Guest Blogger: Rachel Cutrer & RHD Auctions

Photo courtesy of Ranch House Designs, Inc.

Today on the blog, we welcome Rachel Cutrer, President and Creative Director of Ranch House Designs, Inc.

Rachel and her staff are responsible for hundreds of websites within the livestock industry and provide numerous other creative marketing services for clients across the United States and even worldwide.

We’ve asked Rachel to be our guest blogger this month and visit a little bit about one of the newest outlets for Ranch House Designs — RHD Auctions.

Please join us in welcoming Rachel to our FMG guest blogger family and thank her for answering our questions.

1. Please share a little bit of your background in the livestock industry and RHD.
I grew up in the purebred cattle business on V8 Ranch in Texas, and I spent my childhood showing at all of the nations biggest shows and accompanying my dad Jim Williams as he judged a lot of these shows. So it was only natural for me to want a career in the cattle business. However for a young woman, especially one interested in going back to production agriculture, sometimes this is a challenging decision. By the time I was in college, I was handling our ranch?s advertising and web design and I felt like a career serving that niche of the business would be a perfect fit for my talents and interests. I majored in animal science at Texas A&M University and then got a master?s in communications from Michigan State, which at that time was the top program in the US for a student wanting a career in the beef cattle business. I really feel like this combination of my practical experience plus the classroom education is what has fueled RHD?s success. People enjoy working with someone who knows the business. My husband and I make our living in the cattle business too and there is a sense of comfort in knowing that I?m not just giving people random advice based on something I read or dreamed up ? it?s something I know and live every single day of the year.  Though I started the business just myself, today I am so proud to have assembled a team of leading professionals who all devote their passions to our clients’ success. We currently maintain more than 600 websites; yet still have an average update turnaround time of 1 hour or less. We know the business, and we love the business, and that?s what makes us such a successful firm.  

2. Why did you want to start an online auction service?
For years our clients had been asking us why we didn?t offer this service, and to be honest, I just didn?t want to be another person who was using the monthly subscription Maxanet software. If I was going to do it, I wanted it to be something phenomenal, not just average. Last summer an opportunity arose to partner with DV Auction as well as auctioneer Doak Lambert to offer live closeouts ? something new. After months visiting with the company and researching their services, I felt that this was a business that shared the same core values as RHD and someone I would want to be tied to. Of course, anytime you partner with someone, you immediately get associated with them, and so this was a decision I think both DV, Ideal, Doak and RHD carefully weighed. So the way our system works is that we utilize the immense technical power and service of DV Auction online software platform along with their established client base of more than 100,000 registered users who are in the cattle business. From there, RHD handles all of the marketing and promotional aspects of the auction?like the print, web and digital marketing. We have always used the slogan that we are ?one agency, one plan, one stop? but by offering marketing services like this ? we truly do offer every single service that a rancher would need under one roof.

The RHD Auction format. Photo courtesy of RHD Auctions.

3. What makes RHD Auctions different from your competitors?
Well first off, I never like to say we have competitors. When people ask me who?s my biggest competitor, I say we don?t have any. I have a lot of colleagues. In the cattle business, we all have to work together, and you never know when you might need some advice or a friend. There are so many talented people out there, and I find the best results happen through being open to working with others, not trying to isolate yourself out or make people try to choose sides in who they like to work with. Just like this new venture of the auctions ? it would have never happened without RHD teaming up with 3 other industry partners: DV, Ideal Video Productions, and Doak Lambert.  

But to answer your question, I feel our three biggest advantages are: the live auction closeout, low commission costs, and a true package deal. This live auction closeout feature is really cool, for those producers who want to use this service. Basically, when it is time for your online auction to close, auctioneer Doak Lambert comes on the computer screen with a live feed and actually bids off each animal. Viewers have the option to keep clicking on their mouse to bid. This gives every single person a chance to get their bids in. It even gives you a chance to ?talk? the cattle should you wish. This is VERY cool. Second, our low commission. Our rates are 5% for someone who is an RHD client and 6% for anyone else. Like I said, I?m a rancher too and I know how important keeping your costs down is for a ranch?s budget. From the beginning, we want a fair commission rate that ranchers could afford. And finally, everything you need for your sale is done under one roof, for one price? covered in your commission. So you don?t have to pay extra for an ad design, extra for an email blast, extra for social media coverage. Your 5-6% commission gets you EVERYTHING. And that?s very appealing. 

4. Tell us a little bit about the ?team? that works behind the scenes at RHD Auctions.
The Team at RHD auctions basically includes the powerhouse staff of everyone here at RHD, ranging from myself, 2 project managers with degrees in ag communications, 3 graphic designers, a social media specialist, Jamie Bloomberg who specializes in working with our seedstock accounts, and all of our nationwide reps. From the DV Auction side, you get the entire team of DV Auction, which includes 8 full time programmers and 5 customer service representatives.  The DV Auction team also includes auctioneer Doak Lambert (you might know him from the auctioneer of the Fort Worth stock show) as well as the Ideal Video productions team, who handle the video aspects of the auction side if desired by the client. The Ideal Video team just continues to set the bar in terms of video quality, user experience, and service. I am nothing short of honored to work with this phenomenal team. And by having a sale with us, you get to draw from all of these people?s talents and expertise in the business.

