ProFile: John Korrey

by Lily Landreth

Ritchie Bros. auctioneer started as a country boy.

John Korrey is a native of Iliff, Colorado, living on the same farm he was born on 64 years ago, but his voice has been heard throughout the United States and internationally as far as Dubai, the Netherlands, and Australia. Since 2003, he’s worked for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, one of the world’s largest auction companies of heavy equipment and transportation equipment.
The team roper and auctioneer of more than 40 years grew up helping his dad farm and raise livestock, and he was intrigued early on by the auctioneers he heard when they went to livestock auctions to sell produce. Even his classmates in grade school told him he’d make a good salesman. John graduated from Northeastern Junior College in 1972 and attended Reisch Auctioneer College soon after, but the work was barely beginning. “This occupation is no different from other occupations – you have to pay your dues,” says John. “You’re sometimes selling people’s whole livelihood, or a year’s wages, and it’s really crucial. For someone to give you an opportunity to go up and sell is tough, so you practice on your own. I went to an auctioneer school and they teach the basics, but you can’t leave there and be an auctioneer. You have to practice and get better. I was pretty determined and I listened to a lot of auctioneers. I thought if I was going to do it, I would try the very best I could.
“I went to different markets to try and get a job. My dad was one of my biggest fans, and he and my mom helped me get started and hooked me up with some livestock markets, and I went to various livestock auctioneer contests in the country,” John explains. With his background in rodeo – competing during his childhood, and team roping and tie-down roping on the college rodeo team – John found he was equally competitive in the auctioneer contests. He also found the bond between livestock auctioneer families much the same as with rodeo families. “I competed quite a few years before I won the contest and realized it wasn’t about me, it was about meeting other auctioneers and families in the business. I finally won it (World Livestock Auctioneer Champion) in Dunlap, Iowa, in 2002, and it didn’t skyrocket my career, but I had more confidence. People won’t hire you because you’re a world champion or not, but because they trust your ability to do a good job.”
John also won the Calgary Stampede International Livestock Auctioneer Championship in 1998, among several other championship titles, and he was inducted into the Colorado Auctioneer Association Hall of Fame in 2009. He and his late wife, Janna, were married for 35 years and owned and operated Korrey Auctions for 23 years until he started working for Ritchie Bros. John’s specialty was in livestock and farm equipment when he started with the company, but he says it was an easy transition into selling industrial equipment. “My chant is diverse enough to sell livestock, real estate, equipment, and charity. I’ve done all those in one week, and you have to do them all different. Sometimes you’re dealing with novice buyers, or buyers who go to more sales than you do. Especially with the diversification between Colorado or Washington or Dubai or the Netherlands, communication is crucial. If you can’t communicate, there’s nothing. I can change my chant to work with all aspects of the profession, but still create urgency to bid and be entertaining.”
Another challenge is working not only with bidders and proxy bidders at the actual auction, but also internet bidders, where the rapport with the crowd and the eye contact isn’t possible via the computer. “There are so many tools, and whether you’re selling livestock or equipment, it’s pretty competitive,” John adds. “People have said the auction profession won’t need any more auctioneers with computers now, but I hope they’re not right. I still think there’s a need for that excitement.”
John shares some of his auctioneer knowledge in his instructional DVD Chant of a Champion, which was released in 2007. “It’s not to take the place of a school, but to help with things that might be missing,” he explains. “I’m working on putting out something else like a CD that people can listen to in their vehicles.” Along with helping the next generation of auctioneers, he’s passionate about giving back to the community. One of his favorite events is auctioneering at the National Western Junior Livestock Sale in Denver for the last 15 years, where 90% of the proceeds from sales go to the young exhibitors, and the other 10% is donated to the National Western Scholarship Trust.
When he’s not traveling to the next auction, John enjoys roping in the NSPRA and local jackpots. He competed on his PRCA permit one year shortly after college, but he didn’t like the intense traveling. “And now what am I doing? I’m traveling!” he says with a laugh. A few of his horses have been ridden by professional ropers Troy Pruitt and Chris Anderson, while John is the rodeo chairman of the PRCA rodeo in Logan County. One of his goals is to qualify for the World Series of Team Roping Finale in Las Vegas, but his main priority is spending time with his two daughters and sons-in-law, and his five grandchildren. They also run a small cow/calf operation on John’s farm.
“I feel so blessed with the things given to me in the auction profession,” he finishes. “Who would ever dream that the little country boy with no experience in the auction business would be doing what I’m doing. I have to pinch myself sometimes.”

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