A bazillion years ago when I took notes in high school with a chisel and stone, when Saturday night was Love Boat and Fantasy Island (The plane! The plane!), when Twisted Sister wasn’t your sibling, I used to work as a waiter for the Sheraton Hotel. I was finishing my undergraduate degree at the UW by day and working the hotel gigs by night. It was there at that hotel during my young, broke, and I’ve got fabulous potential years that I first saw one of the great auctions – Poncho.

Patrons of Northwest Civic, Cultural and Charitable Organizations – (PONCHO)   When I worked there it was $1000 a plate. It was one of the most glamorous nights in Washington. The guest list was the who’s who, a term I’ve never understood – does that mean who is who in town or who is who like you don’t know who they are? Anyway, whoever they were, they were there. Poncho would raise over a million dollars in one night! The auction would leave you spell bound.

Dick Friel was the auctioneer. He was a robust man with slicked back hair, a polished chant, patent leather shoes and a beautiful wife by his side. The guy had a toothy front grill that gleamed. Crest would have thrown money at him. He had this signature stomp – kind of like if a guy looked down and saw his poodle on fire, after he sold every item. I remember being in my twenties looking up at the stage in this massive ballroom at this gifted auctioneer, “Wow that would be such a cool job to have!” I’d think to myself. This was back when I was wearing my penguin outfit clearing tables. Thanks Dick for the inspiration! Dick would don his tuxedo and black rimmed glasses calling out names of people like he was running for congress the next morning.

Poncho’s décor for the evening was unmatched. There would be an eight or nine course meal, depending on the year – I know because I served it. The tables were crisp linen, sparkly silverware with a glint of glory, sexy stem wear, and centerpieces that usually took a day to assemble with long delicately pristine roses and fragrant fruity stuff.

When you walked into the ballroom you were transported into another place. One year the theme was Spain. There would be a flamenco dancer stomping like Dick, a Spanish guitarist with a flashy red costume. A bullfighter was one of the greeters at the door, and the bull was dinner.  When the massive doors opened, and guests walked in, the mood in the room was one of excitement and anticipation.  What you choose to allow around you affects what’s in you. I learned that early in life. I still see that law in practice today.

Take for example your residence. If your place looks like Hurricane Katrina is your spouse, if the dishes are piling up and singing the hymn “Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow”, if the bathroom has grime so thick Comet is shaking its head saying, “No way.” It affects you. The choices you make, about what your environment looks like, affects you deeper than you think.

If things are clean you feel better. If they’re in order you feel in order. It’s a profound law that gives us so much control over how we can make others feel. Whether it’s the guy trying to make his date feel romantic with soft lights and Marvin Gaye or the girl trying to make her guy feel special with a set table and chicken almondine, the choices we make, about what our environment looks like, can have a profound affect on those around us.  What you choose to have around you affects what’s in you.

When I was struggling to build this auction business I figured out a symbolic way to remind myself that I’m going to make it. Building a business is tough. There’s rejection, long hours driving to interviews, being told you’re not good enough, and desperately trying to prove you are. It’s so similar to dating. The auction business was even tougher at times. I came up with a few things that have never failed me. You ready for this? I make my bed. Every day I make my bed. I never used to do that. I’m single so there’s no one to tell me to do anything. If I don’t do it – it don’t get done! I cleaned my room, and got my house in order.

I remember when I would get home and see the bed unmade it was a feeling of, “wow that looks sloppy.” Finally I decided that I would get up and every morning and make the bed.  It was a symbolic thing that said my life was in order. Now when I come home my bed is made, my room is in order and so am I. I’m going to make it! You’re going to hire me! We’re going to have years together building your auction!  The choices I make for what is around me affect what’s inside me.

So for Décor at your auction envision what you want our guests to feel when they walk in. It really doesn’t take a lot of money to create that feeling. Little details make all the difference. What are those things you can do that will evoke the right feelings when you’re guests walk in? What are your made bed strategies that show your house is in order and we’re so thrilled you’re here?

Décor is about creating a feeling inside the hearts and minds of our guests. It’s one of the most powerful ways you can influence what they feel by controlling what they see and experience. I agree with themes at auctions. I think they’re wonderful principles that make a big difference with how much money is made. Themes like Moulin Rouge, Casino Royal or the Island Hospital one last year was “Puttin on the Ritz”. It was fabulous! Guys showed up in James Cagney outfits and women dressed in tassled dresses with boas and head bands. It was so well done you could feel prohibition and the speakeasy – although that didn’t stop anyone.

The entire place was enveloped in a thinly veiled, white curtain and there were little details like ribbons and wrapped chairs that gave so much to the décor. It created a mood that quickly elevated the quality of the evening.  It’s like walking into Wal-Mart and Nordstrom. Both stores give a different feeling and people spend differently because of it.

So as you plan your auction think about the little details that make a difference. Decide as a committee what it is you want your guests to feel and then design the room to evoke those feelings. Money is made when guests feel you went to a lot of trouble to make them feel special. The choices you make for them on the outside will profoundly affect what they feel on the inside.

Love you guys.



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