Sale Barn Savvy
A young sale barn co-owner and co-manager mixes old-fashioned networking with social media to help her business grow.Growing up in Lexington, Texas, Madi Bexley always wanted to purchase her own herd of cattle and dreamed of one day owning an auction barn.
“I’ve wanted to own a sale barn for as far back as I can remember,” she says.
At age 8, Bexley began working in the auction barn café her grandparents operated.
“With my daddy auctioneering in the background, I carried tickets until I was old enough to do office work. I worked every Saturday at our local barn from grade school until I graduated college. In fact, I worked three different sales, every week, during college,” she says. “I developed a true passion for the sale barn and cattle industry in general.”
Today, Bexley, 24, does more than work at an auction barn. She co-owns and co-manages Lockhart Auction Inc., in Lockhart, Texas, with partners Bubba Bennight and Jim Schwertner, both longtime cattlemen.
She also got that herd of cattle she dreamed about. Bexley started small with a few cows and has grown her cow-calf operation with financing through Capital Farm Credit.
Carving her pathIn 2018, a week after graduating from Texas A&M University, Bexley learned Lockhart Auction was changing hands. She jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.
Women-owned sale barns are uncommon. But if anyone had doubts about her joining the business, she’s proved to be a natural.
“People don’t expect that I understand the sale barn business,” says Bexley. “Some thought I was a spoiled young girl whose father bought her a company to run.
“After talking with me for a little bit, they quickly realize that’s not the case. I’m making my own way. It’s my business.”
Her father, Keith, is the auctioneer at Lockhart Auction. He was a partner in the same sale barn from 1993 to 2003 and is honored Madi is following in his footsteps.
“I knew early on that Madi had an eye for cattle,” says her proud dad.Bexley handles Lockhart Auction’s office, finances and marketing. In addition, on most Wednesdays, she’s helping haul and unload cattle, penning and “writing them up.” This
allows her to personally thank the sellers for their business.
Expanding the businessBusiness is on the upswing. Since 2018, sales at Lockhart Auction have nearly quadrupled, largely because the partners expanded their trade radius and improved customer service and marketing.
“When the sale barn changed hands, it was selling 12,000 head a year. Last year, we sold nearly 50,000 head of cattle,” says Bexley.
She’s found social media has its place in the cattle business. Bexley posts photos of the livestock before each sale day. This lets buyers who can’t attend see what’s available.
“One customer in Oklahoma purchased a horse after seeing it on our Facebook page, and we were able to ship the animal to her,” says Bexley.
In addition, she’s a guest on a local radio program where she discusses the auction’s weekly offerings and the cattle market.
Running a sale barn is a team effort. Bexley, Bennight and Schwertner rely heavily on old-fashioned networking and a good support team to drive most of the company’s success.
Putting customers firstBexley says Lockhart Auction’s philosophy is simple: Treat people right.
“We try to do good, honest business, day in and day out,” she says.
“I enjoy getting to know people,” she says. “The business end and paperwork are my least favorite parts of my job. What’s most important are the relationships that working at the sale barn allows me to develop.
“When you take time to get to know your customers, you understand the type of cattle they like and want. If we have something I know one of our customers might be interested in, I let them know. I also add it would be good to see them in the crowd on sale day!”
Chase Lore is Bexley’s Capital Farm Credit loan officer. She’s also a customer of Lockhart Auction, which gives her a unique perspective.
“My husband and I sold cattle in Lockhart before Madi became a partner,” says Lore. “It’s great to see how the business has grown.
“The sales used to be over at 3 p.m., now they sometimes last past 10 p.m. She’ll even pick your cattle up if you can’t deliver them to the sale barn.”
Moving forward with her lenderBexley plans on expanding her relationship with Capital.
“Chase did everything she could to help me get a cattle note,” Bexley says. “She and her team understand where I come from. They make it easy to help you make things happen.
“I’ll definitely use Capital Farm Credit to finance my next project.”
Doing it her wayFor now, Bexley wants to focus on expanding the sale barn’s market.
“Growing up around sale barns, I tried to soak up everything,” she says. “I tried to take the best part from each and implement it in my business.
“Not many 24-year-olds get the chance to live their dream so early in life. And I’m doing it my way.”