Auction Podcast Episode 15 – Interview with Kurt Aumann

Kurt Aumann, CAI, ATS

Kurt Aumann, CAI, ATS

Joining me today for the fourth in the Auctioneer Interview Series is my friend Kurt Aumann, CAI, ATS. Kurt is an auctioneer for Aumann Auctions from Nokomis, Illinois, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Trustees.

You’re listening to the AuctioneerTech Auction Podcast. Today is Wednesday 28 January 2009. Auctioneertech.com. Technology, auctions and auctioneers, auction tech for the auction industry.

AuctioneerTech: Hello and welcome to the fifteenth episode of the Auction Podcast from the AuctioneerTech. My name is Aaron Traffas and joining me today for the fourth if our ActioneerTech.com interview series is my friend Kurt Aumann, CAI, ATS. Kurt is an auctioneer for Aumann Auctions from Nokomis, Illinois, and is currently the Vice Chairman of the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Trustees. Good evening, Kurt, and thank you for joining me.

Kurt Aumann: Well thanks for the invite and I’ve been looking forward to this.

AT: We are trying something new this episode and we will try and do it in the future, but we are streaming this live, the recording anyway, from auctioneertech.com, so if you’re listening to this in the recorded version, know that if you pay attention to the website in the future you’ll be able to watch us recording these live. Back to the questioning, Kurt, tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be an auctioneer.

KA: Well I grew up in the business and went to auction school at the tender age of 12, so I have been in it my entire life. My dad started a business and it was, I would say a small local business – maybe county wide. And there were a lot of household and state auctions and so on and so forth. After I got out of school, I decided that maybe that universe just wasn’t quite big enough for me so we started focusing the business more on some niche markets. Things have grown since, so it’s been a good ride.

What is Aumann Auctions today and what kind of stuff specifically do you sell?

Well, we have a staff of about a half a dozen auctioneers and we’ve got 16 members of our support staff and we followed several niches, you know, throughout the company – throughout the evolution of the company. We have some things that we don’t sell anymore. Things we’re active in right now are the toy market, the petroliana market – the signs and the gas pumps, gas globes – we do a tremendous amount of business with antique tractors and actually do that world wide. Lately we’ve been getting into intellectual property, selling existing business as on going entities, and some commercial liquidations and of course real estate with the focus on farmland.

Aumann Auctions is one of many members of the MarkNet Alliance. You were involved, I believe, in the creation of that franchise. What is MarkNet Alliance and why did you build it?

Well, it’s legally a franchise, but frankly we operate more like a coop. kind of like the old farmers coop elevator, and it allows us to service national contracts, that we wouldn’t normally have a chance of service on an individual basis. That really creates a distribution network that we can use and it’s allowed many of us to really book some business and do some business that we wouldn’t normally have gotten a chance to do. It’s a best practices group. We share ideas and our resources and a lot of partnerships on different deals form. It’s a little hard to describe in just a few minutes, but it’s been a fantastic experience and we’ve got a really, really great group of guys that are in it and I really look forward anything that I do with MarkNet.

I was teaching the ATS course this last November in Baltimore and we were demonstrating different website technologies when incidentally went to your website and was demonstrating that, among others, when I discovered your Streamline Bid system. What is that and what does that do for you that other existing products do not?

Well, it’s actually it’s an online bidding system like many of them that are out there. The only difference is that it’s integrated into a piece of backend software. So it’s also integrated in the project management and task list and managerial over sight. It’s a piece of a much larger piece of software that serves a function of live capturing and conducting oline auctions.

We delayed the recording of this episode by a few days because you had this big auction that you mentioned earlier a couple of days ago that you’ve been working on for a while. Tell me a little bit about the propriety and kind of how you handled the event and how it went.

Well, actually I have to give MarkNet a part of the credit for this deal because it certainly helped us win the contract, at least that’s what the sellers told us. It was a project of selling an estate and was 3900 acres, almost 4000, and it was all high quality, highly productive farmland, over 99% tilable, and it was over 1600 acres that was contiguous which is very unusual in our part of the world. I know you get out in your country, Aaron, out in Kansas it’s not so unusual, but whenever the farms back here – there’s a lot of farms broken up in forties, eighties and in 160s, so to get 1600 acres contiguous is a pretty big feat. We broke the farm up into 43 different tracks and offered it in a multi-parcel method. The auction took just a little over 6 hours and it brought 24 million dollars. So it was a great day.

