by Bert Holtje
Why Become an Agent Anyway?
Very few people start a business career with the idea of becoming a manufacturers’ agent. Those who do usually are directly related to the owner of an agency and are considered to be the heir apparent. The rest tend to go through the sales and marketing chairs on the manufacturer side before becoming an agency employee, or before taking the plunge into their own business directly.
What’s the appeal in owning a manufacturers’ agency? There are several, but the most important for most agents seems to be the chance to do what they are good at, and to go beyond the restrictions they often find in their climb up the corporate ladder. In some companies, growth in the marketing and sales department often leads to the executive suite. In others, it doesn’t. And in some companies, the top dog in the marketing department may be a fixture, not inclined to move to make room for a comer. Whatever the case, most people who start their own agencies usually do so to grow when they feel that they face limits in their present job.
An agent who started her own agency about five years ago said “I went through the chairs at several companies. When I knew that I wasn’t going to get any further in a company, I made a job change that not only got me further up the ladder, but that offered the potential for further growth. In my nearly 20 years on the corporate side, I changed jobs four times until I reached vice presidential level in the marketing department of a major pharmaceutical company. It was at this company where I had to make the big decision.
There was opportunity to grow at the company, but the ladder above me was clogged. And it would have been difficult to find the job I wanted at another company where the path to higher responsibility might be less crowded. So I decided that it was time to do it myself.
“I didn’t have to leave the company. In fact, when I told them of my plans to start an agency, they made me all sorts of great offers, except that they couldn’t promise me that the path higher would be opened any sooner. They couldn’t, and I recognized that. So, that’s when I started out on my own.”
This agent said that although she always felt that making good money was important in her life, her reasons for starting her own business were not dominated by making a fortune. She said, “Sure, I wanted to make more money. After all, it is one of the tangible ways you can measure your personal progress. But my main reason for starting out on my own was to be able to control my destiny. In jobs I held early in my career, there were always good opportunities, that is until I got as high as I did with my last employer. When you reach this level the range of opportunities narrows considerably. I suppose I could have waited it out, or looked further for another good job opportunity. But, it was at this point that I felt it was in my best interest to take full responsibility for my career for the rest of my life. So, it was more with the goal of being in better control of my prospects, rather than the goal of making scads of money, that I took off on my own. And, yes, to answer the question I’m sure you’re going to ask, I am making a lot of money. But, the real reward for me is that I have control of my life. And, yes, I know that I can lose principals and customers at any time. But I also know that I can go out and replace them when I need to. I won’t be on a corporate sleigh ride anymore.”
Next month, read about the personal freedom involved in running a sales agency.