National Sales Manager Becomes Rep And Reports Back After a 20-Year Successful Rep Career!

Sometimes you get an email that just makes you feel good to be part of the representative industry. A very successful representative just shared his story with me and agreed that I could share it with you, as long as I kept the story anonymous. This is the kind of story that reminds you why so many representatives love our industry – I’m sure you will find it as inspiring as I did.

Charles Cohon
CEO & President
Manufacturers’ Agents National Association

Twenty years ago, I was the National Sales Manager for a building materials manufacturer. Then our company was purchased by a Fortune 500 company. I found myself in a tough situation. I was making more than my new bosses and that put a target on my chest. So I decided to start a National Rep firm, and go for it.

I needed to find newer lines where we could be their ‘Instant Sales Force’. I had sold my stock and had enough to get by on for about 18 months. If it didn’t work, I would go to work for another company and start all over.  My wife was teaching and was a tremendous support and provider of health insurance.

I found some interesting lines. One was a manufacturer from Europe who wanted to enter the US market and deal with independent reps. It was a very high end product and paid good commissions, but it was tough to introduce that product the the US from scratch.

The second company was a new company with a very interesting new product – and a patent.

The Chemist/Owner had no reps, and I decided he needed me.  Before our breakfast meeting, I wrote a 5 page business plan and asked for the whole US.  He thought I was crazy, but agreed to give me 6 weeks to see what I could do.  In that six weeks I sold everything he had in stock and everything he could make for the next two months.

The Fortune 500 company started firing the reps who had worked for me, and I happily I picked them up – one at a time.  I helped them get other lines, insurance, and a corporate rate at Red Roof Inns. They trusted me, and we did handshake deals. 

That was 20 years ago. The Chemist and I have butted heads many times, but we have done it right. He ran the plant, bought used equipment, never borrowed money, and built a great company from scratch. And we’ve grown phenomenally over those 20 years.

My company was his national rep for most of that time and I managed the rep companies I’d hired. As I got closer to retirement I put some of those companies into a direct relationship with the Chemist, and I’m now down to managing just 12 independent rep companies.

Along the way I was offered shares in the company to keep me committed AND increase my infrastructure. That stock turned out to be my retirement package, and I sold my shares last year. (Many Reps never get the chance to invest in these type companies, but they should look into it if the opportunity comes up.)

What a ride!  I’ve been married to my wife for 43 years and her support was and still is amazing.