Having spent most of my professional career as a journalist/editor in chief at Furniture/Today, I’d like to think that I have a fairly good understanding of the home furnishings arena.

And now, after a number of years as Executive Director here at the International Home Furnishings Representatives Association (IHFRA), I’d like to think I know the difference between a badrep, a good rep and a great rep.

And when I blend these two careers together, I’d like to think I know when it’s time to point out an injustice.

It’s time.

Last week, I heard from an IHFRA member from the Midwest who had represented a well-known supplier based here in North Carolina.  In 2020, the rep had received a sales award for outstanding sales for this supplier.

This year, despite the havoc from the pandemic, the rep had already surpassed his budget and was seemingly on his way to another banner year.

Sounds like the ultimate win-win story, right?   Wrong.  It was a win for the factory and a loss for the rep.   It seems like management, in an ongoing search for additional profitability, rewarded the rep by yanking the line from him.

While this is certainly not a new story here, it is a story that we are hearing more often and sadly, a story I think we will continue to hear as factories struggle to balance the books that have often been turned upside down since the onset of the Covid-19 virus.

In this case, that line happened to represent some 70% of the reps income but regardless of the percentage, this is just bad business.  Actually, in my opinion, it is shameful.

I wonder how that factory would have felt if the rep had decided, with no warning, to pick up a competitive line and replace all of his former slots with items from his new factory?

And as we all know, there really are no secrets in this business.  New, good or bad, travels fast.  I wonder how other reps for that factory are feeling after hearing this news.  I know that if I were a rep for that factory, I would be worrying that I, too, might be penalized for outstanding performance.

We’ve all sat around and wondered why our industry struggles to attract young, bright and motivated individuals.  Maybe it is decisions like this that keep young people on the sidelines.   I can tell you right now, there is no way I would want to join and industry that rewards high achievers by dismissing them.

Factories need to wake up to the fact that now, more than ever, good reps are the critical link between the factory and the retailer.

I will be the first to admit that not all reps are exceptional.  But I take extreme exception to a factory pulling a line from a rep simply because it wants the money on its side of the fence.

I realize that business is all about the balance sheet.   But it also needs to be about balance, fair play and ethical behavior at every level.

The relationship between a rep and the factory has to be based on mutual trust, respect and honesty.

This story underscores what happens when one side fails.  Ultimately, both sides fail.