Musings on Line Card Profitability

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

“I put $3 million down that hole in the ground and never heard it hit bottom.” — Thomas Edison

When we think of Thomas Edison, we think of his successes. The electric light. The record player. But in 1881 he spent $3,000,000 to build machinery that he thought could extract iron from rocks that had only moderate iron content.

The Edison Ore-Milling Company never was profitable, and the money he put down that hole in the ground was equivalent to $90,000,000 in 2024 dollars.

Reps, like Edison, often have ventures that put their money into a hole in the ground. But, for reps, their “hole in the ground” is representing lines that bring in $50 for every $100 the reps spend promoting the line.

Reps, unlike Edison, can benefit from the experiences of their colleagues who burned daylight on lines that were never profitable and almost always say they let the situation go on for months or years longer than they should have.

And MANA membership includes a tool rep members can use to take the emotion out of assessing lines that might not belong on their line cards, MANA’s Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook.

What’s in the Line Card Profitability Workbook?

  • An assessment tool that takes into account a line’s income and the degree to which it really fits a rep’s line card.
  • A step-by-step assessment example that makes the tool easy to follow.
  • Adjustments for a line’s intangible contributions to a rep firm.
  • Real-world case studies of reps who discovered one of their lines did not belong on their line card.

Ready to do line card profitability analysis on your line card? Download MANA’s Line Card Profitability Analysis Workbook in the member area of the MANA website,, look for “Publications,” and also watch our 12-minute YouTube video, Line Card Profitability Analysis.

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.

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