“We Shape Our Rep Firms; Thereafter They Shape Us”*

by Charles Cohon, President and CEO, MANA

A quote from Sir Winston Churchill reminded me how much of our futures were determined by the first manufacturer we worked with when we launched our rep firms.

We rarely consider how our futures were decided when we signed up with a line that seemingly came our way as if by a throw of the dice.

For many of us, our first job was working for a manufacturer or distributor. We had never even heard of reps. When we eventually learned about reps and started rep firms, we took a path less traveled that determined our futures.

How would your life be different if your first line was die-casting instead of plumbing fixtures?

  • It would have changed your ideas about how to go to market. Instead of selling through distributors, you would have been selling direct. Instead of having a warehouse, you would have worked from home or an office building.
  • The conferences and conventions you attended would have clustered in different regions. When you stretched business travel into a vacation, the places you visited would have been different.
  • Your customers would have been different, so none of your business friends would have been the same.
  • And more than a few of us have met our spouses during a sales call we would never have made if our products had been different.

When we are young and just starting our careers, we think we are shaping our rep firms. As we become older and more reflective, we realize how much our rep firms really shaped us.

* My apologies to Sir Winston Churchill for adapting his quote.
“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us,” said Sir Winston Churchill in his speech to the meeting in the House of Lords on October 28, 1943, requesting that the House of Commons bombed out in May 1941 be rebuilt exactly as before.

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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