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Springfield, MO

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A Conversation With ... Billy Long

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Tell us about your company.

I graduated from auction school in November 1979. I was selling real estate for Doral T. Hanks & Co., and interest rates were high and nothing was moving, ... I thought this might be a better way to do (real estate). I'd gone to auctions since I was a little kid and enjoyed them. We do roughly 200 auctions a year, and we have four full-time and one part-time employees and approximately 10 contractors. We usually work in a 100-mile radius of Springfield.

How has the recession hit your company?

It's hurt our business like everybody else's. People think auctioneers will do better in bad times, but the truth is, we do better in good times, when there's a lot of demand in the market. ... Right now, there's not much demand, and there's a lot of supply. People will call wanting me to auction their house, and maybe they owe $180,000 and it's only worth $150,000 now.

How are real estate auctions different from traditional transactions?

You put 10 percent down, and then you've got 21 days to come up with the balance. You've got to have financing arranged ahead of time. That's one thing about the auction method; it's cash money as-is. People ... don't have to worry about fixing the furnace or the roof or anything. We have to tell them anything that we know is wrong, but they can't come back later and say, "Well, the furnace quit three weeks after we bought it." Because it's a cash auction, it's not contingent on financing, loans, inspections or appraisals. If you buy through a traditional real estate broker, you can hammer down the price, then get it inspected, and come back and ask (the seller) to fix things, and then you apply for financing. If you don't get your financing, guess what? You get out of the deal. If you don't get your financing on an auction, guess what? You lose your down payment.

Any memorable auctions from the last 30 years?

We did an auction back in 1989, and there was a punch bowl that we sold there that brought $99,000 and it didn't even have any punch in it. It was a Tiffany punch bowl.

Why did you decide to enter politics as a Republican candidate for Roy Blunt's U.S. House seat?

When Roy Blunt was in town back in January, they asked him what he thought about (U.S. Sen. Kit) Bond's seat, and he said, "I'm seriously considering it." And I said, "OK, I'm running." That's the day I started running. I wanted to run back in 1996 when Roy ran, but my kids were too young. I wasn't going to raise them up in D.C., and I wasn't in a position where I could walk away from my business. They make you liquidate your business once you get elected, if it's a fiduciary business. Real estate auctions are considered a fiduciary business. The reason I wanted to run then is the same reason I'm running now. The system was set up to send community leaders and businesspeople to D.C. to do the business of the country, stay a few years and come home. Right now, more than half of our congressmen have spent more than half of their adult lives in one political office or another, and it's just not working.

How do you balance running your business and building your campaign war chest, now more than $405,000?

Most of my efforts have been devoted toward the congressional run. I've just got good people here who have been with me a long time, and they're carrying the water on running the business.

How will your experience translate to politics?

I'm a salesman. I think that's what you need - somebody who has a little sales ability and can negotiate and talk to people and explain to them that we don't have a printing press that can just keep cranking out money that our kids are going to have to pay for.

As a political candidate, you signed the FreedomWorks Earmarks Pledge, which works to combat wasteful earmarks. Why?

Earmarks, to me have gotten totally out of hand. ... We ended up with a turtle tunnel out of this $787 billion stimulus package ... in Florida where the turtles can now safely cross the road. I think it was $3.7 million to build an underground turtle tunnel, but I don't know how you get the turtles to the right spot, whether there are signs that are written in turtle-ese that say, "Speed up, turtles merging ahead," or what.

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