Reps Can Help in Starting a Business

This morning, just as I had finished returning calls from the evening before, my phone rang. When I answered it, I found that it was one of my favorite types of calls. On the other end was someone who was considering opening a new business and was asking for my help. This is a tremendous way to utilize a rep.

In our firm, lending a hand to new businesses is a charge in which we take great pleasure. This philosophy was passed down from my father.

Through the years, my father would point to many of the kitchen and bath companies located in our region and take pride in telling us all about how he knew the owner when he worked on the loading dock, how he helped a different one find her first store location, set up another owner with his first cabinet line, was witness for an additional person to get a CKD or how he worked out the necessary credit to help get still one more company started.

He and the rest of our firm have always had great respect for people who are willing to take the risk of starting something new and are willing to work hard to make it successful.

The well-established and successful kitchen and bath companies that are doing business today all started with someone bravely stepping forward, willing to take a chance. Some started with small showrooms, others in a basement or garage and still others even out of the trunk of a car. The large companies of today were the small start-ups of yesterday.

This truly hit home for me once I had a few years under my belt and I could see some of the start-ups that I had worked with emerging into successful companies.

That phone call this morning fired me up and got me thinking about the possibilities it presented. The call was from a salesperson I had sold cabinets to a few years ago. He had decided to go out on his own and was calling me for two reasons.

First, he was interested in selling one of my product lines as part of his business, and it was in a town where I needed a dealer so that was perfect. Second, he was looking to bounce a few ideas off of me.

Addressing Concerns
If you're thinking about starting your own company, you would do well to talk to a rep. Your rep has much to offer you. Product lines are the most obvious, and your rep will be your key to procuring them.

In the beginning, there will be two concerns. First, you'll have to be in a location where the rep and the manufacturer believe they can garner sales without stepping on the toes of existing customers. As a rep, I don't care how much I like you, if you tell me you're opening up a shop across the street from one of my successful dealers, I'm not going to sell to you.

Talk with your rep, let him know your intentions and work with him to find an area that can be successful for both of you. It may be as simple as shifting your focus a few miles here or there.

Your second concern is securing a line of credit. As a brand spanking new company, you'll have trouble getting open terms with a manufacturer. Your rep can help you work with the manufacturer to find options for opening your account.

Beyond credit, think of all of the other money issues associated with your new business; your finances will most likely be tight. I work with my new accounts to ensure that they get the full advantage of terms, credits and co-op programs quickly. I submit the paperwork immediately and follow-up often. Every dollar is important for the start-up, so work with your rep to keep cash flow from being an issue between you and the manufacturer.

Don't forget communication. If you run into difficulties and you will as long as you communicate with the rep and the factory and do what you say you will do, they'll work with you.

Once you have your product line figured out, your next objective is to find a location. Your rep can be helpful here, too. I've gone out and met new accounts and reviewed locations with them. I look to see if the location is right for the type of clientele they are looking for.

One of the most important things that I try to ensure is that there is a good place to receive deliveries. My product lines arrive on 53-foot trailers, and it's extremely important to me that those trailers can get in and out easily. If the deliveries don't work, the account won't work.

When thinking about showrooms, not only can your rep help with display designs, but he may be able to help with samples until yours arrive. I often loan my bases, doors and color blocks to new accounts. They do more for me in showrooms selling than sitting in my storage space.

Seeking Guidance
When starting a new business, it would not hurt to just seek some guidance from a rep. As much as I would like to be able to sell my products to every business, I cannot. But, I am always willing to offer advice. I have staples that I share.

For one, I recommend that they start slow and control their growth. You don't want to grow too quickly and get over-extended. Buy the used van to start with, sell with samples instead of displays, start with the small showroom and work your way into the grand one. You'll have enough pressures without adding the weight of unnecessary expenses.

Another bit of advice that I always share is to have diversity in your clientele. Too often, I'll see a company started that services just one big account. That sounds attractive, but boy, are you at risk. You are at their mercy. If you mess up a job, or they become slow payers or any sort of negative event occurs, it can instantly destroy your business and your dream.

Beyond advice, reps can share the experiences of others who have done exactly what you want to do. Many of my customers are willing to talk to people starting new businesses. Your rep can put you in touch with people like this, too.

I have always admired and respected people willing to step out on their own to start something new. When I see a new business, I envision it 10 years down the road, having experienced tremendous success. I believe in these companies, and I believe that if I help them now, they may well be my customers for life.

If you're thinking about taking this step, don't forget to contact a rep. It may just be what you need to get started.

Printable version may be for personal use only. Content may not be duplicated, re-used or otherwise replicated without expressed, written consent from and/or Morgan Pinnacle LLC.

This article originally appeared in Kitchen and Bath Design News 10/2004

Search Morgan Pinnacle


What Others are Saying