Rep Firm Built on Personal Service

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Joe Figueroa points to a singular event that sent him on his way to opening his own rep agency close to 20 years ago.

As the president of Latin America Sales Company, Inc., (LASCO) Middleton, Massachusetts, recalls it, “In 1997 a light went on when I was sitting in a sales meeting for the manufacturer I worked for. As they explained how they were going to answer customer calls, I knew I could do the job much better than they could.

“Here’s how they explained their plan: When customers called, a new voice mail system would ensure that we didn’t … Read the rest

Rep Councils Eliminate Us vs. Them Environment

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Simple is always better and simple is just the way Charlie Ingram describes how and what a rep council is.

Ingram, vice president, sales and marketing for Eriez Magnetics, Erie, Pennsylvania, maintains that a rep council “is put together for manufacturers and reps to exchange ideas on how they can work better together to serve their mutual customers. In a nutshell, it’s all about discussing mutual challenges and deciding how best to improve your business practices.”

That was just part of the message delivered by MANA Board member Ingram and MANA-member Kurt Jacoby, Dempsco, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, as they participated … Read the rest

Spelling Out Expectations

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When there’s been a strain in the relationship between principal and rep, the cause of any friction may often be traced to a failure in communication. That’s the view of one manufacturer who noted, “I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard my fellow manufacturers say their reps claim they didn’t know what the manufacturer wanted out of the relationship.”

He explained, “I’d maintain it always comes down to keeping open the lines of communication. And to accomplish that goal, what has to be done? I’d maintain that it’s not all that difficult; but it does take some time … Read the rest

Adopting 3Rs When Vetting Prospective Lines

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In the simplest terms Doris Harkness’ process for vetting a prospective or new line may be defined by three words — let’s call them the 3Rs: Responsive, Resourceful and Respected. If a manufacturer can show it possesses those three attributes, chances are they can find a home with Harkness’ agency.

Harkness, who heads the Pace Company, Richmond, Virginia, maintains that any manufacturer that desires to be represented by her agency had “better be clear about the type of company they are. We are the most resourceful, respected and responsive bulk handling rep in Virginia. Any manufacturer that we partner with … Read the rest

Making the Most of MANA Membership

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It happens more times than not that in the course of an interview with a MANA member, the member will offer a compliment about the association’s services.

For instance:

  • Elsewhere in this issue of Agency Sales, one rep notes, “What’s been very helpful to us is that in its wealth of information about how reps can become more professional, the association offers valuable information on how to effectively evaluate the performance of principals via line productivity analysis.”
  • It’s commonplace for reps to note that they’ve been very successful in locating new lines or having prospective principals find them via
  • Read the rest

Rep Councils: Two Are Better Than One

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Here’s how one manufacturer described his company’s experience with rep councils:

“We have 22 reps on our team. Early on we started a rep council and learned that it was a very effective way to build the cooperative links that have made us successful. However, we soon discovered that the work of the rep council was diverse and often time-consuming. It seemed to us that we were often asking the council members to do too much for us, although none of them ever complained. However, we thought a lot about this and came up with the idea of having two … Read the rest

Reps’ Hunger for Training Remains a Constant

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Earlier this year a MANA member reaffirmed the long-held belief of this association that reps continually seek the training needed to succeed when he said, “As the rep considers the task being assigned, the hope is that you have really good principals in those situations where you don’t necessarily have the skill set to perform the function. Your message to the manufacturer should be that ‘We really believe in this but we need your help in terms of training.’ The training in question could be provided through your principal’s internal personnel. The best situation would be that your principals would

Read the rest

Making It
“A League of Their Own”

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As detailed in the 1992 film A League of Their Own, when men were shipped overseas to do battle during World War II a number of the jobs that were left vacant because of their absence were filled by women. Hardly exempt from that predicament was the world of baseball. In the 1940s the owners of baseball teams, not wanting the sport to be dormant indefinitely, decided to form teams with women. As a result, scouts were sent across the country to recruit women athletes to populate a four-team league.

