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Thursday, June 9, 2016

Take Advice and Make Opportunities

By Helen (Len) D. de Rohan, ISA AM, Membership Retention Committee

You may have seen the new motto spreading amongst ISA members—“ISA means business!”— particularly when fellow members are sharing the advice that they received when they were new appraisers looking to jumpstart their business.

Carol Matesic, ISA AM, is one of several to share her enthusiastic encouragement. “Never be afraid to admit what you don’t know,” she says. “I don’t think anyone has ever faulted me for saying, ‘I don’t know but I do know how to find out or who to call.’ I think that is the best part of ISA … the community of appraisers willing to assist each other in gaining knowledge.”

Cindy Charleston-Rosenberg, ISA CAPP and past ISA President, gives the same advice, which she credits as having been passed to her by the late Norman Hurst. “Never be afraid to admit what you don’t know. It doesn’t undermine your credibility. It actually builds confidence in your integrity when you admit that you have to explore a question further and/or consult with your network of specialists who have a more specific expertise.”

Along the same lines, when I took a Prints and Paintings course from Brenda Simonson-Mohle, ISA CAPP, at the Whitehall Antiques Summer Seminar, she encouraged the class to admit to a client whenever we hadn’t heard of a certain artist. With so many artists from so many periods, we should not expect ourselves to know all of them. 

Several ISA members recommend working with auction houses, galleries or antique businesses. Leila Dunbar, ISA AM, Roadshow sports authority and presenter of two Chubb webinars, says working at an auction house gave her a wide spectrum of expertise and exposure. Gay Gapser Pleasant, ISA AM, works as a phone bidder for Leland Little Auctions, where, despite not being a full-time staff member, she has made valuable contacts with the experts at the auction house. Sarah Campbell Drury, ISA AM, and I both work for Case Auctions, Inc. in Tennessee, a location that puts us in daily contact with a wide range of objects. In fact, many of my appraisal referrals come from the auction house.

Jan Durr, ISA CAPP, notes, “One of the best experiences for me was operating an antiques mall, with the day-to-day fielding of varying questions by dealers and the public. It required research for valuation, growth in product knowledge, and building relationships.”

When she first joined the society, Vanessa Elmore, ISA, another Chubb webinar presenter, worked for almost twenty years in two galleries of Native American art and artifacts. She says that those years gave her industry contacts that included collectors, dealers, museum people, and fellow appraisers. It also gave her an understanding and knowledge of the ‘dealer’ world, insight that can be especially valuable as an appraiser. Developing a relationship with an auction house or retail business can be very beneficial in growing your appraisal business.

Marian (Mo) Aubry, ISA CAPP, says that as a new business owner, “The best advice I ever got came from a business man who suggested not that I write a business plan, but instead, write an employee handbook for myself! It not only forced me to explain my tasks step-by-step, but it also caused me to consider what an employee might want to know about my business—its goals, overall attitude and conduct. The exercise helped me to be better organized and more professional.”

Mandy Sabbadini, ISA AM, believes that mentoring with an experienced appraiser—and working in the field with her mentor—was essential to her growth and knowledge. Maria Gianino, ISA, recommends attending as many continuing educational programs in your area of interest. She also volunteers to speak to local community groups on the subject of downsizing one’s possessions, after which she’ll regularly receive numerous follow-up appraisal inquiries.

These are only a few bits of advice that your fellow appraisers have to offer up. The overall message is clear: The possibilities for advancement in your profession are endless, and you are limited only by your own efforts and imagination. It’s like Dr. Seuss said… “Oh, the things you can think if only you try!”

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