Successful Partnerships

by Charles Ingram,  VP of Sales & Marketing, Eriez Magnetics

1947 was a good year for my company, Eriez Manufacturing, as well. It was the year our founder, Bob Merwin, and Dean Thomas, a sales representative of what is now Dominion-Carolina Sales, Inc., based in High Point, North Carolina, came to an agreement for Dean to sell Eriez magnetic separators for a commission. This was done “old school,” with a handshake between the two young men.

Fast forward to 2017, and our two companies are also celebrating a 70th anniversary of Dominion-Carolina representing Eriez. A successful 70-year relationship between rep and manufacturer is really something to reflect upon with great pride. It doesn’t happen easily or automatically. Like MANA’s 70-year history, relationships between reps and manufacturers take a lot of hard work and commitment by both parties to be successful over the years. It must truly be a business partnership.

The secret to success, as in all lasting relationships, is regular, open and consistent communication. Think about it: communication among reps and manufacturers is what ultimately builds the trust that enables you to get through rough economic periods, volatile market conditions, sticky customer situations and evolving business practices. Days of traveling with reps, sharing booth duty time at trade shows, regular product training programs, e-mailed customer and market activity updates, rep councils, and even old-fashioned phone conversations all contribute to manufacturers and their reps developing teamwork, and keeping their expectations and objectives aligned. How else could a rep and manufacturer stay together for 70 years?

There are always going to be some bumps in the road in the rep-manufacturer relationship. The successful partnerships work through these bumps with trust, communication and mutual respect. There may not be any sales agreements between reps and manufacturers done with just a handshake anymore, but we can certainly act like it in how we treat each other and work together.

Charles H. Ingram, in a career spanning over 37 years, has served in management at several leading tool manufacturers as well as led factory-direct, distribution and independent manufacturers’ representative selling organizations throughout North America and abroad. Ingram is vice president of sales & marketing for Eriez Magnetics, which designs, develops, manufactures and markets advanced technology equipment for magnetic separation, vibratory applications, metal detection, and materials conveying and controlling applications from 11 manufacturing operations worldwide. He is the first manufacturer elected to the MANA Board of Directors. He received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history at Denison University, Granville, Ohio, and completed advanced management studies at the University of Tennessee.