Should I Stay or Should I Go?

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Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble.
And if I stay it will be double.
So come on and let me know.

The Clash, 1982

Rep members have been calling recently to talk about how to adapt to the challenges of running a small business in a COVID‑19 environment. Many of those calls have ended up as discussions about “Should I stay or should I go?”

The “Should I Stay” group has been saying: “My commissions are down and I need to find a way to replace the income I’ve lost. How can I find a rep firm for a merger or acquisition to make up for that lost income?”

The “Should I Go” group has been saying: “I’ve been thinking about retirement for a long time anyway. How can I find a buyer for my rep firm?”

Whether you are in one of these groups or are just thinking about testing the waters, MANA has the resources you’ll need to make your decision strategically.

  1. MANA’s “Steps to Rep Professionalism” program in the member area of www.MANAonline.org has 14 carefully chosen articles, reports, and audio/video succession planning resources, including our centerpiece: Valuation and Sale of a Manufacturers’ Representative Business Special Report.
  2. MANA’s Business Counseling lets MANA members contact us to get objective third-party ideas on how to succeed with succession planning.
  3. MANA’s Attorney Access membership benefit gets you an annual free half-hour consultation with an experienced, rep-savvy attorney.
  4. MANA can help you locate MANA rep members that have been in business long enough that the founder might be open to a conversation about an acquisition or merger.
  5. MANA’s online “Agencies for Sale” ads are free to MANA rep members through June 30, 2021. If you have any questions reach out to Susan Strouse by email at sstrouse@manaonline.org.

Should I stay or should I go? Reach out to MANA, we’re here to help you figure it out!

Beginning Succession Planning

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As the owner of an independent rep sales agency you have signed the contracts, your firm is bringing in good opportunities for your principals and you have a solid business plan to develop and care for your customers in the coming years. At what point then should you begin thinking about your exit plan? I like the saying “Begin with the end in mind.”

Your departure from the business might not be on the horizon but acknowledging that a solid plan brings better results helps to pave the way for the beginnings of succession planning. Reps are the constant in … Read the rest

Successful Succession: A Second Time Around

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“With advancing years, a manufacturers’ agent may be confronted with a problem peculiar to the nature of his business. Briefly stated, it is this: What becomes of his business, his valuable customer list, contacts and contracts when he is obliged to retire, or when he dies? Obvious answer: His business is sold.”

That scenario, outlined more than 60 years ago in an issue of The Agent and Representative — now Agency Sales magazine — rings as true today as it did then. And, if there’s any doubt that history repeats itself, have a conversation with Scott Howells, who’s gone through … Read the rest

Achieving “Emotional Favorite” Status

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When manufacturers participated in a week‑long series of MANAchats devoted to the subject of what they need to do in order to get more time and effort from their independent manufacturers’ reps, a number of constants rose to the surface of the discussion:

  • Regular visits in the field with reps firm up relationships.
  • Reps and their principals share in the responsibility for creating and following up on leads.
  • For their part, reps ought to create and share their succession plans with their principals.
  • The establishment and regular meeting of rep councils remains a critical factor in improving relations between manufacturers
Read the rest

Helping Customers Navigate the Pandemic’s Emotional Challenges

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Now that we’re once again getting open for business, this raises the question of what we’ll be talking about with customers.

Millions of Americans remain unemployed, more are still on furlough, while others are underemployed. Countless businesses are on the brink and others are going over the edge. Too many families will remain in the grasp of financial hardship for months, some for years.

And then there’s coping with upended lives, dashed dreams, sleepless nights, endless worries, mind-boggling stress, as well as the painful after effects of social isolation. In such circumstances, who would dare minimize, let alone turn a … Read the rest

100 Putts to Sales Success — It Takes What It Takes

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From the title you might think this article is about networking on the golf course and having a successful business. It’s not. It actually refers to something I heard Phil Mickelson say on a recent podcast by Ed Mylett.

Ed asked Phil the difference between the top golfers in the world that play on the PGA Tour week in and week out, and those that never quite make it. They’re good enough to still be pros and they do ‘okay,’ but they never break into that top 130 or so that you constantly see on the Tour.

Phil told a … Read the rest

Navigating the Difficult Times

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“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” — Thomas Edison

Life in the dynamic and unpredictable business world means that sometimes things will not go according to plan. When a business, country or world is in crisis, it is easy to become trapped beneath a mountain of problems but, in order to succeed, individuals must be motivated and be able to sustain performance during a crisis and times of stress.

