CISCA Turns 50!
It’s hard to believe that we are now in the third millenium and even more difficult to grasp that CISCA Turned 50 this year!
What a difference 50 years can make! To think that our industry, as we know it today is only 50 years old is surprising, and to witness the changes that have taken place in this short period of time is incredible. It is even more surprising to note that Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives as we know them today have only existed for 40 years.
In The November / December 1998 Issue of Interior Construction we explored the early years of Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives’, how the system was developed and where the early Reps came from. Let’s take a moment in this issue to address some of the interesting changes in our group as CISCA Turns 50!
Early Reps had two sales tools, a telephone and an automobile. The only effective way to reach the customer was driving, driving and more driving. It was not uncommon for a Rep to leave home Monday Morning and not return until Friday night. After a week on the road, the Rep would review notes; order samples, and prepare quotations. The customer would receive the requested items in the following few weeks.
The first real change was the introduction of multiple line telephones for smaller companies, like Reps. What a change, you could actually put a customer on hold and speak with more than one person at a time. At the same time, Reps started to have more than one telephone in the office, imagine. Travelling and the maddening pursuit of a pay telephone was still the rule of the day.
Calculators were mechanical, and cost more then $1000.00!
In the early 1960’s drive up telephones were introduced in some major markets, what a great convenience, when they worked. The pace of our business was starting to change.
It was still more than 20 years later before the really significant changes began to appear. The FAX Machine! What a tremendous tool for Reps! No more telephone calls starting with, “put your pencil on the paper, now draw a line to the right one inch, then down an inch and so on. Sometimes the profile described actually matched what the contractor or architect really needed.
Then in rapid succession, UPS, Federal Express (now FedEx of course), Express mail, messenger services, cell phones, car phones, electronic calculators and finally personal computers or PC’s.
It was great to be told that computers would eliminate paper from our offices, and that business would become so efficient that we would have to rearrange our lives to enjoy all of the new free time created by technology. Unbelievable!
We have all discovered that these incredible advances have not resulted in paper free offices, or the proliferation of more free time. Quite the opposite has occurred. Expectations for response to questions, or quote and sample requests have gone from weeks to days to hours. We are all doing more work with fewer people; the pace of activity has increased at an incredible pace. Most are working more hours than ever before.
If you were to ask most CISCA Members about the Internet two years ago, most would have been aware of the Internet but had no idea what it really was, how to access it, or what benefit they could derive from it. Two years later, virtually all CISCA Manufacturers have a website, many of the distributors and contractors and several of the Reps. Two years from now the Internet will be a daily tool for all of us. What will that do to our level of activity? What impact will E-mail have on our lives?
It seems hard to imagine that technology will continue at this pace, but if you listen to the expert’s technological advancements will actually accelerate in the future.
The next ten years will be will be very important for Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives. Our way of doing business will continue to change. The demands upon our time will be expanded. We will all be expected to produce more, in less time than ever before. It is important that we, as a group, stay focussed, remain open to new ideas and concepts, and continue to expand the level of professionalism within our segment of our industry.
CISCA Membership is at a record level! There are now forty-four CISCA Member Independent Manufacturers’ Representative Firms, the highest level in twenty years! Lets hope the next fifty years shows an increase in our membership within CISCA and an increase in the number of manufacturing firms that appreciate what Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives contribute to our industry!
William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award