Are you really ready to start your own professional sales company? Why not test yourself by answering the following questions. Starting a professional sales company is a big step in your career, probably the biggest one you’ll take, so be brutally honest with yourself as you answer these questions. After all, the one who will be “grading” the results is you and the results will be measured in the real world, not in some classroom.

1. What is the main reason you want to start your own manufacturers’ representative business?

  1. Because I have trouble working for other people and want to be my own boss.
  2. Because I lost my job and this may be the only opportunity to generate some income.
  3. Because I am an entrepreneur and recognize this move has a great deal of risk, but the rewards make taking the risk worthwhile.

If you answered yes to “a” or “b,” starting a professional sales company is not for you and we recommend you look for something else. We don’t like to disappoint people, but if you have any savings, chances are 100% that by the time you decide operating your own professional sales business was a mistake, those savings will be long gone and don’t believe trying to live on social security alone during your retirement years is a good idea. If you selected “c” as your answer, let’s move on.

2. Have you ever written a business plan?

3. How strong are your negotiating skills?

4. How much marketing expertise do you have?

5. Do you have any knowledge about the laws that govern the rep/principal relationship?

6. Do you have a group of customers who know you and trust you and who would continue buying from you as a result of your current or previous employment?

7. How long do you think it will take before your professional sales company will start to bring in enough revenue to offset the expenses of running the business?

8. Do you have a plan in place for supporting yourself and your family during this period and for funding the business?

9. Have you thought about how you will protect yourself and your family for unplanned events as an independent business owner? In other words, we’re talking about providing health insurance and personal and business liability insurance.

10. Do you have a lead on any manufacturers lines you might be able to represent?

If you answered “not a lot” to questions two through five, don’t let this stop you. These are all skills that can be learned and MANA can help you learn them.

Let’s talk a little about question six. Your business plan needs a mission statement stating who your customers will be. Established relationships with a customer base will facilitate the creation of the mission statement. Having a group of customers who know you and trust you will shorten the time it will take to start generating positive cash flow, assuming you make this group the focus of your business. You can start a rep business in a whole new industry with a brand new customer base, but you’d better figure on probably doubling the time it will take to start generating positive cash flow. That leads us to question seven.

We are told in most cases it will take at least a couple of years before start-up rep agencies, professional sales companies, start generating enough revenue to make taking the risk worthwhile. Our special report, Starting a Rep Agency, has some thoughts on how to finance the business during the start-up phase.

Questions eight and nine are there just to get you thinking about some of the issues that come up for business owners who are no longer on a corporate payroll.

Some of the start-up agents who contact us have been able to switch from being a direct salesperson for a manufacturer to an outsourced sales company for the same company. That’s an ideal way to get started; assuming the ex-employer, now principal, has a corporate culture in place that fully supports the concept.

If you’re not in that situation, MANA can help you find lines. We currently have about 1,500 manufacturers who have joined MANA because they are looking for reps, and there is an online directory you can use to find them, if you join. Many of these manufacturers, and a number of non-member companies, also advertise in Agency Sales magazine and/or on our web site. That’s another way to find them — or for them to find you.

So, how did you do? Are you ready to move ahead? Give us a call at (877) 626-2776 and learn more from one of our business counselors.