Online Matchmaker

Edition: August 2001 - Vol 9 Number 08
Article#: 1026
Author: Repertoire

Combine the love of medical products sales, fascination with the Internet and an active imagination, and you end up with Rep 911.


More precisely, you end up with Darren McMaster, founder of Rep 911, an online matchmaker for manufacturers and distributors.


Rep 911 (www.rep911.com) provides an on-line opportunity for manufacturers to find distributors that fit their specific needs. For example, manufacturers can for a fee search on Rep 911 for all orthopedic distributors with more than five reps in the Northeast, says McMaster. Or, they can post their information (e.g., ''Manufacturer of orthopedic soft goods looking for distributors in the Northeast with more than $3 million in annual sales.'') for distributors to view.


For distributors, the service is free. But to participate, they must register and give Rep 911 some information about themselves, such as top product lines, number of years in the industry, specialty areas and cities in which they have reps.


''Although we try to prequalify distributors, we always ask that manufacturers do so themselves,'' says McMaster.


Thus far, 120 distributors and 45 manufacturers have signed up.


Hair Clips


That McMaster would have created Rep 911 is no surprise to those that know him.


By his own admission, he is a natural salesman. In junior high school, he sold banana hair clips to his female classmates for a profit.


Later, he started his own company, Immanet, a website-designing firm.


''At that time, I spent most of my time explaining what e-mail was, what the Internet was, and how valuable they would become,'' he recalls.


After designing a website for Klein Medical, a San Antonio-based medical products distributor, McMaster was asked by owner Dick Klein if he would consider taking over the territory of a salesperson who had just left the company. Soon after, he found himself working with a renowned pediatric open heart surgeon on a video system.


It was his first major selling job, other than the banana clips and the website design service.


''It was trial by fire,'' he says.


But he made it. McMaster continued selling medical products even after Klein was bought out by Lifequest Surgical. Several years later, he left the distributor and started his own specialty distribution company with his wife, Kelly. They called it Imagine Medical.


''The name came from my own personality,'' he says. ''I spend a lot of time thinking creatively.''


The McMasters began selling absorbable orthopedic implants in San Antonio, then picked up the DonJoy (dj Orthopedics) soft goods line.


For awhile, his Internet ideas were on pause, not delete. But over the past year, he has clicked onto them again.


The majority of his Internet projects have been medical. He operates Orthovillage (www.orthovillage.com), an information and buying resource for orthopedic professionals and patients.


In conjunction with Vital Needs Products Inc., a new medical technology group, Imagine launched ideaMD (www.ideamd.com), a site that helps people with medical patents market and license those patents.


But it was while making joint sales calls with the vice president of sales for a manufacturer of puncture-resistant gloves that he got the idea for Rep 911.


''During the ride-along, we started talking about how hard it was for her company to find good, qualified distributors within a specific market,'' recalls McMaster.


''I asked her if she had found anything on the Internet. She said she had looked, but didn't find anything to fill her company's needs.''


McMaster did some surfing of his own, and found the same thing. Hence, Rep 911 was born.


In addition to posting U.S. distributors, Rep 911 has also attracted international distributors, says McMaster.


''Our goal is to create an efficient online service that facilitates the networking of manufacturer with distributor in order to grow their collective businesses,'' he says. ''This is really our ultimate goal.''