29 yrs ago in a Hotel Boardroom in Chicago…

By Ross Dove – Heritage Global Partners, Inc.

Scott Swanson asked me for my recollections on the founding of the IAA. One thing I can confirm is nobody received an email invite. Jimmy Blumberg, at his sole discretion, decided who to invite via a written invitation. I am certain there are no copies in existence. My dad thought it was total bulls**t and said, “don’t go and get tricked into thinking there is anything in it for you, kid. You’re not as sharp as those guys and they will play you like an accordion.” That was total motivation enough for me to fly to Chicago.

Two dozen of us showed up, very curious. However, a more jaded and negative group couldn’t have existed. The meeting took place in a traditional hotel ballroom with U-shaped seating. I sat between Phillip Pollack and Stephen Winternitz, who clearly didn’t appear to be warm colleagues. Each independently confirmed this was bulls**t and couldn’t believe how many suckers actually paid to fly in and pay for hotels.

Surprisingly, Jimmy had really thought this through and hired a professional moderator. His original thesis was that we all buy advertisements, brochures, insurance, etc. He thought, “what if we get together and try to beat down the prices.” I can’t quite remember, but either Dave or Bill Fox explained various legal ramifications that nobody actually understood.

The moderator, then seeing the room’s attention materially collapse, asked if anyone had ideas on what else an association could do. That sparked a healthy whining session on topics such as why do we keep competing so fiercely with each other to win deals, and how come too many companies hire the bad guys etc.

Mr. Winternitz said to me, “I agree too many companies hire bums and that hurts our image.” That made sense to my younger self, so I told the group that I saw potential for an organization to help all of our images. I got a few glares, but also some nods.

Then Dave Fox kind of took over and spoke for a few minutes about an actual vision to build our image and keep the bad guys out with some rules. Jimmy Blumberg then sensed a high note from a fading audience and called for a vote. Multiple people looked around at each other and asked who was going to run it. We all looked at Dave Fox and thought, “better him than me!” Most of us voted yes. Mostly out of curiosity and mostly so we could move on to lunch.

Like so many things in business and life, just getting started can lead to a world of good and that day’s founding morphed into today’s organization, which is truly something great. Myron Bowling once told me, he just voted yes because he didn’t believe it was polite to turn down invitations. Above all else, he was very right. I’m proud this organization exists and that we are all more polite and respectful to each other and all more successful and prosperous in a meaningful way because of the organization. Everyone would be proud of what it has become.