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MaxSold: the power of diversity for innovation at work

In 2010, Gordon and Perumal combined their seemingly mismatched expertise to fuse the best from the old with the best from the new. They created MaxSold Inc., an innovative, 21st century auction company that has erased the writing and torn down the wall.

 

By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco

At first, it seems logical to assume Sushee Perumal and Barry Gordon have little in common. Perumal is in his 30s, with experience working in Fortune 500 companies and early-stage start-ups. He has been immersed in technology--in other words, the leading-edge industry--throughout his career. Gordon is a second-generation auctioneer who founded his own company in the same decade Perumal was born.

And he’s very good at it.

He was the first Canadian member of the National Auctioneers Association to be indicted into its Hall of Fame, primarily in honour of his work helping seniors through the difficult process of downsizing with his Kingston, Ontario-based Gordon’s Estate Services. But despite his business’s continued success, auctioneering overall is an old industry facing some serious writing on the wall.

In 2010, Gordon and Perumal combined their seemingly mismatched expertise to fuse the best from the old with the best from the new. They created MaxSold Inc., an innovative, 21st century auction company that has erased the writing and torn down the wall.

For people who want to sell their household belongings when downsizing, MaxSold has on-the-ground teams that handle every step of the process for them, including cataloguing and photographing everything to be auctioned--and co-ordinating the picking up of sold items.

But instead of the auction taking place in an auction house, it goes live in cyberspace at MaxSold.com. From just a couple of auctions a month in Ontario in the early days, MaxSold has extended its reach to some 55 across Canada and in 15 US states every month. Business is booming. Now, the company is revving up to take on some 500 auctions a month.

This is how the power of diversity for innovation works: different perspectives coming together to create a new concept with the combined knowhow to make it happen.


MaxSold’s age diversity extends beyond its leadership. With a variety of backgrounds and work experience, MaxSold’s 200 (and growing) employees range between people in their 20s to those in their 70s.

Because most of MaxSold’s customers are seniors downsizing, and empathetic customer service is paramount to the company’s success, “While we don’t specifically look for people in their 60s and 70s, we do see people being in that age group as a plus. They’ve had the exposure to the solid wood furniture, Grandma’s teacups and China and figurines, crystal. They can more easily understand that yes, it’s collecting dust but it has sentimental value and should be treated with respect. When people are downsizing after living 30 or 60 years in the same home, it’s one the most stressful changes in a person’s life.”

As well, the company does not do the kind of specialized skills & experience checklist hiring so many employers have turned to in recent times.

“I think a lot of the software programs for screening resumes use keywords and if those aren’t in the resume, the system rejects it,” says Perumal, who is the company’s CEO.  “But we hire human beings because they’re capable of adapting and learning. If you’re looking for something so specific, it’s probably better you get a machine do it. Look for attitude and train for skill. We keep that in mind when we do any hiring,” says Perumal.

Had it not been for his approach and open mind, Perumal would have likely skipped over the resume of a retired school principal a few years ago. “She’d never had a smartphone, never used a touch screen,” says Perumal, who hired her on her strengths despite the fact that the job consisted of cataloguing the items for the auctions using an app on an iPad.

“When I went down to do the hands-on training, I was showing her how to use the app,” says Perumal. “She asked if she could try it on her on own. She was a whiz on it. It just shows you can’t assume anything about anyone.”

 

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