Completes Program

The inaugural class of the Auction Academy

Wednesday, Mar. 05, 2014, 03:00 PM UPDATED 1:28 PM

By Joe Overby


From Music City to the Pacific Northwest, from the East Coast to the Deep South, from the nation’s capital to the Lone Star State and the Motor City.

And now to Las Vegas.

The inaugural class of the Auction Academy, a two-year continuing education program developed by TPC Management Co. for auction industry professionals, has spent the last two years attending once-a-quarter sessions throughout the country and now is going through graduation at the NAAA/CAR/IARA event this week in Las Vegas.

The inaugural class began attending sessions May 2012, and the students have interacted with National Auto Auction Association leadership, worked with auction management to put on a Rock&Roll Sale, learned the perspective of the dealer and automaker, and received best-practices training, just to name a few of their experiences.

And the most recent session prior to the graduation events — held Oct. 7-9 in the Detroit area as a joint session with the second Auction Academy class — featured visits to Flint Auto Auction, the world headquarters of General Motors, a tour of Ford’s Rouge Plant and much more.

Each of the members of this inaugural class — known as the Next Generation/Sons and Daughters Group — is the son or daughter of an independent auction owner or owners. The roles they play at their respective auctions range everywhere from construction to e-commerce to fleet/lease and marketing.

Value in Relationship Building

Auto Remarketing — which, along with our parent company S&A Cherokee, is a sponsor of the academy — sat in on an Auction Academy class in May in the Baltimore-Washington area and talked with several of the students about the value they see in the Academy as well as what they foresee for the auction industry’s future.

On the first full day of the Auction Academy session in May, the students got to see things from the point of view of a customer: the dealer. At NADA headquarters, NADA Academy instructor Les Abrams gave attendees a comprehensive look into all the intricacies of operating a dealership.

Interestingly enough, the challenges that dealers face tend to parlay into the auction business. One of those challenges is the expanding presence and influence of the Internet and growing technology in the used-car business.

“The 800-pound gorilla is technology,” Paul Barber of State Line Auto Auction, one of the Auction Academy students, told Auto Remarketing when interviewed at the session. “Everybody wants it; nobody knows where to go.”

Thanks to the Internet, leaders in the younger generation of the auction business are “growing up in a completely different age than what our parents and relatives in the industry have dealt with,” said Cody Boswell of KCI/Missouri Auto Auction.

That, Boswell said, means implementing new processes, solutions and strategies to go along with these changes, and learning how to use them for your own benefit to grow as an auction.

One challenge, said Britney Smith of DAA of Idaho, is “adapting beforehand” to the sweeping changes that the Web brings to the auction market and staying in front of the rest.

It’s crucial, she said, to figure out, “How can we be one step ahead?”

When asked how he and his peers are adapting to the ever-changing tide of the Internet and its impact on the auction, Barber was succinct in his response: “Methodically.”

 “We don’t want to just jump on a bandwagon and just go riding for 100 yards. We want to be there 10, 20, 50, 100 years down the line,” Barber said. “And in order to do that, I think we have to be methodical in which avenues we choose and how we go about things to make sure that it’s really the right place for our business.”

The lessons, teachers and instruction — and as Boswell put it, “learning from start to finish how the auction runs, outside of your own auction” — are vital to each of the students attending the Auction Academy classes.

But beyond the coursework, what many of the young auction executives have found to be extremely beneficial is connecting with peers and building relationships for the future.

“My favorite part is the people that you meet and the networking, because in any other situation, I probably wouldn’t come face-to-face with these guys,” Boswell said. “Starting out, being the same age in the same industry and making these connections so early so that we can grow together … it’s really helped me out a lot. Developing those relationships is really important.”

His peers echoed that sentiment.

“We bounce questions off each other all the time, not just in class,” said Smith. “So, if we’ve got an arbitration issue or they run into something they haven’t run into before, we’ll shoot out an email to everybody. Learning how other people handle a situation, you can take the bits and pieces that work for you and solve the problem.”

“The real value, in my mind, is the relationships that we’re building with each other,” Barber said, calling the experience of getting to know peers in the industry “invaluable.”