Jump In, the Water’s Fine

(But Here Are a Few Things to Know Before You Do)

by Keynae Agnew, CPMR, Agnew Pacific Enterprises, LLC

Last year was called “The Great Resignation” and the “Big Quit” because waves of unhappy employees quit their jobs. And all the indicators suggest that this year won’t be different.

Some of these people are jumping right into new jobs, but many are giving themselves time to recover, reflect, relocate geographically and consider new career paths. Seeing so many people taking a breath and considering their options took me back to the days when I did the same and discovered my calling as an independent manufacturers’ rep.

As many people evaluate their options, this seems like the right time to share some of the story of how I left corporate America and decided to become a manufacturers’ rep, and the things that sustained me during that transition.

In my last Agency Sales article, I mentioned that professionalism was one of the key factors that sustained my business through the recent challenging times. In this article, I want to add some additional key factors that are crucial to becoming a successful entrepreneur:

  • Clarity of purpose
  • Believing in yourself
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Self-discipline
  • Focus
  • Passion
  • Initiative
  • Flexibility

If I had to pick one of these characteristics as the most important, it would be “Believing in Yourself.”

When I started my rep firm, I knew I had the necessary knowledge and experience, but believing in myself let me put one foot in front of the other and start my rep agency.

Because I believed I could contribute to my industry, I jumped in the water. But, looking back, I remember that before I jumped in the water, I did my due diligence reaching out to Jerry Leth to discuss my plans.

During that conversation, Jerry presented questions that helped me to evaluate if launching a rep firm was right for me. And with so many people taking a breath and reviewing their options, I thought it would be a good time to circle back to Jerry, ask him for the questions he’d posed to me, and share those questions with Agency Sales magazine readers (see the list of questions below).

If you started your rep firm recently, these questions could help you revisit the plans you made when you created your firm and direct you to the areas in your firm that may need attention.

If your rep firm is well-established, these questions can take you back to when you launched your firm, help you reflect on the direction it took, and decide the direction it should take in the future.

That conversation with Jerry helped me evaluate my potential for navigating a successful start as a manufacturers’ rep. Jerry’s feedback let me know I had the right skills to move forward as an independent manufacturers’ representative.

I’ve been swimming in the deep end for years and couldn’t be happier that I took that first step. If you’re still at the edge of the pool, jump in, the water’s fine.

The Following Questions Should Help Zero in on Your Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. Tell me about your background and experience.
  2. How old are you?
  3. What is your level of education?
  4. Tell me about all of your previous jobs.
  5. What experience do you have in the area of:
    1. Finance/accounting?
    2. Formal business planning?
    3. Marketing (non-sales activities)?
    4. Formal sales training?
  6. Have you ever owned a business before? Success or failure?
  7. Do you have the resources to feed your family and pay your bills for at least one year? (Could be longer with long lead or capital equipment products.)
  8. What sources of working capital do you have?
  9. Have you already secured any lines to represent? Written contracts or handshakes?
  10. Will your agency be focused on:
    1. The industry in which you have spent most of your career?
    2. The geographic territory where you have customers who are friends?
    3. Products or services where you have considerable technical expertise?
  11. Do you have experience in negotiating contracts? Any formal classes in negotiation?
  12. Why did you join MANA and what do you expect to get from your membership:
    1. Short-term?
    2. Long-term?
  13. What are your greatest strengths as a new rep?
  14. Where do you feel you are the weakest in your business skills?
  15. Would you consider yourself a “loner,” someone who has no problem asking for help or somewhere in-between?

Keynae Agnew, CPMR is CEO/president of Agnew Pacific Enterprises, LLC, representing medical and scientific instrumentation manufacturers since 2010. Prior to starting her agency, she gained experience working as a manufacturers’ representative for Nord Scientific. Her work history includes over 14 years of molecular biology laboratory experience in industry and academic research. Agnew graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Biochemistry. She serves on the leadership team of MANA’s special interest group “A League of Their Own” (ALOTO), the Board of Directors for MANA, and the Board of Directors for the Health Industry Representatives Association (HIRA).

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