An Interview with Dennis Hoff

by: Noah Graff

Hoff-Hilk Auction Services Dennis Hoff

Dennis Hoff is president of Hoff-Hilk Auction Services, an online auction company which sells commercial and industrial machinery exclusively. Before starting Hoff-Hilk, Dennis was a used machinery dealer and machine tool appraiser for over 35 years.

NG: Do you think outcry auctions are becoming obsolete?
DH: I think they’re becoming less of a player. I don’t think they’ll ever go away. We’ve had some instances where we’ve been asked to do that type of sale and in some cases it’s appropriate.

NG: How are online auctions superior to traditional auctions?
DH: You’re in Minneapolis; we had a snowstorm last night, it’s 17 degrees and most of the streets are plowed. I would say that if you had a live sale, you would’ve had 50 percent less people than you would on a regular day. I think selling to the world as opposed to people standing on the floor makes a big difference.

NG: What’s your opinion of eBay?
DG: I’m not a big eBay fan from the seller standpoint because I don’t think that they do a good job describing the machines. We try to work harder; to clean the machines better; to take more videos and take more pictures. Recently at the Bystrom Bros. sale, we took 48,000 photographs for about 3,500-3,600 lots.

NG: Do you think most buyers and sellers feel that auctions are “fair”?
DH: Probably not. I think it’s very hard to be transparent in the auction business, which we try very hard to do. But no, I would think that most of them are not as comfortable as they’d like to be.

NG: What type of auctions do you prefer to do?
DH: We don’t have a preference. We’re very frank with the sellers, and we’ll tell them that the worst thing they can do is have us buy it. We’ll make the most money that way. The best thing for them is to have us work on a commission basis on their behalf.

NG: Are sellers sometimes bitter and depressed that they’re liquidating? Do you have to play psychologist?
DH: Absolutely, it’s a huge part of the business. Especially for what we call “site” coordinators that set up the sale. They have to be dealing with that person on a day-to-day basis. They see them every single day moping in, and they see their attitude get worse the closer we get to the day of the sale.

NG: Did you say “Psych” coordinator?
DH: “Site” coordinator. It could be “psych” though. (laugh)

NG: What’s your favorite part of your job?
DH: I think looking at the deal and trying to figure [out] the deal. There’s always that excitement; the hunt is a lot better than the kill.

NG: What’s the thing you hate most about your job?
DH: Probably dealing with the psychology of the owner, that his life is kind of ending. For small business people, myself included, this is a big part of our lives. You can be a golf nut; you can like to boat; you can like to fish; but I think anybody who owns a small business, you get up and you go to work everyday. That’s your life. Even those people who are coming out on top, they still have issues. They want to go and smell that oil on Monday morning and there’s no place to go and smell it.

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