Greg Reynolds, President Flynn-Reynolds Agency Inc., Lowell, Mass.

You might say that Greg Reynolds was born into the electrical industry, destined to be an independent manufacturers' representative — and to win the 2002 GEM Rising Star Award for Independent Manufacturers' Representatives. His father was a factory sales rep for Union Insulating Co., and many evenings around the dinner table, Greg's father would talk about the day's sales calls to New England distributors like Ralph Pill Electric Supply or Capitol Light Supply.

“My dad is my biggest mentor,” says Reynolds. “I have never known a better salesperson. I have been on sales calls with my father and when he is engaged in the sales call, you just step back and let him sell. He is the ultimate salesperson. If I ever could be as good as he is, I could be three times more successful.”

Although the electrical industry may have been in his blood from his earliest years, Reynolds' journey to the Flynn-Reynolds rep agency, which he formed with Peter Flynn, wasn't without a few changes of course along the way. For instance, during his first three years at West Virginia University, he studied to become a biologist. After switching majors and graduating with a business degree, his first job in sales had little to do with the electrical industry. He sold telecommunications products for Western Union Telegraph Co. for almost three years before responding to an advertisement for an electrical manufacturers' rep and taking a sales position with Holbrook Associated, a New England rep agency.

Enjoying the rep business and learning from Dick Holbrook, the firm's principal, Reynolds decided that one day he would like to own his own agency. As luck would have it, his father was working for Allied Moulded Products, Bryan, Ohio, at the time, and Reynolds would occasional visit with Paul Troder, Allied Moulded Products' president, when he was in town to see his parents. In 1987, Troder asked him to rep the Allied line in New England, and Reynolds started his own agency.

Several years later, he ran into Peter Flynn, a friendly competitor in the New England market at a Christmas party. They got talking about possibly merging their businesses. Reynolds and Flynn have been partners for more than 10 years. Their agency has been tops in sales for several years running for several companies, including FanTech, Greaves and DeltaTherm. The company is also known as an electric heat specialist in the New England market.

The agency has succeeded, says Reynolds, with a love for solving customers' problems and a value-added selling approach. “Numbers are not necessarily our focus,” he says. “We ask ourselves, ‘How does the product fit a need?,’ and, ‘How do we apply this product to our industry?’”

Down the road, Reynolds says the rep agency's biggest challenge will be to get closer to the specification market and the end-user market. “That is the only way a rep is going to be in existence in the future,” he says. “We have got to control that marketplace by being an asset to the end user and the manufacturer.

“I have seen a change in the independent rep in the 12 years that I have been in the industry. The rep used to be primarily a route salesperson, talking to the distributor and making some sales calls with the outside salespeople. That was sufficient to be a successful manufacturers rep. Now, if you are not calling on specifiers and end users and the architect, you really aren't bringing much to the party at all.”

Additionally, Reynolds says distributor consolidation is moving some decision making out of his territory. “It's much harder for me to impact a direct sell to a large chain. Whereas, if I can create that demand in my market, that's what I have control of.”