John Roebuck and Colin Crossland are very much 'hands-on' business owners. At Watts Auctions in Barnsley you'll often find them out in the yard mending a machine or driving a tele-handler to load out trailers full of sold lots.
We caught up with John taking delivery of some more plant hire equipment ready for another sale next weekend.
John, tell us about Watts Auctions.
We bought the company from Martin Watts in 2006 when it was based in Selby. We kept the good name, but expanded rapidly. We moved here to Carlton in 2011, close to our original roots, in fact. Martin continues to auction for us from time to time. We are now clearing around 4,000 lots per sale.
That's a huge amount per sale. Some very loyal customers...
We pride ourselves in putting our vendors and customers at the heart of everything we do. We want everyone to go away happy that we've given them a first class, personalised service. We promote best value by developing, maintaining and enhancing working relationships with all our stakeholders. That means also meeting them face to face rather than just relying on telephone calls and emails. In this job you can't afford to be complacent.
Let's focus on your typical auctions. What do you sell?
We have a wealth of experience in hosting and managing auction events for single and multiple vendors throughout the UK. This includes includes contractors plant and construction equipment, grounds maintenance equipment, agricultural machinery, vehicles and light industrial equipment. The firm has customers all over the world, exporting items to countries such as in Europe, Africa and New Zealand.
A truly global business then! How have you achieved that?
Using smart digital technology. Online auctions have opened up a wealth of opportunities for us. The world has suddenly become a very small place indeed.
The use of the internet and real time bidding coupled with our excellent loading facilities make overseas distance buying at our auctions an attractive and viable proposition.
Watts Auctions undertakes a variety of auctions and can stage them from anywhere in the country. We commonly use live auctions supported by web-based internet bidding. The platform we use is provided by BidPath. Additionally we host and manage timed on-line auctions, private treaties and sealed tender.
What are the benefits of internet bidding for your customers, John?
Customers can be in two places at once! They may not be able to travel to the yard on the day of the auction. Some customers even bid online when they are here. Especially if they wish to purchase items sold in other rings. With timed online auctions our vendors can keep the items for sale at their own premises rather than having to pay the transport costs to take them to the yard sale in Carlton.
Running an online sale in real time surely demands decent broadband. Can you get it in Barnsley?
Getting decent connectivity is an ongoing challenge for us. We need fast, robust and always-on broadband here in the yard. Especially during our live online sales, as you've rightly said. We rely more on mobile broadband on sale days. We run three separate auction rings, two of which are managed using Watts Mobiles. Basically, these are mobile auction rostrums built on the back of a truck.
However, the lack of decent connectivity is also an issue for many of our top dealers, customers and vendors who bid online. They are often working out of farms and other rural sites.
That said, the Internet, timed and live online bidding have all become integral parts of the firm's global business strategy. We will continue to build on that.
You can follow Watts Auctions online by joining their popular Facebook Group