If you pay attention to the news these days, it can seem like a scary time to be a business owner.
Television, radio and front pages across the country all echo the state of the economy. While many companies are battening down the hatches, hoping to weather the storm, at least one Middle-Georgia company, is working hard in the current down market to promote a wide array of services to a list of clientele that continues to grow.
L.W. Benton Company, Inc., a Macon-based Auction and Real Estate company, has ratcheted up their efforts to advertise their company and market their services, even though the auction industry is suffering just like other areas.
Auctions, particularly Real Estate auctions of foreclosed properties, have made the news themselves lately as banks attempt to rid themselves of the glut of unwanted properties.
“There are a lot of auction companies, not only in Georgia, but regionally and nationally as well, who are working hard to get that business with the banks,” says company president, Larry “Bo” Benton, a Macon native.
With so many people chasing the same brass ring, however, that can be a difficult race to win.
“Certainly, we’re out there trying to get that business like everybody else, but Real Estate is one segment of our company. We’re not allowing that to overshadow the range of other clients we’re after.”
It’s that diversity of clients, combined with a unique blend of options that Benton believes will prove beneficial to both his company and the customers they serve.
And those options run the gamut. Beyond Real Estate, L.W. Benton Company sells vehicles, equipment, boats and trailers of every make, model and size. There are tool and firearm auctions as well as a loyal following for estates and antiques. They continue to grow their list of government and municipal clients throughout the state, helping to turn surplus equipment and vehicles into much needed budgetary funds.
Last year, they acquired the Heart of Georgia Auto Auction and moved it to their 17,000 square-foot facility on Highway 49. Starting this month they’ll begin running it every Tuesday and offering buyers the ability to bid live on the internet during the sale.
Like many businesses, L.W. Benton Company relies heavily on the internet and its ability to offer their auctions to buyers across the country or around the world.
“We’ve sold equipment to overseas buyers and had UPS deliver items to some other state, without us ever even having a conversation with the buyer, much less having them show up at the auction,” Benton said. “As we like to say, ‘Any piece of property, to any buyer, anywhere.”
The company’s staff runs the gamut as well. Benton, who’s finishing up his term as the current president of the Georgia Auctioneers Association, is on the younger side of the industry at 33. And while there are other fresh faces, coming from various backgrounds, there are also old salt’s raised in the industry and one current Georgia Hall of Fame Auctioneer. It’s this combination of old and new, both in his staff and with the way they conduct their auctions, that Benton believes will carry them over the current economic slump.
Benton is also keenly aware of the perception the public sometimes has of auctioneers, particularly in times like these. He admits the hurtful effects of the economy has increased the number of business liquidations and bankruptcy sales his company his seen.
“That’s the unfortunate side of the auction business. It’s hard when somebody comes to you because they need you to sell something just to help them get by,” he said. “Hopefully, we’re offering a service to those folks as well. They’re our client and we’re working for them just like the rest, big or small.”
As to predictions for when this economic tide might turn, Benton admits he can’t predict; however, he adds with a smile, “If you find someone who can, I want to hire him.”