Many people respond to a crisis by being overwhelmed by stress, which turns to fear. It … Read the rest

The Sales Force — Working With Reps

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This is the 25th in a number of articles serializing The Sales Force — Working With Reps by Charles Cohon, MANA’s president and CEO. The entire book may be found in the member area of MANA’s website.

William continued to explain the manufacturer’s costs, “Now, variable overhead, material cost and outside processing all are attributable to the new business. In-house sales costs and general and administrative costs are just like the fixed overhead: they are sunk costs that were already committed whether or not this new job was written, so I am going to strike through those dollar amounts as … Read the rest

Managing Your Most Important Business Contacts

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You know that old saying: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” Perhaps we could add another clause: “…and keep your references closest of all.”

One of my readers recently asked me “to write an article about work and business references in this age of business closures, people moving on, etc.” The reader mentioned that he had lost a few references lately. One had moved, changing his email address and phone number, and couldn’t be found. Another relocated to China. A third one retired and no longer seemed interested in talking about anything that reminded him of life before … Read the rest

Business Strategies: Utilizing the Gift of Slow Times

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Among recommendations I would make for effectively handling changes wrought by the pandemic is to instill a set of practices that would keep you, personally, at the top of your game.

With that in place, the next question has to do with your broader responsibilities. What about your business or organization? Are there some things you should be doing to prepare your business for life on the other side of social distancing?

A Digression

We have been here before. As a nation, as individuals, and every level of society in between, this level of confusion and anxiety is not new. … Read the rest

Six Secrets of Powerful Proposals

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One of the biggest frustrations I hear from my clients is the amount of time and effort it takes for them to put together proposals; particularly those that don’t end up winning the business.

Unfortunately, the standard approach to making client proposals usually involves describing your products or services, including some corporate background, adding a few references, and finishing with pricing information. This is the last approach you want to take. It practically guarantees you’ll miss the mark. And worse, preparing and delivering these kinds of proposals soaks up significant time and resources that could be better spent elsewhere. Here … Read the rest

Line Profitability Checklist

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Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, a group of manufacturers and reps got together to discuss, among other topics, line profitability analysis.

One rep was more than ready to examine the subject as he arrived at the meeting with a list of the criteria he regularly used when he annually evaluated his manufacturers. Among a fairly lengthy list of his considerations were the following:

  • What has the manufacturer done to keep the agency aware of competitive factors in the territory?
  • Has the principal provided his agencies with complete, comprehensive and practical product literature — in either printed or web-based form?
  • Has
Read the rest

Aw, If Only This Software Had This Feature!

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The Coronavirus has definitely impacted the way we do business today.

Those firms who are up and running on a CRM platform are positioned to capitalize on their database that they have built over the years. CRM databases containing contact information, MRO, OEM and contractor profiles, quote history, old and dead lead information, even some with SIC or NAICS codes. With business slow, this is the ideal opportunity to make the move to a CRM system, train your people the right way to use it, and then begin capitalizing from it in ways you probably would not have thought about … Read the rest

Risk Management Strategies in Uncertain Economic Times

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Generally, the day-to-day life of a manufacturers’ rep is not filled with product liability risks or other situations where indemnification (reimbursement) of claims are a concern. However, based on the authors’ experiences with both claims management and defending manufacturers’ reps, we thought it important to identify the likely risk management environment within which most reps function. Then a set of strategies for minimizing risk will be described.

Framework

Manufacturers’ reps are generally solicitors, drummers and expediters. They do not take title or responsibility for the products they sell. Instead, a manufacturer has designed and engineered the product and, as such, … Read the rest

Lisa Wilson is on the January 2021 MANA Board of Directors Ballot

MANA’s Board of Directors is pleased to announce that Lisa Wilson, president of L.S. Wilson & Associates, Inc., in Bristol, Wisconsin, has successfully applied to appear on the January 2021 MANA Board of Directors ballot to serve a two-year term starting May 1, 2021.

Wilson is running for the seat that will become available when MANA Director Charlie Ingram completes his second two-year term on April 30, 2021. Ingram is executive vice president & chief marketing officer of Eriez Manufacturing in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Ingram is the only manufacturer ever to serve on MANA’s Board of Directors and his contributions to … Read the rest