I assume you had some help from your MarkNet partners in the actual conducting of that auction – or was it handled exclusively with Aumann Auction staff?

Well, we had all of our staff there, but there were also a lot of MarkNet members that came in and worked the floor. I’ve gotta tell you that I had the likes of Troy Crowe and Bryce Hansen and Brian Beckort and J.J. Dower and Chris Pracht, Joe Burns. I had a team on the floor. As you know on the multiparcel method sale, those floor guys are the ones that make the money, and explain the process and the bidding methods to those bidders and it was a sight to see. It really was, ’cause I mean those guys were just all all-stars and it came off very smoothly. I gotta tell you, and it’s not just because I did the project, but I don’t think we left a dime on the table.

Wow. That was actually the term I was gonna use in describing that crew of auctioneer you just named was all-stars. It sounds like a great team that anybody would be pretty lucky to have on site at an event. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I don’t know for certain that I’ve covered it or that I’ve discussed it a whole lot with any of my guests up to this point. Would you, if you wouldn’t mind, briefly kind of describe what the multipar auction method is, how it works and what kind of software, if any, you used for this event?

The method is actually, in my opinion, the absolute fairest way to sell a piece of real estate because it allows the small tract buyer to bid at the same time with a large tract buyer by allowing the auction to proceed by the cumulative total, not by the individual track price. So in other words, three small tract buyers, the total of the bids for three small tract buyers, as long as they exceed the bid of the large tract buyer, then that’s how the propriety sells. So it gives the bidder the freedom to put together any combination of tracts he wants to put together. So it sounds a little confusing when you see it. I always tell people that the best way to understand it is to just place a bid. You start to understand the process really quickly then.

So did your propriety sell – how many buyers were winners on your propriety and was it broken up or was is pretty big chunks that were bought and how long did the auction take?

Auction took six hours and we actually had 10 buyers, although one of the buyers was a consortium of farmers that elected to bid collectively. So that was the largest bid up on the board which was around $15.5 million and that was about 2,400 acres and 2,400 acres ended up being divided, I think, 16 times, maybe, something like that. So there were 16 people in that consortium.

What technology tools did you use during the sale and in a normal course of multi-par?

Of course we used a piece of multipar software that we’ve modified a little and came off well. Probably the neatest thing we did that we got the most comments on was we really made it a multimedia event; we had a lot of screens. We had video coverage throughout the room and of course we had alternate screens between different bid boards so people can get any kind of information they wanted at any time. It really came off well; it looked like a multiplex theater.

Well certainly congratulations on it, I heard nothing but good things both from you and from other people around you that I’ve talked to since you conducted the event. It sounds like it was done very well and very professionally. You are based there in Nokomis Illinois, a bustling metropolis of a couple thousand people.

Actually downtown Nokomis

Downtown Nokomis. Little smoggier down there than it is elsewhere?

That’s right, that’s right. I mean I just wanted to draw that distinction.

Well, there were you are, about an hour and a half I think northeast of Saint Louis, as an auctioneer of some more specialty kinds of items – you mentioned the petroliana and the toy market and the antique tractor market – what are some ways you’ve overcome the problems posed by geography using technology or other means?

The remainder of this episode will soon be posted.

