Pioneering or Reinvigorating a New Line
Read about our journey from partnering with any manufacturer to selecting partners who match our investment and have a clear vision for growth.
There was a point, in the early years of our company, that we would partner with any manufacturer willing to give us a shot. We were a small company, driven by older ways of thinking and willing to take any new or potentially new income to help fuel our growth. We soon realized that this wasn't a productive business model. As an agency, we could only focus on so many lines and initiatives. We could drive more revenue to the company while simultaneously building a better brand by focusing on a few high quality manufacturers and maximizing their market potential. In fact, after my brother Dan joined our agency in 1998, we let go of a number of lines while my father was away at a sales meeting. He returned to discover that a significant portion of our income had been relinquished, with plans to replace it through our existing manufacturers. It’s funny (even legendary) now in our agency but at the time it was scary for Dan & I and a huge leap of faith by my father.
We were successful. Born out of that decision was our company mission statement: Davenport Associates focuses on high quality manufacturers and devotes the proper time and attention to make each line successful.
We are approached all the time, often weekly, by new manufacturers. Some manufacturers are looking for us to pioneer a line and some are looking for us to reinvigorate their business. We commonly ask both types of manufacturers: 'Where do you envision yourself in 5 years, and what are you willing to invest to get there? A manufacturer with clear goals and a sense of their potential market share gets our attention. A manufacturer with a willingness to understand and match our investment is a potential partner. There are many more factors involved in choosing new manufacturer partners but these two initial conversation points are the gateway forward.
Similarly, it's the Rep agency's responsibility to avoid being a “hog at the trough.” Taking on new lines with no plan to grow and no willingness to invest in their growth hurts our collective image in the industry. The generation that took a “gas & light line” (i.e. a line that was just good enough to pay the utility bills) has passed. The new generation of business owners understands their costs and growth avenues and has investment budgets for those avenues in place. The prospective new manufacturers that need their line pioneered or reinvigorated should have similar understandings of their goals and have a budget for side by side investment. This is the future of the manufacturer and manufacturer’s rep partnership.