Attending a college campus full of academic buildings is about the least accurate image for Auction Academy.
The professional “school” thrives on field experiences, virtual interactions, and hands-on, in-person learning. In other words, it’s more fun than sitting in traditional classrooms.
The seventh graduating class of Auction Academy, which walked the stage on Sept. 29 during the National Auto Auction Association’s annual convention in Chicago, racked up the most training experiences and certifications to date, with all 30 students finishing the curriculum in sync.
Venturing Into the Industry Field
During the last two years, Class 7 attended in-person class sessions in eight different states, collectively traveled 229,253 miles, spent 404 hours together in person, and another 21 hours together virtually. The students learned from 132 speakers, and heard presentations from and visited: Nine auctions, one rail yard, and Nissan and Ford automotive factories.
In addition to 24 hours of leadership focused segments, the program involves related industry trainings and certifications: Certified Automotive Remarketer and Audience and Compliance Training, both offered through the IARA, NAAA standards and Safe T. Sam certifications, and the NAAA diversity and inclusion pledge.
“Class 7 showed up to each in-person session and signed into each virtual classroom with the intention to observe, contribute, learn, progress, create connections, and build relationships to do better and be better not only for themselves and their auction companies, but everyone in our entire industry,” said Auction Academy President Penny Wanna, during the day graduation ceremony Sept. 27.
Auction Academy has so far graduated 135 remarketing professionals, with Class 7 being the largest with 30 students. The first class started in 2012 with 16 graduates, mostly the sons and daughters of legacy auction company owners and managers. Class 8 started its two-year program in Nashville in early August.
“The success of Auction Academy is 100% due to our sponsors, auctions, and those decision makers who chose to not only invest in their employees, but also themselves, their auctions and their companies in our industry,” Wanna said.
During a formal graduation awards and dinner gala later that evening, Auction Academy co-founder and CEO Pierre Pons advised the students and other industry members in the audience to get out of your comfort zones.
“Try something new. Build relationships that will last a long time in this industry. And it doesn’t matter who you work for. Those relationships are here to help improve the industry and will last a lifetime.”
Lessons From a Star Graduate Who Gave Back
After the graduates walked to receive their awards at the evening event, Wanna announced the recipients of the academy’s second Maria Acuna Essence Award:
- Becky Anderson, CAR — President at CARS Recon
- Robert Kersh, CAR — general manager at Alliance Auto Auction Dallas
- Danny McNelis, CAR — director auction relationships at NextGear Capital
The Maria Acuna Essence Award is given to a student(s) by the Auction Academy staff who fully embraced the program and contributed to the betterment of their classmates, the academy program, and to the industry. The winners of this award also act on their education by giving back to the industry and advocating for the academy program and related certifications.
The award is named after Maria Acuna, a Class 5 Auction Academy graduate and comptroller at Big Valley Auto Auction in Donna, Texas, who passed away on Aug. 14, 2021, at the age of 47 after battling breast cancer and surviving COVID. Acuna often shared her valued educational experiences and appreciation of the academy, contributed to the wholesale auto auction industry, and earned Certified Automotive Remarketer status by the IARA.
At the Class 7 graduation gala, AA formalized the name of the award as The Maria Acuna Essence Award.
"With our previous graduation, Class 6 in 2021, we were spiritually tasked to officially name this honor out of respect, leadership, and greatness in memory of alumni Maria Acuna," Wanna said. "Like Maria and previous recipients of this honor, the criteria would seem simple, and proves with each passing class — someone always stands out — who did the most, who lead from within, who was fully present, participated, and jumped in without being asked, and who advocated for their classmates, themselves, and the program."
A 3-Step Approach to Success
Graduates and their spouses and family members also heard some pointed and practical remarks from speaker Chad Bailey, president of ServNet and president of Akron Auto Auction and Value Auto Auction in Akron, Ohio. Bailey encouraged graduates to be involved in their communities and industry.
Bailey has set an example as a partner, sponsor, and friend of Auction Academy, contributing content, enrolling students from his auctions, and advocating for the industry. Unfortunately, Bailey had to deliver his remarks via video on a screen due to a recent surgical procedure related to a fall that prevented him from traveling.
“I hope you students realize the value of what Penny and the academy has taught you and given you,” Bailey said on the video. “The relationships and bonds you build are something that will be with you for life. I've always said if you want to be a millionaire, surround yourself with them, and by that, I mean millionaire people who are leaders and who you can learn from.” He told graduates to work like sponges, absorbing the knowledge and wisdom of experienced industry counterparts. “Always be that way when you leave here and go back to your auction.”
Bailey called on the graduates to follow a simple plan. “Do three things in your life, as a person and as a leader: Be on time. Pay attention. Work hard. Do those three things and I promise you'll go far in life. And you'll get where you need to be by leaning on each other.”
Graduates Enjoy the Bonus of More Career Insights
For Auction Academy graduates, advanced training and education proves to be a pivotal point in their industry careers, often leading to new opportunities while inspiring them to work deeper into the remarketing industry.
“The thing that stands out the most are the relationships you build with not only the other members of the class, but the speakers who come and present,” said graduate and Maria Acuna award winner Becky Anderson of Cars Recon. “We get to see all the auctions we visit. We were able to build relationships outside of our inner circles and meet other people in the industry to lean on, ask questions, and learn from them.”
Anderson said enrolling in Auction Academy was an easy decision after she heard about its offerings through Penny Wanna and her husband, Jiles Wanna, vice president of client services of TPC Management. “I just knew the incredible opportunities that were available, and so I was excited to learn more about it and become a part of it.”
The academy education has already helped in her current role by providing a support network to discuss ideas with. “If there's a situation that comes up that I'm not sure how to handle or something that I know someone has dealt with in the past, I have people who are a phone call away to ask their advice and bounce things off of.”
For graduate Trevor Ottley, taking the academy route has boosted his career in the auction industry.
Ottley, the general manager of Mid-Kansas Auto Auction in Wichita, Kansas, wanted to further orient himself to a diverse industry as a new manager in his operation. “It’s been a great way to get out and about and get the lay of the land,” he said.
“As an auction employee, you spend so much time in your own facility doing your day-to-day routine. Just getting out and touring other facilities helps you see operations in a different way. You get to communicate with other people who are going through the same things as you and you learn how they're how they're handling those problems.
There's nothing better than the people. It’s a wonderful industry and very tight knit group.”
Ottley credits the academy with giving him a wider perspective on the level of commitment and involvement among auction industry members.
“It’s very humbling to see how many people have dedicated their lives to the industry and had an impact on its growth,” Ottley said. “The academy does a good job of explaining the history and evolution of the industry. You understand the hard work and patience that’s needed and how it doesn't all happen overnight. I’ve gained a lot of respect for the people who have put in the time to push this industry to where it is now.”