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CEO Insight: Taking on the Big Boys

Opportunity is everywhere…Today’s CEO Insight comes from Greg Rohan, President of Heritage Auctions of Dallas, TX…they are the #3 auction house behind Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

Lesson Learned: Look to your competitors and be all that they are…not…to their customers.

While Mr. Rohan gave lots of interesting tidbits in his recent talk, such as the fact that Heritage was the first on the Internet – but only to display their vast info on products…they did not believe “anyone would ever make any money” on the Internet! Now Heritage is an auction powerhouse with much of their revenue coming from online bids.

What I really found fascinating and am presenting as the CEO Insight of the day (OK, not this day…it’s from my archives – I heard him during a “2nd Tuesdays @ Slocum” talk – April 12, 2011):

Rohan credited much Heritage’s assault on the Big Boys – Sotheby’s and Christie’s – to the fact that S&C only take items that they believe are worth $15k and above. This means that a collection that includes pieces above and below $15k can only have the high-end pieces auctioned by S&C. The collection own is then stuck finding ways to sell the rest of the lot.

In comes Heritage. They offer to sell the whole lot – $15k above and below – and thus get lots of large collections.

In addition, S&C focus on fine arts and are slowly ridding themselves of collectibles. Again, in comes Heritage.

Rohan said they like to be “the approachable, non-snob auction house.” And it’s paying off to the tune of $700 million/year in sales.

Speaking of opportunity being everywhere…this opportunity for insight comes from my former life as a newspaper reporter for The San Antonio Light newspaper. At one point in my illustrious career, I covered the Bexar County Courthouse with fellow reporter, Hector Cantu…fast forward a couple of decades and Facebook found us in the same town again.  Hector is now the Editorial Director for Heritage Auctions and the writer for the syndicated Baldo newspaper cartoon!

Not only am I name-dropping here, but I tell you this story by way of explanation as to how I ended up at the Heritage Auction’s 2nd Tuesday event where Rohan was speaking.  You just never know when an opportunity for the inside scoop will appear!

**BTW: As Events Chair for the Dallas Business Club (DBC), I invited the founders of Heritage Auction House to talk to the DBC about how the auction house came to be, what makes it grow and how the recent economic downturn has affected its business.

Jim Halperin, co-founder and co-chairman of Heritage Auctions, graciously offered to talk to us about just that, and is hosting us at their Slocum venue on Thursday, Sept. 22…For more information and to buy tickets for the talk and a wine/cheese reception, click here.**

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