The Trials And Tribulations Of Starting A Manufacturers’ Agency From Scratch (Part 3)

The Third Year: The First Line

At the beginning of 1993, we started the development of all of our terms and conditions forms, quotation forms, field service reports, safety manuals, request for quotation forms, fax forms, telephone record forms, post mortem forms, as well as form letters for every contingency we could imagine. We also bought directories for the states we covered listing all businesses by SIC code as well as computerized lists of all businesses with air permits in the territory. We obtained a Nevada contractor’s license, and registered as a foreign corporation doing business in Nevada, including hiring a resident agent. More business expenses!

In September the second layoff came, and we were ready to take the plunge. We began immediately to mail solicitation letters to principals with the type of products we had identified that we wanted, and then to make follow-up telephone calls. We must have contacted over 200 vendors in the last three months of the year, and we had an offer for our first line to handle small indoor ventilation systems before year end.

The Fourth Year: Adding Lines

In early 1994 we began to have serious discussions with several vendors and added a custom baghouse line (a former boss of mine was doing the recruiting) and an electrostatic precipitator line ( I had worked with the operations manager at another company years ago). Shortly afterward we added a high-efficiency cyclone line (my partner knew the local regional manager), a dust collector line (my partner knew the owner), and a controls line. At this point (May) we decided to make a swing through the East Coast to see the facilities of the vendors we had signed up to represent, and to visit a couple of companies we were interested in. We had training sessions at a couple of the plants, and toured facilities and put names and faces together at the other plants.

We also picked up a line of burners to do more general marketing for throughout North America on a short-term basis. We helped the principal with sales efforts, set up presentations at architect/engineers, developed sales literature, wrote articles, and performed a variety of other marketing efforts. In the future, they planned to put in place a nationwide network of reps, and to manage that rep network, so we were a stop-gap measure for them.

Suddenly we had lots of people calling us about lines, and we had to get really serious about territory lines and coverage required since there were only the two of us. A friend of a friend of my partner called and we took on his oxidizer line. We started development of detailed business plans for each line to ensure that we adequately covered the territory including the principal’s areas of strength that were perhaps out of our normal customer base.

The series continues next month.

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