespeople, we learned in a hurry that we had lost the relationships that were the backbone of our success in the field.”

Here’s what … Read the rest

Lessons Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the American Revolution


Sometimes, entrepreneurs have to be unconventional.

We have a clear example of being unconventional with what the American rebels did against the powerful British Empire to secure American independence. Imagine you’re in this situation:

  • You’re up against the greatest military power in the world. The Americans were farmers, hunters, backwoodsmen and “just plain folk.” Any betting person would have said the Colonists didn’t stand a chance at the beginning of the conflict.
  • You feel all alone. The Americans had no other nation backing them at the outset. In addition to that, the Colonists were not united. Many historians tell us
Read the rest

From Toothless to Tigers: A Look at State Sales Rep Statutes


“Hey, Adam,” begins many an incoming office call, “the principal who owes me back commissions didn’t remember that our contract says Tennessee law (or Utah, Colorado, New Jersey, Georgia, etc.) applies. I can get triple commissions, right?”

“Well,” begins the formal, technical response to many such calls, while stalling for time. Then, the very first legal phrase taught in law school is invoked: “That depends.”

Many independent reps are familiar with sales rep protection statutes. These state laws are generally intended to help level the playing field with their principals when a commission dispute arises.

When a rep is terminated … Read the rest

The Indicators


I’m starting to get a reputation in this industry for talking a lot about my market indicators. From my “Two-Minute-Tuesday” weekly update videos to normal conversations with clients, I somehow always revert the discussion back to the indicators.

It’s time to reveal what my indicators are.

First, let’s clean up a major misunderstanding. The indicators I use are not on/off switches. I don’t have any flash-in-the-pan indicator that says, “Hey last week the President tweeted this and that, which will most likely be well-received by the markets. So you need to go all-in, Mr. or Mrs. Client.”

My indicators don’t … Read the rest

Additions to the MANA Board

The newest members of MANA’s Board of Directors represent two firsts in the 75‑year history of the association.

Michelle Jobst is the Board’s first female member, while Charlie Ingram represents the first manufacturing firm to occupy a position on the Board.

Jobst, CPMR, who has been a rep since 1994, heads Jobst Incorporated, Eden Prairie, Minnesota. The agency represents manufacturers of custom molded rubber, cast and molded polyurethane, thermoset and thermoplastic composites (fiberglass and carbon fiber), EMI/RFI shielding materials, precision machined and progressively stamped metal, plastic and rubber extrusions, and VPI encapsulation.

In explaining why she is willing to take … Read the rest