Had Martin Nolan studied engineering instead of accounting, his career path would likely never have entered the worlds of Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson.
Still, Irish-born Nolan is quick to point out that it was a Green Card lottery, not his accounting degree, that facilitated his relocation to New York City, where he would meet and ultimately team up with Darren Julien of Julien’s Auctions, the world’s leading entertainment auction house.Read More
Before the two men met, Nolan had traveled a remarkable distance from his early days in New York, where in the early 1990s—Green Card in hand—he had landed a job working at the front desk of the New York Hilton.
In the years that followed, the determined Irishman had networked his way up into a string of Wall Street jobs, where he found success as a stock broker and investment advisor at such firms as JP Morgan Chase and Merrill Lynch.
“Darren was doing a Johnny Cash auction when I met him—he was a marketing guy who needed a finance guy, so I joined him,” explains Nolan, who met Julien in 2004 and the following year signed on with the auction house as CFO. By 2010 Nolan had become an equal partner in the business.
“When I resigned from Merrill Lynch in 2005 and told my colleagues that I was joining Julien’s Auctions, there were looks of dismay—they would say: ‘Why auctions? It’s such a different business. It’s so risky …,’” says Nolan, who pointed out to his colleagues that the buying and selling on the floor of the stock exchange was no different than what takes place inside an auction hall.
Fifteen years later, he continues to wield a healthy appetite for risk, a prerequisite for any CFO daring enough to enter the ebb-and-flow of the auction business. For Nolan, the risks are best hedged by using a mix of financial best practices and good humor.
Says Nolan: “Darren wakes up in the morning and checks Google and asks: ‘Are we in the news?’ I wake up and check the bank accounts and ask: ‘Are we still in business?’”
However, there’s one risk that Nolan may fear more than any other: that a finance career hatched by a lottery win could put Wall Street in its rearview and still someday be labeled as ordinary. – Jack Sweeney
CFOTL: What are your priorities as a CFO over the next twelve months?
Nolan: I am excited about the future and our pipeline is very strong. In fact, my one sort of concern is that we don’t grow too fast. That’s the concern because we’ve had exponential growth in the last 12 months, and projecting out it looks to be phenomenal. I’m concerned about what is our optimum level. I don’t want our business to choke us with so much property coming in and getting more warehouses and hiring more staff and sort of losing touch with the team.Read More
I like being very hands-on as I am with the clients on the buy side and the sell side, but also with our team, because without our team, we are nothing. They are like family and we have a very good compensation package for our employees and very good health care, health insurance, life insurance. We have a profit share pension plan, which is almost unusual for companies today. They’ll have some defined benefit pension plan, and we have a very good bonus scheme as well, so we really care for our employees because we know how important they are to the whole success of the business.
And so looking forward, we’re trying to manage to the optimum size, we don’t want to grow too big, but we are on a growth trajectory. So I’m training our (team), very competently, especially with the auctions that we have in our pipeline, and just trying to stay true to who we are by bringing honest, authentic items to the auction so that people, when they come to our auctions, they know they’re buying with confidence; that what we represent in our catalog online is what they are going to own when the gavel goes down.
Parting Quote: People would ask, “Why auctions? It’s such a different business.” The reality is that it’s not. Auctions are around for over a thousand years. On the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, you’ll have buyers and sellers. Auctions bring buyers and sellers together. We’re selling tangible assets.
Julien’s Auctions | www.juliensauctions.com |HQ: Culver City, CA