The president/CEO of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers discusses her passion for the auction business.
As told to Tricia Despres.
I firmly believe a major component to success is making your passion your profession. It’s certainly worked for me.
I love what I do and always have – from the consignors who sell things to the marketing involved in achieving top dollar for everything we sell. This is an industry filled with people who have wonderful stories, including how they acquired these treasures in the first place. Through the years, we’ve handled everything from a lock of Elvis’ hair to a $632,000 10-carat diamond. It’s been an amazing ride filled with twists and turns.
Growing up, I can’t say for certain that I knew what I wanted to do professionally. I lived in Hinsdale and had a wonderful childhood. My parents exposed all of us to a wide range of experiences both here and abroad. I lived in Europe every summer and spent countless hours at museums alongside my mother. It’s probably why I became interested in paintings.
I went to college but quit shortly before graduating. I guess you could say I loved to travel, but didn’t love school. Soon after, I took a job at Merrill Lynch, where I was blessed to have a boss who could see into my heart and point me toward an industry I’d love…which is how I lucked into the auction business.
I was fortunate to land a job at Sotheby’s at a very early age. My parents knew Catharine Hamilton, who was in the process of opening the first Sotheby’s outside of New York in Chicago. I asked my mother to make an introduction. She said no and told me if I wanted to talk to Catharine, I needed to call myself. I called, she answered and I was hired as her assistant in 1977. I loved the industry immediately.
A short time later, I realized the Midwest needed a major auction house, and I sought financial backing from a fantastic group of Chicago business leaders. Much to my surprise, they were ready to bet on me, a 27-year-old woman eager and prepared for hard work. I can’t tell you how important and helpful these investors were right from the very beginning. I’ve been extremely fortunate to be surrounded by people who’ve tutored me, believed in me and supported me.
This year marks our 30th year in business and, to this day, I’m still in love with everything about the auction business. I’ve had the pleasure of working with countless young employees and keep in touch with many of them. It’s definitely rewarding. I don’t have children, so I take advantage of every moment I can to celebrate these wonderful people who have stood alongside me and helped my business grow. We’re constantly working together to make each auction a success. We get to meet new people every day and discover the most interesting stories about their lives.