Auctioneer Dale Fladeboe, who does the numbers better than most, was selected by auctioneers for induction into the Minnesota State Auctioneers Association Hall of Fame. At 72 years old, Fladeboe has earned the respect of his colleagues.
“I was amazed. I felt deeply honored,” said Fladeboe.
Flash back to 1978 when Fladeboe was 35. His wife, Grace Fladeboe, delivered him to the Auction School in Mason City, Iowa.
“I told my wife that I was either going to buy a herd of dairy cattle or I was going to go to the Auction School,” he said. “Well, we drove to Mason City. I said to my wife, if I don’t like this you come and pick me up in a couple of days.”
Needless to say, Grace didn’t get that call from her husband until the school was finished two weeks later.
“I found out I didn’t like it; I loved it,” Fladeboe said.
Getting started wasn’t easy. Even auction school wasn’t easy.
“I didn’t have a father or a relative in the business. This was all an entirely new experience for me. Today I would tell anyone you’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to genuinely love people,” Fladeboe said.
A big break came early in his career from Abner Jacobson, a Benson, Minn., auctioneer who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
“He took me under his wing, so to speak; guided me on how to do the business,” Fladeboe said. “He was my special mentor and I shall always be indebted to him.”
Even after all these years, his love of the business continues.
“Every day is like a new career,” said Fladeboe. “It’s a tremendous trip we auctioneers take every time we call a sale. The bidding process gets exciting.
“Often you sense the excitement in the crowd, too. I don’t think there’s such a thing as a dull auction. If it is then it’s our fault. It’s our task to create that interest and excitement. It’s a high-energy performance, but you’d be surprised how much of that energy bounces right back from the folks out front.”
The auctioneering DNA runs strong in the Fladeboe family. Grace once commented that only by the grace of God were they so lucky to have three children who all wanted to be auctioneers. Glen Fladeboe, Kristine Fladeboe Duininck and Kimberly Fladeboe Anderson work in Fladeboe Auctions. Fladeboe sent them to auction school in Mason City, now called the World Wide College of Auctioneering.
“They, too, found out like I did that they loved the school and they love the business,” said Fladeboe.
In order to be an auctioneering success, you need to have a persuasive personality, like people, and earn their respect, he said. Fladeboe reflected back to Jacobson, his early mentor.
“He had a magnetic personality. Everybody liked the man. If people like you and trust you, they will do business with you. That’s the secret to this business,” said Fladeboe.
With four auctioneers in the family, daughter Kristine and son Glen call most of the sales these days.
While Fladeboe doesn’t know the exact number of Fladeboe sales since that 1978 start, he has some idea.
“I’ve kept a sale bill of every auction we’ve done. It’s a big huge stack. Best to say there have been many,” he said.
With farm commodity prices crashing, farm land sales are still strong.
“It’s kind of amazing. Because we mostly now specialize in doing farmland auctions, even with $3.50 corn we’re still seeing a strong land auction market, especially for quality land,” he said.
If the land is tiled and has a Crop Production Index of 80 or better, the land is selling well, “maybe off 5 to 15 percent,” said Fladeboe. He expects farmland to keep selling well.
“I say the same about good farm equipment,” he said. “That market won’t disappear either. A good tractor with 1,000 or fewer hours still draws good money. New iron has slowed considerably. But give this entire farm cycle some time. Just like strong prices don’t last, neither do weak prices.”
Like other auctioneering businesses, online buying is a major part of farm sales. Last year, Fladeboe sold a farm to an Indiana investor online. The investor sent his agent to look at the farm and relied on land quality, CPI and drainage data.
“It’s a sign of the times,” he said. “We have Kristi Jo Block sitting with her computer right next to whoever is calling the sale. She instantly informs our auctioneer when the online bid is high bid. All our land auctions anymore are both live and online.”
Fladeboe’s highest farm sale per acre went to a Renville County farm, which in 2013 sold for $11,140 an acre. Both live and online buyers were biddng. Even though online bidding extends the selling process across state lines, Fladeboe said most of their farm auctions are sold to somebody within a 10-mile radius of the farm being sold.
Fladeboe has concerns about the challenges facing “want-to-be” farmers.
“Not that it can’t be done because you can do most anything if you have a positive attitude,” he said. “But today it takes so much equity to get into farming. Some special family help is almost always needed.”
Today, Fladeboe Auctions conducts farmland auctions across Minnesota and out of state. The firm specializes in farmland and fundraising auctions. The younger Fladeboes have become national and international auctioneering specialists in fundraising sales.
Kristine did an early March sale in Chicago. Glen just returned from a Cancer Society event in Montana. He’s done cancer fundraisers in California and Florida, too. The last two years, Kristine called a fundraising auction in Honk Kong, China. The two large auctions raised $3.1 million for the poor in the Philippines. Other major fundraising auctions by the Fladeboes are for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the American Heart Foundation, and Helping Paws.
In 2010, Kristine was named the International Auctioneer Champion-NAA. Proud of his daughter Kristine, Fladeboe pointed out that 30 years ago female auctioneers were few.
“But people have become accustomed to the fact that women can handle these jobs, too; often better than we men,” he said.
Fladeboe said he has been blessed in his auction career and family business.
“The good Lord willing, I’ll want to be a helping hand as long as I can without getting in the way,” he said.
The Land interviewed Dale Fladeboe at the Willmar Ag Show on March 10.