Partners in Profit and More

by John Roba, The John D Roba Company, Inc.

As a MANA member for over 35 years, I recall many outstanding articles Agency Sales magazine has written, covering everything from “Starting an Agency” through “Succession Planning.” In this month’s issue we key in on the theme, “Professional Manufacturer’s Representatives Working Together with Manufacturers as Partners in Profit.” Information provided throughout the years in Agency Sales has been a tremendous resource to me. So when I was asked to write this editorial, I wondered what I could possibly add to the subject that has not already been said. Drawing on many years of experience puts me in rather a unique position, inasmuch as I do get the proverbial “20/20 hindsight” advantage.

I do not want to risk repeating some of the information presented in this issue, but I would like to make one observation regarding the theme. We are without question partners in profit, but what jumps out at me is the word partners; the relationship between the manufacturer and representative. All too often when we brought a new manufacturer on board and the contract was signed, an arm’s-length relationship began. The “You are our sales representative, we are the principal, go out and sell something,” attitude was all too common. Technically of course, this is what we do, but there is more to it than that because a major portion of our success can be attributed to building a bond or relationship between the parties. Yes we are partners, but what is often forgotten is we are also team members. The partnership is good, but building a winning team is even better and breeds success every time. As successful manufacturers’ representatives, we are experts in the art of selling. However, many of us are well-versed on other parts of the business cycle pertaining to sales and marketing that consistently results in significant benefits to both parties. In the end the partnership/relationship combination has all the ingredients to make for a long and profitable alliance. This has been one of the key components of the business plan in our company, as I am sure it is with many successful agencies. Whether you are the manufacturer or representative (think about it), it may be the missing key to a long and profitable relationship.

I am retiring after 44 years in the business, and being the old western movie buff that I am, I look forward to the typical end of the movie scenario — you know, the hero gets the girl and rides off into the sunset and lives happily ever after. Well OK, although the girl and I have been together for a long time, the sunset and happily ever after still sound great.

As I retire and transition off the Board of Directors of MANA, representing Region One for two terms and two years as Chairman of the Board, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words of thanks:

To an outstanding profession. If I had to do it all over again I would not change a thing. (Well maybe one thing and that would be to turn the clock back a few years).

To MANA and all it has done to promote, educate, and protect our profession.

To the MANA staff, led by our CEO Charley Cohon, who has done a fantastic job. Also our past CEO, Joe Miller — thank you, Joe, for your advice as well as your friendship.

To the members in Region One, and all members that I have had the pleasure serving. The help, support, and feedback you gave me was tremendous.

To the board members with whom I have had the privilege of serving with over the years. They have been a hardworking group of professionals dedicated to the challenge of guiding MANA forward.

Last but not least, my family, for supporting me all these years. We all know the challenges of being a manufacturer’s representative and living with someone who travels. Beyond a doubt, there are a lot of sacrifices made, but without their understanding it could not have been possible.

I would like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous and blessed New Year.

A member since 1974, John Roba is a past MANA District Director and Chairman of the Board, and co-founder of the Upstate New York Chapter of the Association. The John D Roba Company, Inc., was founded in 1970 and is celebrating over 47 years of business serving the recreational vehicle, manufacturer housing, marine, and automotive industries. Roba has also served as president of RVAA (Recreational Vehicle Aftermarket Association) and PRVCA (Pennsylvania Recreational Vehicle and Campers Association). In 2014 he received the prestigious honor of being elected into the RV/MH Hall of Fame.