by Jerry Leth, Vice-President and General Manager, MANA

About a third of the new agent members who join MANA every month are start-ups. By start-up, we mean they have been in business anywhere from one year to just preparing to start. I call all new members who join each month and I learn from these calls that start-ups share similar backgrounds. They previously worked as a direct salesperson for a company. They know how to sell. The customers they sold to, and plan to sell to, know them, trust them, and buy from them.

However, they lack skills to professionally run a business because they never owned a business before. The biggest difference between a manufacturers’ representative and a direct-hire salesperson? One is an entrepreneur, the other is an employee. Sure, the manufacturers’ representative business role is to sell, but the owner’s role is to professionally run the business. And, something that’s important, the more professionally you operate the business, the more successful you become.

MANA provides the “12 Steps to Rep Professionalism” program that teaches manufacturers’ representatives the business skills to professionally operate the manufacturers’ representative business.

The difficulty in today’s age? Finding time to go through the program and study the resources, then implement what you learn. Everyone is so busy, so caught up in today’s hectic pace; they just never get around to it, regardless of how much they want to.

Those disciplined owners who invest time to create a realistic business plan and implement it not only survive the first year, but achieve profitability significantly sooner than those without a plan. Without a plan, many never even survive the first year. Disciplined owners also invest time and learn how to go through the principal interview process. As a result they sign up higher-quality principals which help add to the possibility of a successful first year. They learn to negotiate fair and balanced agreements with their principals.

So, as a start-up, which route do you choose? Can you commit to a disciplined approach or just go where the wind blows? MANA really wants you to succeed and enjoy a long and profitable career. We provide resources to help you on your way. Use your MANA benefits to create a path to prosperity.


Jerry Leth, MANA’s vice-president and general manager, started as membership manager in August 2000. Previously, Jerry owned and operated Letco Tech Sales, Inc., a MANA member, multi-line professional outsourced sales agency he founded in 1989. Before starting his own agency, he managed a network of manufacturers’ reps as vice-president of sales and marketing for torque and tension equipment. Jerry graduated from Stanford with a mechanical engineering degree. He started his career at Hills Brothers Coffee in San Francisco in engineering and production before embarking on a sales career.

Create Your Path to Prosperity

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