A bit of a recollection of that time took place … Read the rest

Proactive Communication Saves the Day

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A manufacturer recently related to Agency Sales magazine how when one of his best performing reps erred in a personnel decision, a potentially disastrous situation was quickly defused.

Here’s how he described what happened: “A one-man operation that I’d describe as one of our very best reps had reached a growth point where he had to hire another rep to take some of the load off himself. Unfortunately, he made the wrong decision. From the first day the new rep started working, there was a falloff in performance from the rep firm. We noticed it right away when we didn’t … Read the rest

Women Open Their Own Doors to Rep Careers

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The independent rep profession has much to offer to any budding entrepreneur willing to take a chance. But to listen to the participants in a MANA teleforum early this summer, it’s an especially attractive and welcoming career for women.

That was one of the key takeaways from a session entitled “Opening Doors for Women Rep Owners.”

The three participants in the teleforum each offered their view of the profession and stressed that the business opportunities, flexibility, and the opportunity for women to exercise their multi-tasking abilities were especially important.

Participants in the teleforum were:

The Reality of Being a Rep

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When Claudia Cort decided to open her agency doors more than eight years ago she admits that she was aware she was facing a daunting task, but “I never knew it was going to be as hard as it was. I had spoken to other reps ahead of time so I thought I knew what was in store for me, but they never told me how really hard it was going to be.”

Despite that beginning, Cort, Cort Marketing Group, LLC, Eden, Maryland, has prevailed and now the agency, which includes her husband Peter and four sub-reps, serves the kitchen … Read the rest

Keys to a Working Relationship

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In the course of a conversation late this summer, a rep put forth his thoughts on the type of relationship he looks for with his principals.

“I’ve been in this business for more than 30 years and my agency has been in business a little over 50 years. During that period of time, I’ve learned to truly value working with new companies that have a continual supply of new and innovative products. On top of that, I’ve learned that any time I am able to locate a manufacturer that appreciates the synergy that exists between their products and all the … Read the rest

Maximizing the Value of Field Visits

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“You hired us to increase sales, not to be your travel agents or ‘yes men.’” That’s how one rep described his reaction to a principal’s request that they make all the necessary arrangements for a visit to the territory, including getting plane tickets, making hotel reservations, not to mention setting up appointments with customers.

According to the rep, “When the principal’s new sales manager came on board for one of our lines one of the first things he asked was that we prepare for his visit in the field. Let me emphasize that there was no particular reason for the … Read the rest

Zink Foodservice Makes Move to ESOP

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In addition to the changes that any company experiences during the course of a more than 40‑year history, Zink Foodservice, led by Jim Zink and Mike McGuire, made the major change last year from a family-owned business to an Employee Stock Ownership Program (ESOP).

Zink Foodservice provides comprehensive sales, marketing, distribution and installation services for manufacturers and authorized dealers of foodservice equipment and smallwares. The agency, headquartered in Westerville, Ohio, has more than 70 associates (40 of whom are focused on sales), located in 10 office locations and four culinary centers in Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio; Chicago and Indianapolis.

(As … Read the rest

What’s Important for Manufacturers?

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Independent manufacturers’ representatives are hardly the only participants on MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page. A recent visit to that location on the Internet found two manufacturers weighing in on issues important to them and their peers.

For instance, in a contribution entitled, “What Do Manufacturers Look for in a Rep?,” Charles Ingram, vice president of sales & marketing for Eriez Magnetics, maintains that “The best manufacturer-rep relationships are those where both parties respect each other, understand their mutual expectations and have shared business values. While manufacturers may have some variations on the attributes of rep organizations they wish to represent them, … Read the rest

Time and Circumstances Change Expectations

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Time was that reps sold products and received a commission check. It was as simple as that and the arrangement seemed to suit both sides — manufacturer and rep. But times have changed and so have what each side expects from the other.

