By David Barkoff – Heritage Global Partners, Inc.
November 9, 2011 was exactly two years to the day that I had started working for Ross and Kirk Dove, and one that I’ll never forget.
I grew up with Ross’ kids, a friend of the family since I was in the Second Grade. So going over to the Dove household was always an experience as I’m sure you can well imagine. There was always a contest or challenge of some sort. Just the most outlandish things ever looking back on it.
From boxing lessons on the pool cover to arm-wrestling tournaments and full-on paintball shootouts, one always had to be prepared for what was next. “Finish strong kid,” “pick it up Barkoff.” Encouraging words to hear as a 9-year-old in the midst of a post-sleepover, Saturday morning hot sauce eating contest. Little did I know, I was getting conditioned for a future career in the auction business.
So with two years in the auction business under my belt, I was managing a deal we had just been awarded from a Regional Bank to liquidate the assets of a Lumber Mill in Glenwood, Arkansas. The project was supposed to be a Webcast Auction on November 9, 2011. The Arkansas State Licensing board, however, had other plans for the Auctioneers from California.
Several days prior to the auction, during sale preview, I got a phone call from some official that our license had somehow “expired” and nothing could be done. Furthermore, I was warned that if Ross or Kirk were to step foot in Arkansas, everyone would be going to jail. Looking back on that conversation now, I probably wouldn’t have been so naïve, but what did I know.
I called Ross and tried to explain what was going on, he cut me off and went on to say, “this happens to me all the time, figure it out kid.”
I then called Kirk looking for the voice of reason, “What’s up Bubba”, he answered. Before I started to tell him what was going on, he said, “Hang on,” and then I heard a golf ball fly off the Tee and the call ended. Seemed like our “Elevator Pass” had been revoked and the Doves had thrown me directly into the local Snake Pit.
For those that don’t know, Glenwood is a small town in a Dry County. There’s nothing but Churches and Auctioneers. Not just any Churches, but the ones that have Snakes and Tambourines – no joke, you can google it. Apparently, the problem was that the Auctioneer hired to liquidate the Lumber Mill wasn’t someone from the town.
So, we got resourceful and called a friend from Texas to come to Arkansas and call bids. However, news traveled fast and an hour later I got another call stating that if our reliever was to call bids under licensing reciprocity, they too would be in a bind.
That’s when my Dove Family backyard gorilla training kicked in. The sale was converted to an Online Auction which they couldn’t prevent. Trouble was in 2011, in this part of the country –computers weren’t so prevalent.
I had our Operations team overnight me six laptops that I set up as a computer lab inside of the mill cafeteria. The cafeteria was a separate freestanding building on the yard. Buyers would show up to look at a piece of equipment and instead of inspections, I was giving computer lessons.
The morning of the sale, I got there super-early as I was expecting things to continue off script. I unlocked the door, flipped the lights and… no power. I called the site manager who wasn’t answering his phone. I flipped switches, breakers and was getting ready to flip tables. I tried everything, but no dice. Someone had cut power to the building. Now I needed to find a generator.
It turned out that there was a gas station near the Mill and they let me rent their generator. The guy even came and hooked it up. We had power!
Fortunately, there were only a handful of local people that showed to bid that day or we would have had a mess. Bidders would stand in line, behind the bank of laptops like betters at an off-license bookie placing bets. As each lot came to close, the line would shuffle. The crisis was averted.
In the end, the sale took in three times what we told the bank it would and a few more people in Glenwood, Arkansas learned how to use a laptop.
Looking back on this experience as I approach my thirteenth year in the business, one thing comes to mind – like a fighter after the final bell, “always declare victory.” Ross says it after each sale, even if we lose a bunch of money. Be proud of the results no matter what so long as you gave it your all. That’s all we can do. We are in a very weird, yet very rewarding business – happy to be part of the ride, even if some mornings feel like a surprise hot-sauce eating contest.