Planting for the Future

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” — Greek Proverb

What trees does MANA plant to help ensure the rep industry’s future? Here’s an example.

Reps struggle to recruit recent college graduates as employees, in part because college classes don’t mention reps. Why don’t college classes mention reps? Because decision-makers who pick the content for college classes have never heard of reps.

Where do those decision-makers gather the content they include in college courses? Academic journals, so this is where we must plant the seeds for trees in whose shade we may never sit.

In 2018 I first met with Trond Bergestuen, a Ph.D. candidate writing his thesis on manufacturers’ representatives. I helped him gather the data he needed to write and defend his thesis and earn his Ph.D. I continued to work with Trond to help him with articles about reps for academic journals.

Trond’s first two articles have been published in highly respected academic journals.

  • “Dual distribution systems: Investigating their effects on independent manufacturers’ representatives’ perceptions of manufacturers,” Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, November 22, 2021.
  • “Principal-independent manufacturers’ representative relationships: Review, synthesis, directions for future research,” Industrial Marketing Management, January 31, 2022.

After helping Trond collect the data he needed for articles about reps in North America, I connected him with my counterparts in Europe. They are assisting him with data collection that will allow him to write articles comparing and contrasting North American practices with European practices.

As more articles like these reach academic decision-makers, more information about reps will become part of future college classes. In the future, recent college graduates will know about the rep industry and give us strong consideration as they begin their careers.

I can’t say when we will be able to sit in the shade of the seeds that were planted in 2018, but I can tell you that those saplings have taken root and are thriving.

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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