Defining the Perfect Principal

by Stephen Fowler, President, PERCS

“Perfection, like beauty,” we’re told, “is in the eye of the beholder.” We all agree but don’t reflect on the lens. What is this mind’s “eye,” the eye that spies the perfect spouse, the perfect family, and of course the perfect life? For “reps” the perfect search is for the perfect principal. How is that perfection imagined?

New Year’s Resolutions reveal that over the year, we’ve gone off track, and they highlight the asymmetry between reality and our often self-defeating “eye’s” vision. Better choice: Look inside, adjust, accept — then define “your perfection.” Define yourself and your business first! The start is not outside of us, but inside: What type of business are we? What strengths does it possess? What weakness or handicaps does it suffer? These are all honest, tough questions. Self-revelatory questions include these:

  • What firm style? Small, single or dual person firm; family organized; large complex, big sized business.
  • What operation style: product transactional, engineering oriented, consulting, distributor or system supplier?
  • What’s your elevator speech — currently, one year out, five years out and beyond?

The answers are just the facts, not maybe or could be.

You’ll object and wonder why all this “internal stuff” is necessary. Just do something. That’s what entrepreneurs do! Productive communication and relationships best flourish first with self-reflection. Learning is enhanced by talking with customers, rep colleagues, even our rep competitors — better yet in contact with MANA.

Imagine yourself as the perfect principal: How would you describe your “perfect representative”? How would you fit that picture now and in the future? Once you accept and appreciate your genuine “mind’s eye” — what you are and what you are capable of being — then search for the “perfect principal for you” is ahead and achievable.

Remember core values. Though soft, these are granite hard: respect, honesty, integrity and trustworthiness. These are key values you may realize too late that you forget to include. What are yours? Also remember when you sign on or shake hands, is your agreement “specific person based” or is “organizationally based”: do you trust the individual’s handshake or do you trust the handshake of the organization
he represents?

So now a checklist of the qualities of the perfect principal, now you’ve established the baseline:

  • Support: Will “real” factory people be there for you? For invoicing, customer service and complaints, delivery scheduling?
  • Leadership: Is your principal a leader in their product and market?
  • Partnership: Will you be on the team? Better yet, the quarterback for your customer?
  • Products: Quality and constant improvement? Continual developments? What’s the goal?
  • Service: Will you be proud, being side-by-side with the factory, daily with each customer?
  • Pricing: Do they have value and flexible pricing?
  • Deliveries: Will they meet their own commitments?
  • Training: How is your agency trained and educated (in the beginning and thereafter)?
  • Rep advocacy: Is the principal truly committed to the rep agency channel? How do they declare it? Namely, do they have an active rep council? Do they educate and explain the rep model internally to their staff?
  • Fair contract: Does it make sense and “feel” fair in both accountabilities and opportunities? Are there house accounts, coverage model (geography or market)? Handling rep changeover? Will they listen?

Vince Lombardi reminded us that however we fail striving for perfection we will end excellent. Defining ourselves and then our principal expectations will do the same: Look inside, adjust, accept — then define “your perfection.” Perfection is not the absence of flaws, but the realization in ourselves and in our vision that flaws exist and must be made positive and strengths. Your flaws and the principals’ flaws, however perfect you both are, are the honest bargain. Your best challenge, as you strive and stretch business and goals, is to keep your “mind’s eye” on the “perfect principal” that suits you and your plans.

Stephen Fowler is president of Process Equipment Resources & Consulting Services, Inc. (PERCS), located in Bridgewater, New Jersey. PERCS provides sales, engineering and business consulting services to equipment manufacturers, rep agencies and their direct customers. Before PERCS, Fowler was an executive at a major process equipment manufacturer, and then owned a four state, multi-product rotating equipment agency in the Northeast. Fowler has actively participated in MANA chapters, the Chemical Engineers Sales Association (CESEA), and technical groups such as AICHE (chemical), ISPE (bio and pharmaceutical), and WEFTEC (water and wastewater), representing all phases of the process industry.