That scenario served as the beginning of a conversation with Craig Lindsay, CSP, CPMR, founder and president, Pacesetter Sales & Associates, an independent manufacturers’ representative agency selling safety and industrial supplies to the industrial market across Canada. As the conversation progressed, however, several variables were thrown into the mix and the relationship isn’t quite as simple as … Read the rest

IUCAB Names George Hayward Award Winner

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photo of Peter FeiglIn Europe, manufacturers’ representatives are called “commercial agents.” And each year the Internationally United Commercial Agents and Brokers (IUCAB) chooses an exceptional commercial agent to receive IUCAB’s annual “George Hayward Award.”

This year’s winner Peter Feigl, of Peter Feigl Handelsagentur in Austria, gave an extraordinary acceptance speech. With Peter’s permission, we are reprinting his speech in Agency Sales magazine:

My name is Peter Feigl, I am 40 years old and I’m from Linz in Austria. At the beginning of my working life, I made an apprenticeship as a mechatronics. Then I became a field manager. And now I am a … Read the rest

Sub-Rep Success in a Niche Market

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Earlier this year when Grant Melocik, Grant Melocik Sales, notified MANA that he was not renewing his membership, that information was of the “good-news, bad-news” variety. Obviously, the bad news was he wasn’t keeping up his membership; but the good news was he was at the point in his professional career where he was looking forward to a well-earned retirement.

In his explanation for not renewing his membership, Melocik emphasized that “I did want to thank MANA for all that I have been able to learn from the organization and for the contacts that allowed me to pick up additional … Read the rest

Looking to the Future

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Concurrent with the publication of an article on the importance of succession planning in Agency Sales earlier this year, a manufacturer wondered how far he could go when it comes to asking about an agency’s future plans.

According to the manufacturer, “Thankfully, I’ve been in the position where I really haven’t had to worry about what my reps are going to do in the future because, by and large, each of the firms I work with have been more than willing to share information that pertains to how they operate now and what their future plans might be. These are … Read the rest

Whittemore Company Marks Centennial

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When Agency Sales was notified earlier this year of The Whittemore Company’s goal of expanding its territory into Kansas and Missouri, it couldn’t help but cast a spotlight on the agency’s rich history stretching all the way back to 1918 to the time when World War I was winding down and a flu pandemic was working its way around the world.

As the company readies itself to celebrate its centennial anniversary this year, Dave Zaval, who heads the Addison, Illinois-based agency, took the opportunity to recount not only how he forged a career as an independent manufacturers’ rep but also … Read the rest

Seeking New Opportunities in Canada

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Since he’s the relatively “new guy on the block,” Bernat Riera can’t be blamed for having the normal concerns that any start-up rep firm has. Attracting quality principals, gaining a presence on the Internet, negotiating exclusivity with principals in the territory, etc., are all matters that keep him busy.

But if anyone has the qualities that will make it work, it should be MANA-member Riera, who heads Les Produits BR, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

Before beginning his journey as an independent manufacturers’ rep earlier this year, Riera packed several years of selling experience under his belt. Ten years as a pharmaceutical … Read the rest

Dealing With Rep Turnover

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Don’t ever underestimate the value of being able to network with non‑competitive peers.

That’s what one manufacturer found during his attendance at an industry meeting. While this manufacturer had been working with reps for years, he had recently undergone considerable turnover among his reps. As a result, he was faced with the prospect of hiring new firms. But since it had really been several years since he had to go through that process, he was a little wary of what he was going to do. Coming to the rescue were several of his industry acquaintances, who offered a number of … Read the rest

More Advice on Succession Planning

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In the article that precedes this one, MANA President and CEO Charles Cohon takes aim at the subject of succession planning. As he draws upon real-world examples of why succession planning is so critical and addresses many of the how-to steps to take in order to get the job done, it’s worth noting that MANA and Agency Sales magazine have for years espoused the critical benefits of planning, forming and executing an effective succession plan.

