Yvonne loves to go to the auctions and I go along. Learning so much not only about the amount of junk so many of us hord but also all about people. I am not a great fan of the Apprentice and the dreaded “Lord Sugar” – not sure he could run any Cambridge Cluster company – but the TV series does have a very important point about buying and selling. It is so easy to sit back in an auction and buy but it takes a very different mindset to rise early on a Sunday morning and queue for the honour of having a stand at the Newbury car boot sale. The skill is of buying in the auction for the customers at the car boot sale and not buying for your taste – not that it is better but it may well be different. It takes effort and concentration.
You see it so often in Cambridge Cluster companies (and we have done the same with the graphic novel The Entrepreneurs) that it is much easier to look inwards to build the product and a very different skill (and very difficult to do simultaneously) to intereact with customers and investors. The latter takes effort and energy and usually travelling.
The other lesson we can all learn is to build a business lean and not mean. But what about the entrepreneur who bought two pictures from the Wellington Gallery in Birmingham for a total of £10,000. They were knocked down at the auction for a little more than 10% of their cost. Stay lean and buy the luxuries from the proceeds of the sale of your business. When items are entered for auction by the agents of Liquidators or the High Sheriff there is usually no reserve so a good time to try a low bid.
But it is very sad to see dreams shattered and not to think for too long about all the human tragedy behind some of the sales. At least the entrepreneurs can start again but some auctions reflect the unhappy lives people have lived leaving behind a house to be cleared by agents and not loving relatives.
How I love people watching at the auctions. The highest bidders are often the least well dressed. The auctions are being changed by the Internet with a representative of The Sale Room sitting at the front. Often the auctioneer gets frustrated by some of the Internet bidders being slow and brings down the hammer. But if serious money is being offered the auctioneer has plenty of time!
The auctions we have attended are Jubilee Auctions in Pewsey, Mays Auctioneers of Shipton Bellinger, Stroud Auctions, Thimbleby & Shorland of Reading (sometimes five simultaneous auctions!), Wessex Auctions. And closer to home is Cheffins Auctions with their very knowledgeable team including George Archdale and Sarah Flynn.
To buy or not to buy is easy; to sell, how and to whom is the question! Something we all face in the Cambridge Cluster.