Going once, going twice: Auctioneering a tough business to break into
WEST FARGO - When Kelly Klein starts chanting, it sounds like a song. The fast-paced rhythmic lilt of his voice quickly called cattle bids at Central Livestock here recently.
Klein has been an auctioneer with Klein Auction Service in LaMoure, N.D., for 10 years. His father is also an auctioneer so Klein grew up around livestock, in sale barns and sorting cattle.
“As I got older, I knew right away I wanted to be an auctioneer,” he said. “I really like everything about it.”
Auctioneering can be a tough business to break into, said Tony Heinze, who has been an auctioneer for close to 50 years and has been inducted into the World Wide College of Auctioneering Hall of Fame.
“The younger folks are having a tough time with it,” he said. “Us old guys won’t let ’em in.”
People looking to hire an auctioneer want to work with someone they trust, Heinze said.
“Trust is a very big word,” he said.
But experienced auctioneers are willing to help out the younger generation and one way to make those connections, Heinze said, is by attending events like the North Dakota Auctioneers Association Annual Convention going on through Saturday in Fargo.
“We’re hoping to get some young auctioneers in there,” he said. “That’s what’s got to keep it going. Us old guys, we’re there every year.”
The association’s president, Cliff Sanders, said an auctioneering contest held at the convention is a fun learning opportunity for novice to experienced auctioneers.
“You can sell in front of 1,000 people and your nerves aren’t even there,” he said. “When you get in front of 100-some people you know who are all in the same business, it’s mind-blowing.”
As a second-generation auctioneer, Klein said he may have had an easier time getting started. But he also does a lot of research to stay on top of trends.
“Being knowledgeable about what you’re selling, whether it be antiques, guns or livestock is the main thing,” Klein said. “You can get anybody off the street to talk about money and prices, but to know what you’re selling, know what it’s worth, and have a starting point and ending point and know where that’s going to be is the hardest part, I think, in the livestock industry.”
Recent changes in livestock prices show just how important that research is.
Winter cattle prices were at an all-time high, Klein said. Then they dropped off a bit a couple weeks ago.
“Prices can fall off overnight,” he said. “They can be hard to track.”
For younger auctioneers, Klein advises to stay on top of the markets and “practice, practice, practice.”
The convention’s auctioneering contest is from 7 to 9 tonight and is open to the public. Contestants will auction off items like an ice-fishing house and a kids go-cart available.
If You Go
WHAT: North Dakota Auctioneers Association Annual Convention Auctioneering Contest
WHEN: 7 to 9 tonight. Arrive early to get a bidding number.
WHERE: Holiday Inn, 3803 13th Ave. S., Fargo