August 10, 2014
Justin J. Manning's father, Jerome J. Manning, started JJManning Auctioneers in 1976. Growing up on Cape Cod - and around his father's business - Justin started to follow in his father's footsteps. Justin spoke about his career in the industry, his knowledge in marketing, and the challenges of running a real estate business on the Cape.
What's the most important thing your business does?
Our companies focus is on marketing and selling real estate exclusively at auctions. We are dually licensed as auctioneers and brokers, but we only sell at auctions. We feel that the auction method is the truest method in acquiring true market value. When someone wants to find out what their property is truly worth, a hard-hitting marketing campaign will give them that answer.
How long have you been in business?
My father started the business in 1976, and we were incorporated in 1978, so we're going on 37 years. Personally I've been doing this full-time for 22 years, since I graduated from Babson College with a Bachelor's degree in marketing in 1993.
What did you do before?
I was always somewhat of a mentor, working as a coach for the Yarmouth Recreation Department. I've always loved coaching and mentoring kids, which I still do in my very little free time these days.
How big was your staff when you first started? How about now?
When my father first started the company, it was just my mother, brother, and me helping him. It started with just us four, and grew to as big as 45 employees back in the late '80s early '90s when there was a giant influx of foreclosures. That moment was a time when our company did an awful lot of foreclosures, even though that's a very small portion of our business today. Now, we've got seven full-time staff.
Our business also deals with a lot more outsourcing now, so we can expand that seven to about 30, given the level of business. But we do try to keep as much as we can of that outsourcing on the Cape, by using local businesses. We feel like it's important to give back to the community where we started and still exist.
How has the market changed since you started?
Real estate is our focus, I myself have been involved in two downturns, and my father has been involved in three downturns. So, for us, the cool thing about our business is that we have this strange consistency, and here's why: When the market tanks and the economy is down, we have the benefit of having banks and attorneys come to us to handle important foreclosures. When the market is hot, auctions are amazing - it's harder for me to get listings, but there's money on the street and more bidders, so the auctions are awesome.
What are your plans for your business future?
It is consistently staying in tune with what's working for marketing for our business. I would have thought that hard mailings and newspaper ads would have been done for us a few years ago, but they're more important than ever. Time after time, people come to our auctions with the ads from the paper or a flier they received in the mail, so there is a place and value to that. But, now, the blend is much more different. I might put a listing on a Facebook business page, and get 15,000 views and 152 shares, and I know that the value of that is huge. So, for me, it's staying ahead of marketing which is going more into the technology side, and also focusing on becoming more projects-based instead of volume-based.
What's the best thing about having a business on the Cape?
If I don't have a meeting, I can come to work in shorts and sandals. With the Cape, we can live here and bring the kids up in a safe environment. Also, it's that balance of staying aggressive and staying ahead of our competition, but enjoying the fact that we can be here and not feel the pressure of all the suits running around, like in the city.
What's the biggest challenge to having a business on the Cape?
Getting over the hurdle of people making an assumption that you are less because you're not at a city address. People jump to the conclusion that we are not the vendor that they need, when ultimately, if they looked at our portfolio and resume and speak with us, they would go with us. As long as we get a shot we overcome it, but it's, 'Are we missing out on some shots because of our address?' I don't know the answer to do that, but I do know, if given the opportunity, more than not, we will get the task done.
What has been the most memorable moment with the business?
It was on May 11, 2010. We were hired by GE Capital to sell Burlington Woods, which was an office park in Burlington. Well, the sale took a very long time, the legal notice was about 10 pages long, but we ended up selling the property for $33 million to Jonathan Davis. For me, I felt like it was the moment where things transitioned for my dad and me. It was a time when he felt like he was ready to move aside, because this was such a huge project that I had worked on solely. I think that was a passing-of-the-torch moment for us, in the company that gave him the comfort and me the confidence to understand that our company will thrive in the second generation.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business on the Cape?
Networking is important in your industry. I also believe that it's very important to get opinions and have contacts and meeting off-Cape as well. People also need to have local connections to try and keep their business here. At the same time, don't keep a narrow mind. Go to classes and do things that will give a good perspective about your business.