yhow so they’re more accustom to getting their information on the internet, I suppose maybe a local buyer, sometimes. So it’s worked out really well for the specialty but on the flipside of the local buyers too. I really think that it’s a cliché almost to say: “Oh I think that this internet thing is gonna work out”. But it just gets bigger and bigger every day and people rely on it more and more every day. My kids come home with homework and their project is to google something to find some information. And my fourteen years old was talking to me the other night, really didn’t even know what the encyclopedia was, and he said: “Oh it’s probably like Wikipedia. Isn’t it?” Aaron: So when you said this internet thing is going to work, I think you’ve been saying that in the auction industry for many years now even before many others were kind of looking at it, I know you have experience doing the internet auctions on several different bidding platforms. What today is the your kind of your blend between what if internet only auctions do you do; I assume that you ran real time bidding on the majority of your live auctions. What kind of… Kurt: Yeah… we do. You know, I guess the thing that these courses have just tuned out in hypothesis. And just remember you get much paid for which is: you didn’t pay anything to get it. So it’s Aaron: Are you on paid for this Kurt? Kurt: Oh yeah; it’s coming, isn’t it? Aaron: I’ll buy you a drink in Limington. How is that? Kurt: You know I began to question a little bit the effectiveness of wide internet bidding. I mean, it’s obviously effective and it obviously works. We very consistently have 20-40% sale tributes, but if you’re really super honest online bidding or all kinds of online bidding is really more efficient and probably more accessible for the buyer and I guess my realization to that was; I’m not a big shopper, I love Christmas it’s probably my favorite season and I get a lot of presents but I don’t like the act of going to the shopping MALL. So I had set my chair one evening and got all of my Christmas shopping done. I don’t get a lot of time off so the next day when I supposed to be fighting the traffic in Springfield at the shopping MALL I was at my … pretending to be an anti-character again enjoying myself and then I got the thinking: “My God I’ve become my own worst enemy.” The live internet auctions still require the bidder to be there at a certain time and to wait. If we are super dupper honest with ourselves and you take the ego out of the equation, you happen to get up and bid call, quite frankly it’s a better deal for the consumer in my opinion. Aaron: And there are certainly times when you can, and of course everyone’s going to price services differently but there is certainly an argument to be made by a reduced overhead for firing up that crowd and cleaning the bathrooms, and turning on the heat, or doing whatever cause to associate with the actual conductive net alive event that aren’t there with internet only auctions, certainly you have a little heavier post auction. Kurt: If you’ve ever owned a large spacious auction facility and a dead winner you can certainly appreciate the little over it and not have to turn the furnace on. Aaron: Sure. You led the push; actually I want to ask you one other questions first about your auctions when you do conduct your live events, what software you use into those auctions is that a MarkNet custom software piece or is it off the shelf is it very. Kurt: Actually, It’s very funny to say that, ‘cause I have a meeting with some MarkNet customs software to set that deal. It’s still in development, it’s a little closer, we are partners with some folks on that to get integrated in the project management software. But as it right now we’re still using a very arcade program that you’re familiar with, it’s JBS. We went back and forth between that and some windows systems and I guess I just haven’t made the big commitment because I’m waiting on this other software. Aaron: Right. That’s one thing that pretty much everyone says about the max of projects by JBS it always works. It may not be the prettiest thing in the world but, you know it’s there when you need it. Kurt: Well, I always described it as a brake out house; it wasn’t pretty but it was always functional. Aaron: So Kurt, you led the push to establish the ATS designation course offered by the AAN, some has gone as far to call it your brain child, what prompted the idea for the course and how did it came about? Kurt: Let me correct the “brain child” statement; it was mostly a team effort and I’m doing that for few reasons because there’s a lot of other guys that deserve the credits yourself being one of them and the other reason is that if something goes wrong I got somebody to blame it on. I saw it in the auction industry; there is most definitely a technology back human if you ask a lot of auctioneers what was the greatest technological breakthrough in the auction industry, you know, the portable PA system comes up most of the time and frankly that was it, pre-internet, that was probably the best thing that came along technology like pre-internet. So there are a lot of practitioners in our industry that are a little behind the curve I think in some technology aspects and you know the though process behind the ATS was to take somebody form cradle to adulthood and give them a course to take that was not intimidating and that was slain towards the auction industry because I really believe that somebody can learn better whenever it’s pertinent to what they’re doing. So that was the thought process behind it and had talented bunch of guys that developed the curriculum and talented guys that teach it and we’ve gotten great reviews and just keep trying to fill those classes. Aaron: And for anyone who’s interested currently as we record this in late January, the next course is slated for Charleston in late February and there’s certainly still time to sign up for that course if you are interested. Kurt, what is next for Kurt Aumann? Not only after this very large and successful auction you had, you’re going to take a little time off or you’re going to keep slugging away or you have other dreams and aspirations to make. What’s