In 1959, William Jacobs started Columbus Fair Auto Auction based on excellent customer service and fairness. He recognized that auctions offered a solution to automobile dealers’ needs for a source and marketplace for used motor vehicles.
Obviously, the financial risk of leasing space at the Ohio State Fairgrounds to run a one-lane auction in 1959 was small, but significant for this startup entrepreneurial endeavor. It, however, pales in comparison to the present multi-million dollar investment in today’s 85-acre facility in Obetz. However, the original strategy of offering a marketplace for used vehicles where buyers and sellers would congregate for the benefit of both continues today.
Nature of Business Today
Last year, 192,930 vehicles were offered for sale at Columbus Fair Auto Auction at weekly sales to automobile dealers. A great many changes have taken place in the auto auction business. But one thing that hasn’t changed is Jacobs’ basic business premise and the operating philosophy of fairness and excellent customer service.
It is that reputation which has earned a tremendous following among the more than 1,000 dealers from 20 states who frequent the auction’s weekly sales. This same reputation has grown to entice manufacturers like General Motors, Subaru of America and Hyundai of America to contract with Columbus Fair Auto Auction for high-volume factory sales. While the volume of business has grown under Alexis Jacobs’ leadership, so has the marketing strategy.
Alexis has spearheaded the growth of added-value services to support the base business, but also to become additional profit centers for her company. Alexis’ management philosophy is founded on personal empowerment. It rewards individual initiative and responsibility. It begins with attracting good people, training them well, and rewarding them in both tangible and intangible ways. From physical environment to participation in the business process, attention to detail is all-important.
Over 40 years, Alexis Jacobs has learned that it is the little things that make a difference in a service business. And a service business is only as good as the people who provide the service. It’s that simple.
The auction has evolved over the past 40 years through a proactive effort to meet the needs of the customer. Increasingly, that customer has become a more sophisticated and demanding dealer (both buyers and sellers) and has grown to include the leasing arms of manufacturers.
In the development cycle of the auto auction business, the trend has been for large conglomerates to absorb the independent operators. Columbus Fair remains one of the largest independently-owned and operated auctions in the country.
Able to maneuver quickly and make decisions independently, Alexis has often led the industry in developing innovative marketing approaches and new services of added value to its customers.
These services include a full-service, on-site body shop facility, a complete mechanical shop, a state-of-the-art reconditioning center, on-site transportation services, and many other convenient, on-site services that aid the customer.
Marketing strategies to attract buyers and sellers to the weekly auctions include business-to-business trade advertising, direct marketing, telemarketing and broadcast faxes. A team of sales professionals provide the Columbus Fair “personal touch” to the overall marketing approach. All marketing efforts combine to assure the right combination of buyers and sellers meet each week at the auction.
This independent leadership, combined with its reputation for fairness and service excellence, continues to earn the company contracts with the automobile manufacturers’ finance companies.