In September we were finally able to arrange a live auction, after two years of waiting for this opportunity. The auction achieved record sales, making it the biggest September auction ever in Saga Furs´ history of more than 80 years. At the same time, we had the pleasure to welcome Brian Balaam, our auctioneer from North America. He, too, proved to be worth a long wait. People describe Brian´s auctioneering style as clear, consistent, and alert. He was also praised for his good memory of what happened in the auction room.
Brian Balaam joined the company in November 2019, just before the pandemic disruption, and works as Production Manager for Saga Furs North America. Right from the beginning the plan was to have him in the auctioneering team as well. This was Brian´s second trip to the Fur Center and the first time to auctioneer in Finland.
”To act as an auctioneer, a combination of personal skills and experience is required. Grading background is very helpful, I mean in depth knowledge about the product gives confidence and great dimension when you’re dealing with customers. In auctioneering it is also a question of working together for a joint goal. Brian meets these expectations and fits well in Saga Furs´ sales team,” says Sales Director Mikko Hovén
Fur industry background added by a passion for grading
Brian seems to have been around the fur industry for most of his life. His parents owned a mink farm when he was a child, but they pelted out in the early 90s. He followed his father and started working for NAFA after having graduated college and worked there for 20 years prior to joining Saga Furs.
There are many reasons why people end up working in one and the same sector. For Brian, the motivation is clear.
“The main reason why I stayed in this industry is my passion for grading mink. I enjoy grading the processed pelts, but I also like going to the farms to select breeding stock to help them raise a better product,” he says.
Looking at Brian´s auctioneering work one could imagine that this is something he was originally eager to do as well. Once again, it turns out that there needed to be a mentor, namely the highly respected Kevin Douse who passed away two years ago.
“I really enjoyed spotting at the auctions, and one day Kevin approached me and asked if I wanted to try auctioneering. I didn’t really have an interest to auctioneer, but I felt I should at least give it a try. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue, but Kevin wouldn’t let me stop. He kept mentoring me and I slowly started getting more and more comfortable. Now fast forward 12 years later and here I am auctioneering, in Finland for Saga Furs,” Brian describes.
Navigating the auction requires non-stop concentration
In fact, auctioneering requires a lot of elements. After all, it is a multitasking job, where the atmosphere is hectic, and the days are long.
“To me, the best element of auctioneering is that you are in control of navigating the auction. Auctioneering requires a great deal of concentration, and to me, that is one of the most demanding elements of auctioneering,” Brian says.
He seems to be quite humble since people gave him credit for remembering the right person who made a bid even in situations where you had to go few bids backwards.
“Some of my strengths as an auctioneer are my speed and my ability to see the room. There is always something to improve upon, but every time I auctioneer, I constantly try to improve on some aspect of my craft”.
Brian tells that during his stay he has met many of the company staff from all different aspects.
“Everyone that I have met so far have been extremely kind and helpful. We have a great work environment and I’m glad to be a part of Saga´s team.”
As expected, he didn´t have much time to sight see around in Helsinki. Now that we will be having more live auctions in the future, there will be opportunities for exploring the surroundings as well.
Who he is Brian Balaam, a fur auctioneer and Production Manager for Saga Furs North America from Greater Madison Area.
Fur Industry experience Has worked in the industry since 1998, e.g. as a Quality Control Manager. An auctioneer for 11 years.
Most memorable auction When auctioned for the first time, the buyers in the room gave him a round of applause.