October 23, 2011

Fast Talker

fasttalker.article

The summer before his first year at Hamline, Glen Fladeboe ’98 wanted to hone skills to help him earn money and perhaps even give him a leg up on a future career. So he enrolled in auctioneering school. 

Fladeboe had a few advantages over his fellow students at the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City, Iowa. Since he was six years old—old enough to stand in the hayrack and hold up smaller tools—he had helped out in the family business, Fladeboe Auctions. His dad, Dale Fladeboe, founded the company in 1978 to supplement the income from his Willmar, Minnesota, farm. By the time he was a senior in high school, Fladeboe was giving serious thought to making auctioneering his life’s work. “I lived it blood, sweat, and tears,” he says. “And I fell in love with the business. I really did.”

Fladeboe started hosting auctions for local charities during his first year at Hamline and was doing as many as 30 a year by the time he graduated. 

“Hamline was extremely critical to the success of my business,” he says. “When I was starting out (and I looked about 14 years old), I was able to say I had a degree in communications from Hamline. It was essential in gaining clients and credibility.” In 2011, the charity arm of Fladeboe Auctions, which he now heads, will conduct 180 charitable auctions, raising more than $8 million for nonprofits. 

Many Friday and Saturday nights, Fladeboe and the seven auctioneers who work for him fan out across the Twin Cities, greater Minnesota, and 10 other states, working as many as seven auctions at once. The next morning, Fladeboe often trades his tuxedo for denim to stand in a field, working the other half of the family business—agricultural land auctions.

It’s a great time for agricultural and charitable auctioneering. Demand for farmland is at a record high, and the economic downturn has required nonprofits to look for more creative ways to raise funds.

For Fladeboe his commitment to the charities he works with extends beyond his auctioneer’s patter (though after his stint at auctioneering school and years of practice, he definitely has that mastered). He typically spends four to six months working with a client before each event and credits much of his ability in this area to his Hamline degree in communications and his experience working in the newsroom at WCCO-TV. 

“We focus like a laser on the mission of the organizations we work for and help them communicate the good work they are doing for the community,” he says. By the time he dons his tuxedo and stands on the banquet hall’s makeshift dais, he knows, as he says, “Why we are raising money and what our specific objectives are.” As he interacts with
the clients, his authenticity and enthusiasm, along with a humble gratitude, shine through. The biggest compliment guests at a gala can give him, he says, is that they had assumed he was someone working within the organization, rather than an outside contractor. 

While the fun part of charity auctions may be watching Fladeboe chant, “Do I hear one-thousand-gimme-one-thousand one thousand do-I-hear-fifteen-hundredgimme-
fifteen hundred” while excited guests bid on a donated dinner or trip, that’s not where most of the giving comes from. Two-thirds of the money he raises for charities comes from what he calls the “direct-giving moment.” This is when, at the end of the evening, he calls out a specific need—for a piece of equipment or to fund a project—and donors raise their paddles to pay for them, without receiving anything in return other than the satisfaction of giving. When, at the end of an evening, Fladeboe has raised $50,000, as he did at a recent auction for the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, he hands the credit right back to his client.

“I don’t see it as ‘I did a great job as an auctioneer,’” he says. “It’s more that we played a role in telling that audience how the Dave Thomas Foundation does a great job, and the audience responded. We’re all in this together. It’s about the success of a community. And hopefully our work helps a community to be inspired.”

Article by Tricia Cornell