Reading time ( words)
Over the years, I have spent a great deal of time working with reps. I like to think of myself as an advocate for reps since I have spent so much time trying to get the PCB shops to play nice with them. Throughout this time I have established a strong respect for independent sales reps and what they have to go through to become successful. They operate on their own dime, they wait months and months to get paid and sometimes they can actually be too successful. They can get to a point when some tightwad, green-visored, sleeve-gartered accountant comes out of his cave and wants to know “who are these guys and why are we paying them so much money?” and then suggests that we can rid of them and keep all of the money for ourselves. As more than one rep has told me this is an occupational hazard.
But I know from personal experience that there are some great rep firms out there; they work hard for their money and they are completely dedicated to their two masters—their principal and their customer.
So I thought it would not only be fun, but also informative to talk to one of the better and more dedicated rep firms out there. With that in mind I sought out my friend Ken Thompson and asked if he and his partner Tim Miranda would be good enough to take the time to tell me their story, and being the great guys that they are, they agreed.
Dan: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. I appreciate it.
Ken: No problem Dan, we’re happy to do it.
Dan: Great, so first of all tell me a little about yourselves and how you got started.
Ken: I started the company in 2011. I had been working with a company called CableConn and decided to start my own manufacturer’s rep company. I was fortunate and was able to keep CableConn as a company that we represented. My background was in distribution. I started by getting in touch with people I had come to know over the years and got them to sign up to be represented by my new firm. One of the lines I picked up was California Chassie and that’s where I met Tim.
Tim: I have been in the industry for over 30 years. Most of that time I was involved in distribution of power supplies. Then in the late ‘80s I finally became a rep and started working for a technical rep firm in Northern California called HM technical sales. My partner was an elderly gentlemen who wanted to retire so I worked with him until he did. I was involved with a lot of power supply front end development at that time. Then like Ken said I met him and we got together and here we are.
Dan: Great, so I know that you guys pride yourselves in being a total solutions provider. Can you talk about that?
Ken: Yes, this is the thing that we feel differentiates us from most of the other sales rep firms out there and why we call ourselves KT Technical sales. We consider ourselves a true value-added supplier. We handle everything our customers need to develop and produce an entire product. We rep everything from the sheet metal to the cable and cable assemblies as well as the PCBs and PCB assemblies. In all it is a completely synergistic solution.
Dan: Ken, let’s go back a little bit to the beginning. What was your vision when you started the company?
Ken: Our vision, and it still is today, was to build a team of professional technical sales experts to sell our clients products that would give them a complete and synergistic solution, provide them everything they needed for the box build.
Tim: Provide a complete path to the finished product
Dan: So you are much more than just your average sales reps then?
Ken: that’s right. This is why we insist that we are technical sales reps. We are involved in the entire life of our customers’ projects from front end development to the end of the program.
Tim: Most reps only sell the individual parts in an unconnected way. We put everything together for what we like to call a synergistic solution. When we sign with a principal we are in for the long haul.
Ken: And it’s the same when we sign with a customer as well.
Tim: Our purpose is to actually embed ourselves with that customer, work side by side with the people there and get the project designed, the parts built by our principals and then put together by our assemblers and turned over to the customers.
Ken: We go deep into projects. We in fact follow projects from their very inception. We study how they are funded and how they are awarded and to whom they are awarded. From there we follow the programs to the point where we understand the customer’s strategic direction so that we can serve them better than anyone else. We actually figure out where they want to be in the future and then we help them to get there.
Tim: Our goal is to use this knowledge to insert ourselves into the account.
Dan: I have to tell you guys that this is like nothing I have heard before. Is there an example you can give me of how you’ve done this?
Ken: Let’s talk about one that is ongoing without mentioning names. This is one that Tim was really at the forefront of so I’ll let him tell the story.
Tim: This was a particular program that had been awarded to one of the larger defense aerospace companies that I had been working with for years so when they were awarded this specific program I already had a good relationship with them. They needed some strong engineering support so they asked me if I could use my team to provide it.
Dan: So you have a team of engineers at your disposal then?
Tim: Yes and no. They are all subs—1099’s. All of us are independents but we come together as one team on projects like this one.
Dan: Got it.
Tim: So they invited me and my team to embed ourselves right there in their company and we designed the system from PCB to chassis. I was actually the program manager on that team and we worked together as true partners.
Dan: So as an outsider, you were actually the program manager on the project?
Tim: That’s right, we produced a complete design package statement of work for them and now we are in the process of developing the manufacturing of that product.
Dan: And using your own principal suppliers.
Ken: Yes, for the most part, and we are working on other projects like this as well.
Dan: So when you rep a company, say a board house, you bring them into these projects as a true partner—as part of what you call your synergistic solution.
Ken: That’s right.
Dan: Amazing. So do you have others in your firm and can you tell me a little bit about them as well?