Diversity, its unexpected benefits, and what it means for auction companies

What’s the risk of having buyers and sellers who are not different than you? A lack of diversity can mean limited business.

By NAA Staff

Why is diversity important?

The question is short and simple, but the answers can be as individual as the people in a group trying to answer it. What’s often left out of those answers, however, are the unexpected, valuable benefits that come to auction professionals when they help attract new faces to the industry.

Diversity in the industry is important because, as auction professionals, buyers, and sellers, we live in an ever-growing global society. And, as leaders, we need to develop and understand and appreciation for cultural differences and backgrounds.

NAA member Frank Kitchen (standing) believes “the more diverse we are, the better we can run our business.”
Having this appreciation allows auction professionals to build the best teams and be competitive in any market from local to global.

“The more diverse we are, the better we can run our business,” says Frank Kitchen, BAS, of Glendale, Arizona.

Diversity: What do your buyers look like?

“What do your buyers look like? How many of your buyers are 100-percent just like you?” asks TiWanna Kenney, BAS, of Pflugerville, Texas. “What’s the risk of having buyers who are not different from you? What’s the risk of saying ‘I only work with this one client’?”

The answers seem obvious. Only working with a specific group of people immediately limits the buyer pool and potentially lowers the top dollar amount for a lot – something no auction professional wants to have happen.

Or, when it comes to attracting that next sale, is your staff built to handle and manage, for example, a family that comes through the door and wants to sell but doesn’t speak the same language you do? Is your company built to auction in Spanish or another language that may be dominant in and around your local area?

“Does your staff reflect your buyers?” Kenney asks.

Having staff who can identify, relate, and communicate effectively with those buyers may mean the difference in a bid that day and turning them into sellers in the future. In other words, can your staff meet the needs of your buyers? That’s the question that needs to be answered, according to Kenney.

The benefits are not just external.

Internally, within the walls of your company, having diversity in your staff can lead to one or more of the following: increase in innovation and drive through idea sharing; resilience in tougher business times because of an expanded base, employee retention and engagement; long-term growth for your company; opportunities for government contracts or other similar contracts that ask for diversity; improved or increased profit margins; and an increase in moral/ethical value.

Diversity: How to get started

Those all sound good, but if those are end goals, where does someone begin the process of encouraging and implementing diversity in their auction business? Here are a few, immediate ways this can happen.

– Examine and modify your business’ mission statement. Your mission statement is the foundation on which your entire business sits. (If you haven’t developed one, now is the perfect time.) Therefore, if diversity is something you want to have reflected in your business, make it a part of your mission statement so that everything planned and developed refers back to it.

– Hiring of staff and volunteers. If your current staff doesn’t reflect your buyers and sellers, or you see untapped potential in your community, focus on finding individuals who can help you connect to those groups.

– Embrace diversity in your marketing. People gravitate toward images and messages they can relate to. Creating an inclusive image through marketing can help bring those new buying and selling groups through your door.

– Social media and mainstream media. “Social media is social proof,” Kitchen says. “We’re so willing to go put up a thing about the Kardashians. We’ll go put up a poop emoji. We’ll go put up stuff that’s not really going to affect us in a positive way. But, how awesome is it for us to go pop up a picture of this auction where we helped out.

“I’ve had people say ‘I didn’t know you auctioned, Frank.’ That’s my mistake, not showing people what I was doing.”

Whether it is diversity on your staff, in the industry overall, or just repositioning your brand story to the general public, momentum has to begin at the individual level.

“Nothing changes unless we do,” Kenney says. “So, if we don’t change the way we market, and if we don’t change what we’re putting out there, it’s never going to come to fruition.”

This article was an excerpt from a presentation given at the 2017 NAA International Auctioneers Conference and Show. Want even more tips on diversity or hear more regarding this topic? Full audio of the presentation is available in the NAA Knowledge Center.