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Key Idea: Duplicate Yourself

Anne McGilvray started hiring people because she wanted to share the fun and profits she discovered as a manufacturer's representative.

Key Question:


Anne did it quickly by hiring people like herself.  She was a fabulous sales person representing a variety of products and discovered that she could provide excellent sales and service for manufacturers.

A manufacturer’s rep is simply a sales organization. Anne sells other people’s products; she does not make anything herself. A manufacturer has to find a way to sell his or her products, and finding a representative like Anne is often the best way to reach the marketplace efficiently. Anne got started simply with a few products and she called on a small territory. She was so good at this type of sales that she built up too many relationships to handle herself. Anne could see that the way to grow a business and grow it fast is to find people like herself and she did it quickly.

Q: Why is selling through a distributor efficient?

A: A manufacturer can focus entirely on making a perfect product if it has a sales organization such as Anne’s representing it. However, while it may be easy to find Anne, it may not be easy to convince her to carry your product. Today, she turns down 25 products a day. There is probably a distributor for any product, but a manufacturer has to earn the right to be carried by a company like Anne’s. For this reason, some manufacturers have to develop their own sales channels which makes building the business more difficult.

Why do some manufacturers have their own sales force and avoid using a manufacturer’s rep to reach customers?

A: Profit margins and control. If you can afford to hire, train, and motivate your own sales force, you may be able to keep more profits. If everyone who sells your product is your employee, you do have more control over how the product is handled from the day it leaves the factory to the day it is purchased by a consumer.

Think about it

Are you afraid to duplicate yourself? Do you think that being the only one in your company who is good at a certain task is the best way for you to grow?

Clip from: AMCI with Anne & Michael McGilvray

Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City: This story begins like so many  stories, one person goes out selling. Her name is Anne McGilvray and she sold holiday cards. She became as a manufacturer's rep and grew her business to $2M in annual revenues. She then invited her husband, Michael, to join her.

Anne knows how to pick products that capture our lighter side, spark our imaginations, and make us smile; Michael controls the magic of technology that transformed this Mom-and-Pop shop into a $60M per-year major distribution channel to over 60,000 retail chains.  We discover two very talented people who find and work with creative, talented people. Spend some time with this episode of the show and you'll learn what it takes to have the magic touch.

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AMCI, Inc. (AM)

Anne McGilvray, Owner

2332 Valdina
Dallas, TX 75207

Visit our web site:

Office: 2146384438

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1975

Duplicate Yourself

HATTIE (In the studio): Hi. I'm Hattie Bryant. This series is about small business. It's about creating something from nothing. But most of all, it's about the people of small business. We call the founders of small and growing businesses the New American Heroes. These are the men and women who create work and wealth. They employ 54 percent of the workforce. They invent new products and carry the up-front burden of debt. Willing to step out, follow their imaginations and build along the way are Anne and Michael McGilvray, our New American Heroes.

ANNE McGILVRAY (in her showroom with Hattie): Frankly, we've made a decision very early on that I will never sell anything that's truly functional or that someone has to have.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) This is a company that sells things you might not know what to do with.

MICHAEL McGILVRAY: I was blind before I put them on and I'm still blind.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) There's nothing serious in this showroom, just whimsy.

MICHAEL (Showing Hattie a plastic cockroach): Take it to your favorite restaurant and see if you can get a free meal, right?

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The magic of this place comes in the mix of Anne and Michael McGilvray.

Unidentified Woman #1: They spend a lot of time. They take a lot of care and effort to sell our product to the right stores and in the right places.

ANNE: Well, long ago when I would be on an airplane -- first of all, there were almost no women in the industry -- so it was fun to say, "You know, `I'm a rep,' and they'd say, `What is that?' But one time I was sitting next to a man and it was the first time ever this happened. And he said. `Well, I know what a rep is because I'm a rep.' And I'm, like, `Really?' `Well, what do you rep?' So he gets out his briefcase and, of course, it was something very boring and technical, and it was all I could do to even sit there that long and listen. So I got out my briefcase and told him that we sold Glow-in-the-dark Cockroaches and he's going, `Oh, my God. You can make a living like that?'

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Since 1975, Anne has been a manufacturer's rep. She started alone with a few greeting cards, but now she and Michael have 90 sales reps covering over 26 states. They represent over 200 manufacturers and take care of 65,000+ small retailers, most with fewer than 10 stores.

Unidentified Man #1: That makes our job easier. We don't--we're not set up to handle all of the customers in the office. We could never do that. The bigger companies with much more gross sales, they have their own sales staff. But the smaller companies that can't afford to have their own sales staff hire the people like Anne McGilvray's group and they're perfect for us.

HATTIE: Let me go back to the definition, what you -- you said you were a rep, a manufacturer's rep. So you started in this industry repping

ANNE: One product line.

HATTIE: OK. And that was 20 years ago.

ANNE: Anita Beck Cards -- 23 years ago. She was based also in Minnesota and I happened to become acquainted with her, and she said, `Would you like to be a rep?' And I said, `I don't know. What is a rep?' And she explained to me. At that point, she sold you a little bag, a burlapbag full of cards for $15. That's what it cost to get into the industry for me. And so I said, `Fine.' And my territory was Minneapolis. And she said to me, `If you're really serious about this, you--and you need to--we need to expand your territory.' So Wisconsin was logical, next door. And you need more product lines. You know, you need to pay for the gas.'

ANNE: So I added product, added territory, and I said, `What do you do if you get more territory and there's just one of you?' They said, `Well, you hire a subrep.'


ANNE: I said, `What the heck is that?' And I've never used that term. I think it's degrading.

HATTIE: So, you hired an assistant or...

ANNE: An associate rep.

HATTIE: An associate. All right. So early--early on, you hired someone.

ANNE: Right.

HATTIE: Early on!?!

ANNE: And then another and another and, you know, now we have 90 reps.


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