Small-town NAA member on CAI:
‘It made me bigger’

Andy Conser is in small-town Kansas and wants you to know Foundation scholarships are meant for you, just like it was for him on his CAI journey.

By Curtis Kitchen, NAA Director of Publications and Trade Show

Only a few seconds after climbing out of my car in the middle of town in the middle of a warm September Tuesday, I didn’t hear traffic or people; I heard buzzing locusts in the trees. It was a homecoming song of sorts – a soundtrack to instant memories of my hometown’s square.

I had not been back in years, but Oskaloosa looked so much the same. The same buildings — many still wearing the same stonework they first put on in the mid-1800s – stood where I remembered.
The brick streets on the square still supported traffic the same way they once did horses. The town water tower managed to look even older than it used to, as if it had finally begun to feel the full weight of standing against Kansas elements for decades. It’s hard to blame the fatigue that comes with such effort.

Tucked inside this small, rural community, however, is a semblance of that stalwart effort as an auction business grows as a result of personal investment. You see it in one of the large north-facing windows across from the courthouse. The glass is plastered with one-sheet fliers showing area properties for sale by auction.

This marketing mural of sorts is the first hint of the high level of hustle NAA member Andy Conser, CAI, has been moving with for more than 16 years. Now working as the auction arm of United Country Heart of America Real Estate & Auction, Conser is a testament to believing that personal investment and networking are far greater than believing a project is too big for his small business.

“I feel very confident that between my state association connections and my CAI connections, that there will not be an auction come along in front of me that I can’t reach out and find somebody,” Conser said. “For me, being a small guy, the biggest fear I used to have was if somebody would walk through the door with something I had no idea they were talking about in terms of selling; that I wouldn’t know what it was, or what it was worth, or where to go to get the information, and I’d sit there and look dumb.”  

In business for 16 years before attending the Certified Auctioneer Institute, Conser understood what attending could or would mean for him in terms of education and networking, but as a small-business someone, money was an issue.

“More than anything, it was cost,” Conser said. “I was trying to make a full-time living in sales in a county of 18,000 people, where the biggest town is 1,200. That’s not easy. I also had what I realize now was a misinterpretation of what NAA was – that NAA was for the big boys.

“But, I said if I’m going to take my business to the next level, then I have to make this work.”

Scholarships available through the National Auctioneers Foundation

At that point, Conser was made aware of the Larry McCool scholarship made available through the National Auctioneers Foundation. The McCool Scholarship was established in 2006 and provides tuition assistance to qualified Auctioneers to attend CAI Course I or Course II.

Potential scholarship applicants are judged on the completeness and quality of their application and their references. Preference is given to individuals who earn 100 percent of their income from the auction industry and/or who work full-time in the industry.

Conser applied, and he was awarded the monetary support. Later, he was shocked to learn that only two people had applied – him and one other person.

“It’s flabbergasting to me,” said Conser, who had assumed many more would apply. “Totally blew my mind. I asked ‘Why? Why don’t more people do this?’”

Conser said he had saved enough money at that point (just prior to winning the scholarship) to cover one year of tuition, which immediately was saved for his second year of CAI. The added security of knowing his first year was largely paid in full also provided the benefit of being able to relax and concentrate fully on his CAI experience versus worrying about not booking auctions at home during his week away.

All of it set the wheels in motion for him to earn his CAI a few years later – armed and ready to provide Jefferson County and surrounding areas with the same level of NAA knowledge and networking pathways offered by others in much larger environments.

“It’s made me bigger,” Conser said. “I have no more staff than I did before I went to Bloomington. I have none of that, but I have knowledge and connections. That’s power.”

The mural of listings on his window looking into the street help illustrate Conser’s point. Those listings (and eventual closings) don’t happen by accident, of course. Each one of them Conser had to pitch to a seller that auction was the method of sale to use. He also has had to be able to deliver successful closings because without those, others wouldn’t see the value in using his services.

Being able to handle the business side of auction is a result, Conser said, of having a business plan in place – an exercise he learned at CAI. Everything he does now revolves around the plan, from stellar service, to standout proposals, to personal customer service, to conducting the actual auction. He learned most, if not all, of how he does things now through NAA continuing education. He began the journey with a decision to improve and finding the courage to apply for a scholarship.

“The time and the money is a factor,” Conser said. “But, what is it worth to you long-term? What difference is it to you long-term?”