10 Responses to “Middleman or Intermediary”

  1. Chris Avatar

    Very interesting. I’m looking to become an intermediary myself – from a point of connecting small, foreign brands to the american market and I am looking for some type of blueprint on how to proceed. Would appreciate any info you have on the subject.

    1. Colin Finkle Avatar

      Hey Chris. I have worked for two companies that import and distribute food products in Canada that are from Europe. It is a great thing to enable people to buy products from countries they would never have been able to, and expanding the market for foreign brands makes it a win-win.

      My advice: 1) Make sure the packaging and products comply with local laws. There are different legal requirements for labeling and ingredients in different countries, particularly with food. Almost all imports have to print special packaging for the new country.

      2) Understand that a foreign brand means nothing to the people of the import country, other than the immigrants from that country. Serve those immigrant communities first, and then expand out to the broader market with their advocacy.

  2. Nelson Avatar

    Thanks for the tips. I need your advice on intermediation on Farm products. From setting up of the company to effectively running it. I want to deal on a large number of farm products( cereals, legumes, nuts, roots and tubers, livestocks, etc). The idea is being middleman between the farmers and the end-users.

  3. Andrew Avatar

    Very interesting. I live in London. I am looking to start a company as intermediary for Honey and Olive Oil from Greece and other EU countries. The idea is to put buyers and sellers together without taking ownership of the product. Paid on a percentage of the total transaction. Actually selling services, because i don’t have any storage to be retailer. I will make sure the transaction will be safe. The buyers will pay me and i will pay the sellers and hold a percentage. The shipment will shipped directly from sellers packaging country ( fro example Greece). Could i do that ? What low said about that ? any info will be very helpful.

    1. Colin Finkle Avatar

      Hi Andrew. What you are talking about is drop-shipping. When an English customer orders from you, you immediately (hopefully, this is automated) place an order with your supplier, process all the import paperwork, and ship directly to the customer. This is done very frequently. Just make sure you are making the process seamless for your customer, and that the shipment is as prompt as possible. Who knows, you may grow and want to keep some stock of certain hot sellers in England, but that will be way down the line.

  4. Carl Lagan Avatar
    Carl Lagan

    Hi Colin
    Wanting to develop a national intermediary site connecting prospective clients looking to undertake an intensive course in driving tuition. The national network of instructors would be carefully pre selected to deliver a wide range of varying courses to encompass all needs.
    My question to you as someone who knows the business, having spent 40 years as a driving school proprietor is quiet simply, where do I start my journey.
    Many thanks.

    1. Colin Finkle Avatar

      Hi Carl. What you are talking about is a two sided market place. On one side, you have people who need to take driving courses. On the other, you have instructors. It is a chicken and egg situation, because the students will not come if the instructors are not there and vice versa. The only solution is to start in a targeting local, like a city or county, and build out from there. Even Facebook was started local by local at first. You can call and pitch instructors, but you will probably have to spend on Google and Facebook ads to get the prospective students. Good luck!

  5. Tony Avatar

    Hi Colin!
    Thanks for the article! Great insights.
    I’m planning to start service intermediary business by collecting businesses that need certain services and connecting them with certain service providers for ex. IT infrastructure or project management service.
    Any advice here?

    1. Colin Finkle Avatar

      Hi Tony,

      It sounds like you are starting a business that is somewhere between a two-sided marketplace and a staffing company. One side is people who do not have the background or time to become savvy enough to make a decision about who would be the best infrastructure / PM people. On the other side is IT firms / project managers who don’t know how or want to source new business. I don’t know anything about the industry, but I can imagine both sides have a real pain point. Not to mention Accenture and IBM are huge business doing the same thing but with a consulting model.

      The trick will be balancing both sides of the market. You need both buyers and providers. I would focus on the infrastructure first; working two verticals will spread yourself thin. I would also limit yourself to one locale: a major metropolitan area and then expand from there. I am assuming IT infrastructure required boots on the ground, so these are local businesses you will be connecting. Focusing on a locale will mean you don’t get a mis-match of locations; there is no point in having buyers in LA, and providers in NY. You will have to get on the phone and sell providers on the idea of joining your marketplace… this is not a “build it and they will come” business. I am guessing this will be on a commission structure, so you are also going to have to be reasonable about your commission in the early days. You can renegotiate when you are sending a higher volume of business their way.

      There is one major challenge I see though. If you connect a buyer and a provider and they have a good experience, are they going to associate that positive experience with you, or the provider? Or both? If the buyer is to refer someone who needs IT infrastructure, are they going to refer you or the company they hired? To overcome this, you will need to make your brand very present in the transaction: brochures, invoicing from you, follow up calls, etc. Also, provide an extraordinary amount of value.

      I hope that helps.


  6. Chris Avatar

    Hi Colin,

    Great article! I’m planning to be an intermediary for international electrical equipment to be distributed in local power utilities and cooperatives. I don’t want to keep their products as in a warehouse, I just wanted to be the middle man of the seller and to the customer and earn by commission or markup. I am an electrical engineer and somehow can perform technical sales demo if the seller opts to. Any tips and advice on this? Thank you.

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