Someone You Should Know: Brooks Mattice, CPMR
With so many ERA members, it is not easy to get to know every rep, manufacturer and distributor in the business.“Someone You Should Know” is The Representor department that gives readers the chance to learn about fellow ERA members, including how their time is spent both in and out of the office. Meet Brooks Mattice, CPMR, general manager for The Mel Foster Group. The Representor asked Mattice a few questions about his time in the manufacturers’ rep business and his experiences with ERA. Here is what he had to say.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story with The Representor! I’m the general manager of TMC, a manufacturer’s representative firm covering the states of Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. I’m a proud alumnus of Purdue University, having graduated with a BSEE in 1995. Immediately after college, TMC hired me, and over the next 20-plus years, I served as a sales engineer in varying capacities. At first, I called on some of TMC’s smallest customers, but eventually I grew some of those customers into some of TMC’s largest. Several years ago, TMC became part of the MFC Group, which gave me the opportunity to move into a leadership role. As general manager, I really enjoy learning from, working with and coaching the rest of our team at TMC, articulating our story to principal and distributor partners, and working with the management team in the greater MFC Group. I also still maintain account responsibility and I feel it’s important to stay engaged in the sales process.
What are some things you enjoy outside of the workplace?
Family life keeps me busy. My wife and I have two kids: an 18-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. Both swim competitively, so that is an integral part of our family’s culture. We’ve spent many weekends at pools across the Midwest. I try to live an active lifestyle which includes working out, swimming, walking and occasionally running. My golf game is a work-in-progress, but I’ve made some recent improvements that have me optimistically chasing mediocrity. Finally, my wife and I come from long lines of Boilermakers, so we try to attend as many Purdue events as possible. We have season football and basketball tickets with a group of 40 college friends and their families. Purdue swim meets are also in our future. Boiler up!
How long have you been an ERA member and how long in the rep business?
I just celebrated my 27th anniversary with TMC. TMC and Mel Foster Co. have always been active in ERA, but it wasn’t until my role changed 3½ years ago that I became more involved. It’s been an incredibly rewarding experience. I’ve learned so much and met so many smart, interesting, great people in this short time that it’s made me regret not becoming more active earlier.
How did you become interested in being a rep in the electronics industry?
That’s a long story! Towards the end of my college years, I realized that I wanted to utilize my degree in some other way than being a true engineer. Coincidentally, TMC was investing in their business and looking to hire a young EE to groom as a salesperson. Luckily for me, the stars aligned, and TMC hired me as a sales engineer in Lexington, Ky. I loved it immediately. It appealed to my competitive nature. I quickly realized the power of synergistic selling. Representing many different suppliers gave me a foot in the door with every customer and distributor in our market. I found I was good at listening to customers articulate their largest problems, and I enjoyed strategizing with our principals in finding and proposing solutions.
What have you found to be most rewarding about the manufacturers’ rep business?
Without question it’s been the people and the relationships. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with extremely talented, hard-working and amazing people. They have truly become my second family. Outside of our team, building great relationships with our customers, principal partners and distributor partners has been a critical element to our company’s success – to the extent that it’s ingrained in our culture. Being part of this culture has helped me build lifelong friendships with people from nearly every corner of the world and has made fighting for mutual success with each of them a very personal cause. Some of my favorite memories have been the opportunities to celebrate successes with those extended teams from around the globe. I am constantly reminded that this is a people business.
Please briefly describe your rep firm.
TMC was founded as a two-person rep firm in 1978 in the traditional ERA territory of Indiana-Kentucky. In the mid-1990s we moved into Ohio-Western Pa.-West Virginia and then into Michigan at the request of a few of our largest principals. Now in our fifth decade, we stand at 17 employees and are headquartered on the north side of Indianapolis. We’re highly experienced in our market and have always been committed to being the Midwest’s most technically proficient, effective and professional manufacturer’s representative. Today, as part of the MFC Group, we continue to demonstrate that commitment though reinvestment in our people, facilities, processes and systems. The MFC Group is comprised of Mel Foster Co., EAS Sales, FH Sales, WesTech and TMC; each maintaining its own brand, line card and P&L within each respective territory. The organization covers a total of 15 states across the Midwest.
What recent innovations, best practices and/or changes has your organization made?
MFC Group is structured as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). When TMC became part of MFC Group, we immediately became eligible to participate in the ESOP as partners. It’s a nice financial benefit, but much greater than that, it leads to a collaborative culture and cooperative spirit within our company. Every employee is invested in and receives benefit from our mutual success. The ESOP structure also lends itself towards financial stability, succession planning and has certain tax benefits. It really is a fantastic way to structure a rep firm. I’m also very proud of how our organization responded to the pandemic. I think we recognized early that the remote/hybrid workforce wasn’t going away. We realized that we needed to get more creative in the ways we touched customers. We instantly outfitted our team with the tools necessary to support the new virtual workspace. We spent significant resources making sure our employees were trained in communication techniques, prospecting techniques and organizational methods to adapt to the new world. We opened those trainings up to principals and distributors so that they could not only learn with us, but also to broadcast our innovative approaches to our partners. We now have two full-time marketing personnel supporting our own content: technical webinars, vertical marketing campaigns, micro-marketing campaigns, newsletters, social media strategy, website content and more. Most recently, we’ve invested in a business development person focused on lead management and emerging accounts. We used the pandemic as an opportunity to put the pedal-to-the-metal and invest in our business, and we’re really seeing it pay dividends now.
What have you learned and/or what contacts have you made through ERA that have had the greatest positive impacts on you and/or your business?
The ERA does a fantastic job of creating programming and educational opportunities for its members, and that has given me opportunities to learn from some of the best in our industry. Through the ERA’s affiliation with Manufacturers’ Representatives Educational Research Foundation (MRERF), I recently graduated from the Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR) program. That has been a transformational experience in learning all the different facets in managing a rep firm. The ERA Conference in February 2022 was the first I’ve had the chance to attend. I thought it was fantastic! The general sessions were relevant, on point and entertaining! The breakout sessions were fascinating – I loved hearing the different perspectives from suppliers, distributors and different rep firms on each of the topics. The opportunity to network with industry colleagues in person was invaluable. The ERA Water Cooler sessions have been a great resource to help share ideas on the pertinent topics of the day. The ERA’s Virtual Sales Trainings are an awesome tool to help train the next generation of salespeople in our industry. They’ve also represented an opportunity for me to give back and pass on some of my experience. I moderated a session for Virtual Sales Training earlier this fall: “Bridging the Gap: Relationship Building & Collaboration in Today’s Multigenerational Electronics Industry.” All of these experiences and opportunities within ERA have exposed me to so many new friends and colleagues around the industry. We all face similar challenges, so it’s invaluable to network and collaborate with each other as often as we can. Anything we can do to help ERA and our industry get stronger only serves to help us each as individual organizations. A rising tide lifts all ships
Are you active on social media? Do you follow ERA? Have ERA updates via social media been helpful to you?
Yes, yes and yes! LinkedIn is clearly the social media leader for our professional community, so that’s where we spend the bulk of our effort. The ERA content and posts on LinkedIn are always relevant and informative. I also like seeing ERA chapter activity from other areas – good inspiration and ideas for activity for our local chapter.
What is one interesting fact that people may not know about you?
I’m a certified USA Swimming Referee. It takes a volunteer army to run a swim meet, so that’s one way I’ve been able to help support my kids’ passion.