Tom Johnson is the president and CEO of Johnson Commercial Agents, an independent (or, as they prefer to call it, interdependent) marketing agent for food service manufacturers. He is also a member of the Manufacturers´ Agents for the Food Service Industry (MAFSI). Tom came to our attention through Suzanne Gregory, the Director of Public Relations for MAFSI.
Johnson Commercial Agents (and its sister company, Johnson Diversified Products) are second-generation family businesses. Not only have they integrated Internet technology into their businesses, but Tom is MAFSI Technology Certified 401, meaning that he meets Expert Level technology standards. We will discuss the MAFSI Technology Certification later in this article.
Tom´s father, Warren E. Johnson, started the company in 1958 and it was incorporated in 1967. Warren had begun in sales for Honeywell Controls and had regular dealings with food service equipment manufacturers. He was a successful salesman. So successful, in fact, that one of his clients hired him to be their Sales Manager. This trend repeated itself as he later went to work as a Sales Manager for another one of his clients, Hockenberg´s Food Service Equipment & Supply Company.
In the late 1950´s, Warren attended a National Restaurant Association trade show in Chicago. By the time he left, he had secured contracts with seven different companies to serve as a manufacturer´s agent. He took on sales territory in Minnesota, and eventually the family relocated there. Over 40 years later, the company he grew still has its roots firmly planted in Minnesota, and the second and third generations (which also include Tom´s brother Paul) are using the Internet to help reach clients across the country.
The use of Manufacturers´ agents is an old idea that has become new again. As more companies are outsourcing and reorganizing, using independent agents has become a cost effective way of managing field sales without investing a substantial sum in building, training or maintaining a sales force.
Tom, and the staff of Johnson Commercial Agents, are independent providers of field sales and marketing services to 21 manufacturers of food service-related supplies. Their portfolio of product lines covers everything from ventilation and exhaust systems, to large-scale convection ovens to pest control services. Tom works under a contractual arrangement with his clients, and has a defined geographic territory.