We’ve all stood there in awe, mystified by the auction chant, the bid calling, the cattle rattle, and more simply put the art of auctioneering. But what does it take to become an auctioneer and how does one reach the level and skill set of a World Livestock Auctioneer Champion?
Growing up in Ohio, Andy White often attended auctions and farm sales with his father. After he got out of high school, he went on to work a few jobs but didn’t really know what he wanted to do in life … until one day when one of his friends handed him a pamphlet for the Missouri Auction School. He signed up for the school and since then has been in the business full time for the last 14 years.
White is also the 2016 World Livestock Auctioneer Champion. How did he get there…
“A lot of practice and a lot of luck. When you get out of auction school, one of the things they forget to tell you or sometimes fail to mention to you is how much work needs to go in. To be at the top of your game, you need to practice hours daily,” White said. “Your consigners, your sellers they expect you to be the best because they are relying on you to get maximum value out of their assets in a one-day period. So you need to do everything in your power to be the best auctioneer you can be and a lot of that comes from work and luck involved.”
White said auctioneering wasn’t something that was mentioned at career day and he didn’t really know what becoming an auctioneer all entailed, but he has learned some valuable lessons along the way:
- Build your chant style- White encourages young auctioneers to listen to other chants, bids, and calling to develop your own style. “I’m a melting pot — just like other auctioneers of the auctioneers that are around me — picking up their styles, what works for them, putting it into my style, and making it work,” White said.
- Learn the industry- White says it is vital to learn the business aspect of it and what’s involved in the different segments of our industry. “As you get in the business, you say ok this is the aspect or this is the part of industry I want to be in,” White said. “You need to have that product knowledge and if you are not familiar with it or its not in your background, you need to educate yourself as to what you are selling, the nuances of the different parts of the industry, and be very well versed and knowledgeable about what you are selling.”
- Surround yourself with successful auctioneers. “You know you are a product of your environment. I think when you surround yourself with the best of the best you are going to elevate your talent, your ability to be one of the best of the best,” White said. “With that, you need to be part of the organizations — the professional trade organizations, your state organizations, your national auctioneers association — so being part of those, you are going to expand your sphere of influence and a lot of the people you can draw on for further knowledge of what you are trying to become good at.”
So what does it take to win the World Livestock Auctioneers Championship?
There are two aspects of the finals: An interview process with five judges where each asks three questions that are industry related to the Livestock Marketing Association. Next five different judges come to the live portion of the competition. From there the auctioneers are judged on presentation, poise, chant, ability to find and catch the bids, expedition of sale, and then whether that judge would hire the auctioneer and if he or she would make a good spokesperson for the Livestock Marketing Association.
White encourages youth to enter the profession of live auctioneering. Even with the rise of online sales, he believes the live auction method will always be applicable.
“I think it a tool that is in our toolbelt and do I think there are sales that are fit to be online? Absolutely. But you know I also think online has geared us to give us more avenues for the live auction,” White said. “That is why I think the live auctioneer is always going to be relevant. Because the best assets as far as cattle, real estate, cars, antiques — they are all sold using the live auction method. That’s why I always think there is going to be demand for the live auctioneer.”
The Champion said there is always going to be demand for a good auctioneer and that’s what the next generation of auctioneers needs to strive for.
“To be good, does that mean they have to be a second or third generation? Absolutely not. I think what it is you need to do is surround yourself with those people and then practice, practice, practice,” White said. “If you want to be the best there is, you think about a major-league baseball player and they probably practice 8 to 10 hours a day. Our profession is no different than that. You need to practice hours on end and when you think you have gotten good enough, you need to continue to practice.”