We Get Letters

In this week’s mailbag, we had one explaining why a manufacturer decided to end relationships with rep agencies in two sales territories (neither one ours…) It says, in part:

“Many outdoor rep agencies are used to pursuing [business] which follows [a] pre-book, ship and clinic model. We think we all recognize that our industry landscape has changed significantly in the last five years and if anything, that pace of change will quicken.”

The tone and vision of this letter was similar to an e-mail that was in our in-box this week, too. Ostensibly a marketing piece for a national tradeshow, it was as direct:

“Reps are under fire these days and have to defend their position (and commission) to the brands they represent. In the meantime, brands will continue to push down on commission percentages and will continue to streamline processes to best serve the dealer directly.” This same document goes on to say that “Job security and repping [have] become oxymoronic.”

Just last week, I was talking with somebody who recently left an in-house repping job. This person was weighing the pros and cons of looking outside of this industry for a different kind of gig altogether, or of trying to put together a quiver of four or five open brands and make a go of it as an independent. I said,”Soon, there will be very few lone-soldier independent reps – the lines that hire them won’t generate enough income for the rep to make a living, and the lines that pay well will be needing services that can only be provided by agencies, or they will be looking at other options.”

Earlier this year, Pemba Serves was honored by the OIA as a finalist for the annual Innovator Award. To a degree, this recognition came to us because we have an innovative structure and an eye towards the future. It’s no secret that we’re trying to position ourselves so that we are better prepared to ride out the tsunami-like changes that are sweeping through our little corner of the industry. Ours is not a perfect model, but most people like it.

Not everyone gets it, though. We interviewed for a line in our territory some time back, and decided to walk away from the opportunity because the interviewer casually mentioned this: ”Since we’re talking, you should know that we want you to change your structure to something more traditional – we’d be more comfortable with you if you were more like our other agencies.” We might not be right about what’s needed from reps in this industry, but we do know what’s right for us.

As the Dalai Lama says, the secret to happiness is simple: “Just walk towards those things that make you happy, and away from those things that don’t.” Whether we walk towards happiness, or away from unhappiness, at the end of the day we at Pemba Serves are happier just to keep on walking. Walking always makes us happy, either way.

In times of great change, it seems that people in equal numbers cling to the familiar and the traditional, or go out seeking the revolution. A few take the middle path, also. What’s clear from history is that no conservative movement has ever saved its way guardedly into the future. On the other hand, revolutionaries are often martyred. In history, the “middle path” has often been the most successful option. This path frequently involves assimilating new ideas as they come along, and evolving old ones into new paradigms. In this way, the Greeks became the Romans, and the Romans became – well – us. Carpe Diem.

So, the takeaway for today is this: Mix the old with the new, always choose the better of the two options, and keep on walking towards happiness, however you define it. One more thing we know, also: We need to keep listening. To this end, we have a survey. Have you seen it? Drop us a line, give us some feedback. We like new ideas, and want to hear about your favorite old ones, too.

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