Just over six months after the acquisition of Aqua-Bound (click here to read the Dec. 18 SNEWS story), Bending Branches has restructured its rep force, resulting in some reps getting walking papers while others now have two paddle brands to peddle.
SNEWS® began receiving calls and emails from reps and retailers on June 3, alerting us to the news. In some cases, the rumor was that most or all Aqua-Bound reps had been terminated.
We contacted Ed Vater, president of Bending Branches, who told us that yes, in an effort to ensure the company had one rep in each territory responsible for the entire range of products and brands offered by Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound, the company had to say goodbye to some very good and veteran reps. However, by no means was this exclusive to Aqua-Bound, he said, noting that about half of Bending Branches and half of Aqua-Bound's reps were let go.
Conversations with a number of reps, as well as with Vater, indicated that this was not a sudden move, and for some, not all that unexpected -- though that did not make hearing the news any less difficult for those being let go.
"We invited most rep groups to present their business plans to us -- their go-forward plan -- formally," said Vater. "We took those plans and looked at comparative sales volumes and sales growth, as well as the fit for us with the rest of their lines."
Vater also told us he and Gregg Gunderman, sales manager for Bending Branches, talked extensively with both the Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound retailers. "We have been talking very carefully with our dealers around the country," said Vater. "We understand that the reps own the relationships with their retailers and that their livelihoods ride on those relationships."
In only one instance, Vater said, did Bending Branches hear from any retailer that consolidating the rep force was something the company should not do, but that did not make the choice any easier.
"These were terrible decisions to make," Vater told us. "I had to tell reps, some of whom are very good friends, that we would not be going forward with them anymore."
However, Vater told us he heard from a number of retailers that they felt competing reps from the same company would become more of a problem than a benefit. In addition, Vater said he felt his company could garner more leverage in favor of the retailer by consolidating lines.
"We are not a big company with big, big lines," said Vader. "At $4,000 in orders for a particular retailer, it is harder to ask a rep to take on some extra clinics or additional customer service for that retailer because it does not make as much financial sense for them. However, if that rep has two lines and now $8,000 to $10,000 in business, we have a bit more leverage in asking them to go the extra mile for our retailers, which is very important to us."
In addition, SNEWS has learned, the consolidation is not limited to the rep force. Vater told us that the company was in the process of also working "very hard to improve the differentiation between the product lines and eliminate the overlap in products."
The reps and respective territories for Bending Branches and Aqua-Bound going forward are:
- Andrea Dillon & Associates – Western Canada
- Eastern Approach – New England
- Ebersold Distribution – Northwest
- Great Northern Group – Midwest
- Guadalupe Trading – Southwest
- Mark Scriver – Eastern Canada
- Matt Smith – Alaska
- Quiet World Sports – Great Lakes
- Tech Sales and Riverside Associates – Mid Atlantic
- Where the Wild Things Are – Southeast