Entrepreneur Success: Interview with Fortuna Auction’s John Saxon

Fortuna Auction’s President John Saxon was interviewed on IdeaMensch, a site featuring entrepreneurs. Here’s his Q&A:

John is responsible for providing executive leadership, strategic vision, and high-level oversight of global operations and business development for the auction house. John has more than 15 years of experience in business development and growth strategy and holds a Master’s Degree in engineering. Prior to Fortuna, he served as an executive at a global engineering and project management firm, where his primary responsibilities involved oversight of global operations and business development for the energy division. John also co-founded and owned small businesses in the software, real estate, and education industries.

Where did the idea for Fortuna come from?

Fortuna was originally started as a fine jewelry auction house with a core mission of protecting the seller. Two of the co-founders had been in the jewelry industry for many years and had bad experiences with other auction houses that led them to realize that there was a serious opportunity to build an auction house that protected sellers from all of the risks that have, over centuries of business, become so commonplace in the industry.

For many reasons, when one would like to sell their fine jewelry (and other precious belongings), the best place to do it is at auction. The auction, by its nature, when executed properly, is designed to bring the seller the highest fair market value for the goods they are selling. There are two primary reasons reasons why one might avoid auction, however. One is “time”. Auctions, by their nature, take time. Some auction houses hold onto jewelry (and other goods for sale) for as long as six months, or more. The second reason why one might decide not to sell through auction, is “cost”. Most auction houses charge hefty fees for their services, on top of the sellers premium. These include fees for marketing, cataloging, photography, insurance, and often an “unsold lot fee”. Furthermore, these fees are usually assessed regardless of whether or not the jewelry sells.

At Fortuna, we do our best to eliminate both concerns. For one, if a consignor/seller is in need of money immediately, we have methods by which we can provide immediate funds before the auction even takes place. This eliminates the “time” concern. Secondly, and most importantly, we believe strongly that, if we cannot successfully sell your jewelry (and other precious belongings), then you owe us nothing. We are proud to be the world’s only no-risk fine jewelry auction. We charge no fees for our services. All photography, cataloging, marketing, and insurance are provided by our world-class team or professionals, free of charge. We only make money if your jewelry sells – and we are happy to say that even our sellers premium is lower than most of our competitors’.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I spend most of my day on business development – talking to and meeting with clients. In between meetings, I work on various higher level strategic tasks that the business needs (i.e., developing new programs and processes). However, before any of this occurs, I start each and every day with a structured morning routine that includes meditation, visualization, and physical exercise. Starting my day this way allows me to approach the day with a clear and focused mind and I contribute a lot of my productivity throughout the day to the way that I start it. Following my early morning routine, I head in to the office. Before diving into any work or attending any meetings, I always spend the first few minutes creating a list of priorities for the day and I use that list to keep me organized throughout the day – this greatly impacts my productivity.

How do you bring ideas to life?

When I have an idea that I believe in, I spend time mentally approaching the idea from all angles and then I develop an execution plan. I then disseminate the idea and plan to the appropriate people within the organization and work with them to develop a budget and schedule for the project. Then we get to work. The key, I have found, is developing a well-thought-out idea and a strong execution plan to implement the idea. Following this, it is important to deliver the vision and plan in an articulate and inspirational manner to the team that will be executing. The idea finally comes to life when our hard-working team of high-performing people fully deliver.

What’s one trend that excites you?

There is a trend in world right now towards inter-connectivity. There are billions of people in the world, each with their own set of ideas, skills, tools, beliefs, likes, dislikes, daily activities, experiences, etc. By finding synergistic overlaps between people and connecting them, a massive amount of progress can be made. There are already many companies doing this in their own ways, however, there is still a lot of room for new ideas and improvements to existing business models. This trend is truly exciting, as I believe it will continue to uncover massive amounts of before-unrealized potential. This trend is and I believe will continue to change the world.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As simple as it sounds, one of the habits that makes me most productive is my habit to write everything down. I use a legal pad and any thought, idea, notes on a discussion, list of things that need to be done, etc. all get written down the minute they enter my head. This one simple thing has helped my productivity levels tremendously over the years.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to set higher goals, fully embrace healthy obsessions, live to improve and be the best you can be at everything that you do, and always believe in yourself, your dreams, and your ability to truly achieve anything you set your mind to.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?

Obsession is the single most important thing to achieving extreme success.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

The one thing that I think I do over and over again, that I believe everyone should do, is to keep a constant line of communication open with myself – a feedback loop – where I continually work on self improvement by analyzing my own ideas and actions and asking myself if I am truly approaching things in the best possible manner.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Obsession and total domination. I am not in business to come in second place at anything. I firmly believe that I, with the support of my partners, can be the best at anything we set our minds to. Approaching each and every situation and challenge with this mindset has helped us see tremendous success in all that we do.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Honestly, I don’t believe in failure. I have never failed and will not fail. I have stumbled and even fallen, but never quit the race – I have and will always keep going. Failure only occurs, I believe, when you give up. When something doesn’t go the way I planned it, I adjust and keep moving forward. The goals, plan, and path may change but the race doesn’t. The ultimate goal is success and success is always achievable if you never quit.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There are so many opportunities in today’s world and I have many ideas, most of which I plan on pursuing, however, there are a few ideas that I will likely never pursue and I believe that the world would be a better place if we shared such ideas with each other in the hopes that someone finds a way to turn a raw idea into a successful business that in some way benefits the world. One idea that I have is “A tool borrowing platform”. I’ve seen it attempted before but not successfully, as far as I can tell. Here’s the general idea: I live in NYC. When I need a tool, such as a hammer, I might ask my neighbor if he/she has one but if they don’t, I go and buy one. If I was able to open an app that was able to connect me with another person nearby that had a hammer and was wiling to loan it to me for $2/day, it would solve my problem and help the owner of the hammer make earn some passive income.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I would say that the best $100 I recently spent was for some of the books that I have recently purchased. I am a strong believer in education for life. One should never stop learning and growing as a person and professional in their field. This grown and development starts with knowledge and one of the best places to gain knowledge is by reading the thoughts and ideas of others. Furthermore, I firmly believe that books are one of the best investments (in terms of actual ROI) that one can find. For just $20, you can improve yourself and change your way of thinking and in fact your life. Some of the most recent books I have bought include: ‘Be Obsessed or Be Average,’ by Grant Cardone; ‘Millionaire Fastlane,’ by M. J. DeMarco; ‘The 10X Rule,’ by Grant Cardone; ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ by Dale Carnegie; and ‘Awaken The Giant Within,’ by Tony Robbins.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Salesforce. At Fortuna we use Salesforce as our CRM platform and it is incredibly useful for keeping our sales and customer service processes streamlined and organized. We use this software to track every aspect about our relationships with our clients. We keep records on all contact information and custom notes as well as any communications that occur via phone, text, or email with that client. In addition, we track all sales opportunities and are able to visibly push each opportunity through our sales funnel. In addition, Salesforce offers a whole host of other reporting and other powerful tools to help manage client relationships.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

There are so many, but if I had to pick just one that would inspire this audience of entrepreneurs, it would have to be Millionaire Fastlane, by M. J. DeMarco.

Key Learnings

  • When I have an idea that I believe in, I spend time mentally approaching the idea from all angles and then I develop an execution plan.
  • The one thing that I think I do over and over again, that I believe everyone should do, is to keep a constant line of communication open with myself – a feedback loop – where I continually work on self improvement by analyzing my own ideas and actions and asking myself if I am truly approaching things in the best possible manner.

What is your favorite quote?

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.

– Steve Jobs