From A Rep's Perspective

Mike Root

Oh, what a night

May 1, 2017

With a record crowd of almost 1,000 people, the Furniture Industry Awards Gala celebrated our great industry and the independent sales rep’s part in it. With hundreds of reps in attendance as well as manufacturers and major retailers on Monday night of market, it was wonderful opportunity for IHFRA (International Home Furnishings Representatives Assn.) shine a light on the great value sales reps fill in the distribution network.

Irv Blumkin from Nebraska Furniture Mart was recognized as the Retailer of the Year, and he spoke about how helpful reps have been to his company over the years. It was terrific to hear from one of the largest retailers about the importance and need for sales representation in the home furnishings industry. Kerry Lebensburger from Ashley Furniture was recognized as the Pillar of the Industry for Manufacturers. Heading the largest sales force in our industry, Kerry told all the attendees how appreciative he was of the role reps play in the success of Ashley.

It was great to see a number of reps recognized that evening from “Rising Stars” to “Legacy Awardees”. Each awardee gave their take on the honor and joy of a career in sales. The Distinguished Service Award (DSA) is the highest rep award, and the acceptance speech highlighted from a Rep’s perspective some of the challenges and motivations of a career as a professional sales rep. Because of the positive feedback of the message from attendees, here are a few edited excerpts of the DSA speech.

For over five decades, we saw the rise of superstores like Levitz or Heilig Meyers that was going to change the way furniture was sold. We had mass merchandisers like Sears and Wards. These models were not sustainable and they did not put independent professional reps out of business as was threatened at the time. Today we have factory direct concepts and internet retailers. Once again we hear about threats to the industry. In the past, we have adapted to these changes, and positioned ourselves as a resource for our factories and our customers. It’s fun. But it’s also scary knowing that the way we define success today will probably not be the way we will be able to do it in the future. Business changes rapidly and you must adapt.

My involvement with IHFRA really opened my eyes to the challenges rep’s have trying to do the best job they can given their unique territories, lines represented and customer base. Being a rep is a noble profession that is often forgotten or overlooked by factories and retailers. Professional reps are an integral to the success of products in our industry. We are the eyes and ears in the field for the manufacturers as well as a voice of product knowledge in the stores for retailers. Done right, we make the flow of goods easier for all in the chain.

As I reflect on this awesome award the word passion comes to mind. I’m passionate about what we do, why we do it, how we do it, and most importantly who we do it for. We all spend way too much time working not to enjoy our time spent. I believe If you are not passionate about what you do, then only you can change it. The passionate people do not let obstacles get in their way of success. To be passionate about what we do, to be enthusiastic in the way we do it, and to help others be successful along the way I believe is the ultimate reward of a career in sales.

It was a fun evening sponsored by IHFRA. If you did not get a chance to be there this year, make sure you mark your calendars for the Monday of April market 2018. As always, feel free to leave your positive remarks about this event below.