on your horizon? Kurt: Well as far as dressing dreams; I think this is only a half hour show, isn’t it? I’ve got a lot of things on my plan, a lot of things to plan, most definitely I like to keep things for live and yea I would like to say that I’m going to take a little time off after this auction that it seems that is always a new challenge out there to jump in on and I’m sure that I’m going to be at some of those today; we had a meeting today on new business venture that sounds kind of promising and we’ve got meetings on that in the next two days, a new niche to go into so I guess I’m challenge junk and I always liked the hard stuff and that it seem most satisfying to me. So we’ve got things on the cooker, just watch for coming attraction. Aaron: You certainly stay busy and in addition to all of the great ideas and pursuits in your private practice you are and have been for a quite some time, at least as I understand it, really active in the National Auctioneer Association (NAA). Why? What benefits does it bring to the table for you and for your company and what do you see as the future of the association? Kurt: I’ve been fairly active in the association on the education side, maybe the political side with the NAA; I’ve been on Action Marketing Institute and was one of the four people that merged AMI and NAA and the one which I think was a great thing, that was great day for the industry I believe. The education aspect of it has always interested me more because I can honestly say when I went through the Certified Auctioneer Institute program, you know, I had a good practice, it was a local practice, it was growing, but I think an individual tends to limiter, not exposed to new ideas and different people and different thought processes, you tend to keep your Universe to your own little picker dish and that’s what I was at. I would have been successful and I would have made a living but when I went through Certified Auctioneers Institute, all of the sudden I felt like:”Holy cow this is a big whole world” and I’ve meet people doing a lot of different things and I guess what it made me realize was that It’s bigger in the country and the opportunities in this industry are absolutely endless; and because of what that program did for me I really felt like I owed something back to it. So that’s why I got involved in the education and there is another guy that sat in one of those classes and sat in the same spot that I was, so I was just trying to pay it forward a little bit and do for them what someone did for me. And I tell you what; it’s very satisfying to see somebody or one of your students, one of the people in the classes that has a big success and does really well. It’s quite frankly when somebody does a real good job in the auction industry that only helps me, that converts another person to sell by that method. So I see it’s been a great experience and I hope to keep doing it and it’s a part of my life. Aaron: What do you think is going to happen with the future of the auction industries as a whole? What do you think it will happen to the marketplaces? Are things like internet bidding and other technologies mature? Kurt: Well, sometimes my answer to that question is not the most popular answer but what I believe is that it’s going to be a lot of consolidations and I think successful innovative companies are going to get bigger and be more successful and those that are lagging behind in the end do not adapt to new technologies and new business practices are literally end up in vain. And I think you’re going to see a transition in this industry from people who have practiced this as a carrier, I think you’re gonna see a lot of those people, the innovative ones transitioning into a true business. A true business is something that will go on after an individual; a carrier ends when the individual ends. That’s due to the auction industry; it’s due to business as a whole. Dave Bell, even no Dave Bell but Hewed Packard is still going and Microsoft will go after Bill Gates is gone. There are not a lot of Auction Companies that will go on after their founder or their main practitioner quits. So I think you’re going to see a transition into that. You just announcing some auction companies go public and you’ll get professional management in and establish business practices are being implemented. It’s a big difference. Big difference! Aaron: That’s it for episode 15. My guest today has been Kurt Aumann from Aumann Auctions. You can find Kurt at Aumann Auctions on the web at www.aumannauctions.com. Thank you very much Kurt for joining me. Kurt: Thanks a lot Aaron. Aaron: You’ve been listening to the Auction Podcast from Auctioneer Tech. If you have suggestions, questions or comments or are interested in being a guest, please let me know by going to www.actioneertech.com/feedback and leave me a message. You can also post public comments about this or any other episode as well as find show transcripts on the auction podcast page at auctioneertech.com. Thank you for listening. Now go sell something. -->

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Aaron Traffas, CAI, ATS, CES

twitter.com/traffas | aarontraffas.com | aarontraffasband.com

Aaron Traffas, CAI, AMM, CES, is an auctioneer from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. He is currently community evangelist for Purple Wave in Manhattan, Kansas. Aaron serves as the current president elect for the Kansas Auctioneers Association and in the past has served on the National Auctioneers Association Education Institute Board of Trustees. He is a past instructor at CAI and co-wrote and instructed the ATS designation course from NAA. He currently instructs the Internet Auction Methods course offered by the NAA. During the summer, Aaron operates a farm in south central Kansas. Aaron is an active singer and songwriter and the Aaron Traffas Band's latest release, Enter: The Wind, can be found at iTunes, Amazon and Spotify.
  • Scott Musser

    Great interveiw. Kudos to Aaron and Kurt for some great material.

  • Scott Musser

    Great interveiw. Kudos to Aaron and Kurt for some great material.

  • Scott Musser

    Great interveiw. Kudos to Aaron and Kurt for some great material.