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
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
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.
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
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.
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.