More than a decade ago, under the heading of “There’s No Success(ion) Without a Plan,” this publication pointed out that the existence of a workable … Read the rest

Eastern Canada MANA Members Meet

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It didn’t take long for Bernat Riera to take advantage of his MANA membership. Shortly after joining the association the Waterville, Quebec, rep put the wheels in motion for the first of what is hoped for several networking meetings for members in Eastern Canada.

Riera, Les Produits BR, explained that the initial meeting in February was to be followed by another last month. “Several MANA rep members from the province of Quebec met with the joint goals of networking and identifying common interests. Our agencies basically cover eastern Canada and some represent lines for the entire country. The results of … Read the rest

Looking at More Than the Bottom Line

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“There’s much more to judging performance than just looking at the numbers.” That’s what one manufacturer emphasized in a recent phone call when the subject came to evaluating reps’ performance. The manufacturer admitted that he — just like so many of his peers — had spent years measuring their reps’ performance by just looking at sales figures.

“I’ve been the head of sales for more than 20 years and most of that time has been spent working with our outsourced sales staff. During the majority of that time our reviews were pretty standard. We looked primarily at sales figures from … Read the rest

MANA and SCORE: A Good Marriage

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At the very least, conversations with MANA members in the Rochester, New York, area indicate that there’s a beneficial marriage to be made between the products/services offered by MANA and those provided by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

Even before getting into what those Upstate New York business people have to say, however, it’s useful to visit both MANA’s (www.manaonline.org) and SCORE’s (www.score.org) respective websites. It’s there that visitors will see the full range of support programs that will offer reps the best path to success in the future.

While association members and regular readers of Agency SalesRead the rest

The Sales Power of Reps

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The following by Scott Lau, Scott Lau Consulting, Midlothian, Virginia, appeared on MANA’s LinkedIn discussion page earlier this year. His consulting firm specializes in working with independent manufacturers’ representatives to increase sales and profitability and with small and medium-sized American and international manufacturers of architectural products to improve sales force effectiveness and increase sales.

While the emphasis of his column is on the effectiveness of the independent manufacturers’ representative in the building materials industry, his message certainly applies to other industries.

The goal of building material manufacturers is to maximize sales at the lowest possible cost and at the same … Read the rest

Some Social Media Guidance

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Three books issue especially compelling warnings about the consequences of the careless use of social media. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson, Influence Redefined, by Stacey Hanke, and Got Social Mediology?, by Jay Izso, point out that social media practitioners should be aware that even the most offhand comments or critical views can cause lasting damage to a business.

Ronson relies heavily on real-world examples of mistakes individuals have made that have had a lasting impact on their lives and careers. Everything from a passing Twitter comment that was deemed racist, an insensitive joke transmitted … Read the rest

What It Takes to Be a Rep

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In this article, and the one that follows, Agency Sales will explore how and why an individual might decide to become an independent manufacturers’ representative. Conversations with any number of MANA members demonstrate that it’s the minority who actually began their professional careers with the goal of becoming a rep. A number who have set that as their goal have done so primarily because they were related to the owner of an agency. In other words, they probably grew up in the profession.

As a result, those individuals occupy a position where they are the heir apparent to agency owners. … Read the rest

“Fire in the Belly” Continues to Fuel Rep Success

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The website for Robert M. Bernardo & Associates, Inc. (rmbaa.com) is deceptively simple. The visitor looking for details about the Port Townsend, Washington-based agency will find the following:

RBA Inc. operates as Brokers, Sales Agents, Consultants, and Procurement Agents. With over 35 years of successful history in the building materials industry in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Africa, Europe and Asian Markets.

RBA Inc. Specializes in Sales, New Business Development, Management, Sales Management, and Team Building.

They are also known for their experience with Negotiation, Marketing Strategy, Sales & Marketing, International Sales & Procurement, Distribution Strategies, Governance, Start‑up Consulting, Transportation, Logistics Read the rest