A few weeks ago, Dustin Mallory learned that he had a pretty unique talent.
He could get an entire town all worked up…while he ate tacos. On a Tuesday.
Dustin is one of our TZ Auctioneer Partners, and he lives in Paris, Kentucky – a little town about 20 minutes northeast of Lexington. It’s a pretty quintessential Kentucky small town. 10,000 (ish) people, lots of neat old architecture (including the tallest 3-story building in the country), and lots of beautiful horse farms. It’s a nice place to live, the people are friendly, and like in most small towns…word travels fast.
So how’d he do it?
Well, he’s good friends with the owner of a popular Mexican restaurant in Paris, and he’s got an auction coming up (tomorrow, in fact – click here to see the sale bill). And like most good auctioneers, he carries advertising for his sales in his pickup. On that Tuesday a few weeks ago, he asked his friend if he could put a sign up in front of the restaurant advertising the auction. When the owner said yes, Dustin put up his sign, then went in and sat down for supper.
No sooner had he put up that sign (I don’t know for a fact, but I’m sort of assuming that it was one of those sandwich board deals) and his phone starts to go off. Phone calls, snapchats, texts, the whole works! Apparently a few people drove by, saw “Dustin Mallory” and “AUCTION” in bold letters, and immediately feared the worst – that the restaurant was closing and Dustin was the guy who was going to sell the assets.
Now, none of that was true, but boy, for a few minutes, it was the talk of the town!
I was working on a social media ad for his auction the other day, and got to thinking, “Y’know, I wonder how Dustin’s auction prep is coming along?”
So I texted him, and he returned my phone call an hour or so later.
“Well, in answer to your question…I’ve been moving equipment around in a muddy field for the past six hours, and I’m lovin’ every minute of it! How’s your day?”
And that’s how our conversation kicked off.
I told him that I wanted to write a story about him for our blog (he’s basically a rookie auctioneer), and he said, “I’ve got some time. What’cha want to talk about?”
I replied, “How’d you get into this business? What trips your trigger about being an auctioneer?”
He laughed, and answered, “Well, I had a very short stint interning under a financial advisor; it turned out that I really hated sitting at a desk, but I loved talking to people…”
He went on to tell me that he graduated from the University of Kentucky with an ag business degree, and started interning under a financial planner, hoping to help small farmers. However, it didn’t take long before he realized that it wasn’t for him. He loved working with farmers, but he hated going to an office and sitting at a desk all day. Furthermore, he felt that there was an opportunity to help farmers at a more base level as an auctioneer. So he put in his two weeks, and enrolled in the Kentucky Auction Academy.
After that, he apprenticed with an auctioneer fairly close to home for about a year while he finished up his licensure requirements, and in November 2019, he founded the Dustin Mallory Auction Company.
…and then the pandemic hit.
(I really asked him that question.)
He said, “Nope, not really. See, during tough economic times, small communities need problem solvers…and that’s what auctioneers really are. Yeah, we talk fast and beat on pieces of wood with a wooden hammer, but at the end of the day, that’s only a tiny part of our job. Auctioneers help people, and that’s what I love to do. That’s what drives me. That’s what kicks me outta bed every morning, knowing that I can help a farmer address a challenge.”
I pressed him. “That’s all well and good, and I see where you’re headed with this, but Kentucky locked down for quite a while, didn’t it? How do you sell stuff at auction when you can’t draw a crowd?”
He didn’t miss a beat. “I had to get creative, and I had to get comfortable with the internet. Sites like Auction Time and Equipment Facts are household terms with small farmers. I knew that if I didn’t learn the ins and outs of using those platforms – as well as using every digital means available to me to get the word out about stuff that I was selling – I was done for. So…I learned, and it wasn’t too long after that that I met Cindy and Matt, my contacts at Tractor Zoom!”
(I feel like this is getting a little sales-y, and it’s not intended to be a sales pitch for why an auctioneer would use us to help market their sales. Let’s get back to Dustin Mallory Equipment Auctions.)
I think the thing that stuck with me the most about his answer was this. He said, “You push through the tough times, knowing that it can only get better.”
And y’know what? For Dustin, it did!
From Dustin’s perspective, integrity and relationships are among the most important aspects of the auction method of marketing. Without them, it’s nigh unto impossible to run a successful business; and as such, that’s what he’s always focused on from day one. Integrity is the key to making it all happen – and that makes good sense to me. If your goal is to put your customers first and do what’s right for them, the rest of it all starts to fall into place. From where I’m sitting, that’s one of the reasons that his business is starting to take off.
He’s a great communicator, but more than that, he has an ability to connect with his buyers and sellers. In my opinion, those are two completely different animals. Communicating is a skill. Connecting is a talent.
See, with instruction and practice, I believe that anybody can become a great communicator. If you don’t believe me, go to your local library and check the self-help section. Literally millions of pages have been written about how to become an effective communicator. Furthermore, there are hundreds of highly successful companies in business today who teach people how to communicate more effectively. How to connect with somebody and build a great relationship? I don’t think you can teach that.
At any rate, I’m getting way off the rails here. At the end of the day, those are two cornerstones of his business, and that’s why Dustin Mallory Auctions was able to weather a pandemic, and now seems to be flourishing despite the economic uncertainty we’re dealing with right now.
When I asked this question, Dustin laughed at me. “Man, I’m only two years in…I don’t think I’m qualified to give any advice!” he said, but after he thought about it for a second, he changed his mind.
“No, wait. I do have a piece of advice for a young auctioneer who’s just starting out. Two pieces, actually – and they go hand-in-hand. Your integrity is the only thing you can hang your hat on. It’s uniquely yours. However, you can tarnish it in a heartbeat if you forget that at the end of the day, you work for the seller – but that you have a responsibility to your buyers. That means you sweat the details; you make sure that you represent the seller’s assets in the best, most truthful way you can so that your buyers can make the right decision for them.”
Man, that’s a mouthful of truth if I’ve ever heard it – and we’ve all seen the good and bad of that play out in our own lives, I’m sure. Furthermore, in the digital day and age where everything we do is potentially on video somewhere, one wrong move can really tarnish somebody’s reputation in a real hurry!
As for the best advice he’s ever gotten? Well, as it turns out, it was the bit right in the middle of the advice that he passed on for new auctioneers. “At the end of the day, you work for the seller, but have a responsibility to your buyers. It’s a fine line to walk, but you’ve got to learn to walk it. It’s not always easy, but if you get it right, you’ll reap the rewards.”
Let’s get the details out of the way first.
Auctioneer: Dustin Mallory
Location: 1727 Bethlehem Rd., Paris, KY 40361 (Online bidding available as well.)
Start time: 10AM EDT
This weekend’s consignment auction is fairly typical of what we see in Kentucky – lots of smaller hay equipment. There’s a lot of smaller livestock operations (and horse farms) in that part of the country, so that makes sense. You’ll find a few row crop operations here and there (somebody’s gotta grow corn for Kentucky’s bourbon industry!), but for the most part, it’s more livestock-oriented.
Here’s a few photos of some of the equipment on the sale. Dustin told me that this is all very local equipment, stuff that worked on local farms for years!
There’s lots more on this sale, but I’ll let you dig into all that on your own.
Y’know, I’ve never had the opportunity to sit down with Dustin in person, but I think we’d get along just fine. If I get down to Bardstown this summer like I hope to, I’ll definitely plan an evening with him. His laid-back approach, and positive outlook on the future makes me think we’ll have a lot to talk about! If nothing else, we’ll drink bourbon and talk about old tractors!
If you go to the sale tomorrow, ask him if he’s still getting calls about the Mexican restaurant! He’ll get a kick out of it!