Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

A rep recently posed a couple of interesting questions.
When will this be over? When can I go back to business as usual?

When he posed those questions, all of us at MANA were scrambling to gather information for MANA members about the short-term government initiatives designed to keep small businesses afloat and to put together MANAcasts, webinars and emails with the information our members needed to learn how to use those programs.

Now that we’ve given our members the information they needed quickly; I’ve had time to reflect a little bit on that rep’s questions about the long-term.

We find ourselves facing an abrupt, unforeseeable, life-changing event. None of us have any experience working in this kind of environment. So, if MANA and MANA members have a rallying cry for 2020, it is “Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.” ( Clint Eastwood as Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, Heartbreak Ridge.)

One of the most compelling arguments for selling through manufacturers’ reps has always been the in-person contact we have with local customers. Now that in-person contacts have been suspended or dramatically curtailed, what do we do? Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

The real argument for selling through manufacturers’ reps really isn’t in-person contact. It’s the fact that manufacturers’ reps, who have proven their value to local customers over years or decades, are customers’ trusted resources. And those reps will continue to be their customers’ trusted resources whether in-person contact is suspended or not.

While in-person visits are suspended, our customers’ needs for commercial support, technical assistance and coaching has not been suspended. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Zoom meetings and other electronic communication get the job done until in-person visits can resume.

So, let’s go back to that rep’s questions. When will this be over? Maybe six months. Maybe 12 months. But it will be over someday.

When can I go back to business as usual? Never. Because your business and your world will never be the same after you: Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Charles Cohon, CPMR, is CEO and president of MANA. In 2016 Cohon earned the Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation after completing American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) coursework and testing. Cohon also earned an MBA with honors and with concentrations in strategic management and entrepreneurship from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and was founder and owner of a very successful Illinois manufacturers’ representative firm for nearly 30 years before joining MANA.