5. When will you host your first auction? 

We will begin hosting auctions in late February, early March. *Editor’s Note: Tuell Cattle Frozen Reserve Online Semen Sale will be held Feb. 24 & 25 on RHD Auctions.

6. You contacted Focus and asked to list us as an ?industry partner? when scheduling photography and videography for RHD Auctions. Why us?
Ideal Video Productions is our primary service provider of videography and also offers photography. We also partnered up with JoelynnRathmann, who is a former employee of both RHD and Ideal Video. We wanted to be able to recommend to our clients one more possible partner who could serve a nationwide clientele, especially since many of RHD?s clients are in the Midwest. We have worked with Focus Marketing group on numerous projects before?and so they were a natural fit. We have hundreds of our cattle clients who are already using Focus for their photographs and already send them over to us for their website. It was a no-brainer to want to be able to recommend Focus Marketing Group because of their high quality photos, outstanding service, and nationwide coverage area.

7. Ideally, how many sales will RHD Auctions host per year? 

We are looking to host 20-30 sales our first year. We definitely do not want to be a Wal-Mart or Sam?s Club online auction service where we want to host 42,000 online sales a year. We?re more going for the Neiman Marcus type service. We are looking for quality, not quantity. We feel like 1 sale a week would be our max, so that we can devote the appropriate time to each client.

8. RHD has grown tremendously the past few years. How do you keep everything straight? 

Ha! It?s extreme OCD and lots of organized team members! No really, we have one master Excel spreadsheet where we keep all of our projects listed, the deadline, and who the project manager and the designer is for each project. Anytime someone does anything regarding that project, they update it. It?s on a shared server and we all can access it at anytime. The deadline sheet is hated by many of my team members ha ha?but it is necessary to keep everything on track. For example now, we have 153 projects on the books. Second, we have project folders for each and every job we do. We keep these in Pottery Barn daily system bins broken down for 6 weeks in advance. So at any given time we are typically pre-scheduled out with design projects 6 weeks out. We also use Dropbox, which lets us keep track of files from different computers and even our phones. I?m an organizational freak. But our system does seem to work for us, and we never miss a deadline, and schedule our time wisely so that every single project gets the appropriate time needed. That?s an impressive feat considering the large number of clients we work with.  

For 10 years, I operated RHD as a single young woman. So if I wanted or needed to work til midnight, I could. I worked for other magazines in college where it was totally normal to pull all-nighters to get files to the printer by a certain deadline. I just didn?t feel like that was for me. And as my business grew, I found that most of my team members were other working professional young women with husbands and families. They didn?t want to be up here at all hours of the day either. So we try to basically have a rule that RHD office hours are M-F, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., because spending time with our families is the most important thing. And I can only thing of maybe 1 or 2 times in the past 3 years where anyone has had to work past 5. We are that organized and efficient. It takes a lot of effort, but it is definitely worth the organization and the OCD complex.  

9. What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Easily the people I work with and have worked with through the years. I don?t want to sound snobby, but I have a distinct honor of working with the top of the top people in the business. When I walk through the barns at Denver, I am so proud of the fact that ranches like Sullivan, Topline, GKB, Cates, Thomas Ranch, Dismukes, Wade Rodgers, Matt Lautner, Phill Lautner?just to name a few?these are all people that I have had the honor of representing. Their cattle are their livelihood, and they trust me to represent their cattle, their brand, and their reputation. I know that I could call or text any one of these people at any given time of the day and have a friend in the business to talk to.

Wade Rodgers has a line in his semen catalog that says ?Before you look at the cattle, look at the people who stand behind them.?

And I just think that is amazing. I am proud to be someone who stands behind some of the greatest cattle and greatest people in the world.   

10. Who is your role model?  

I?ve had lots of role models in the business, and now I am proud to be a role model for others. My biggest role model is easily my dad, he taught me everything I know about the cattle business and had enough faith in me to turn over a lot of responsibility to me as a young girl. And note I said girl?.my sister and I don?t have a brother. My dad never treated us as anything less than equals. He would send us in the ring with a $50,000 Brahman heifer and let me show her in the champion drives at the biggest Brahman show in the world as a 10 year old girl. And I won. Cattlemen would ask him about certain bulls in our show string or things like that and he would say, ?Ask Rachel?she knows just as much as me.? Looking back ? wow, what an amazing dad to have that much confidence in a little girl to give her that opportunity. I notice now that Troy Thomas gave these same opportunities to Cally, and John Sullivan gives them to Sara, and I have no doubt that these young ladies will make a huge impact on the cattle business. I just have a tremendous amount of love for great Dads like this who teach their daughters that they can do anything in the cattle business?because we can. Aside from my dad, I have also greatly valued the mentorship of Cherie Carrabba, Julie French, Christy Collins, Larry Boleman, Dave Hawkins, Harlan Ritchie, and John McNeill.   

11. Any other “big” projects for RHD in the future?

Oh we always have something big. Our next big event is hosting our spring educational livestock marketing workshop in El Reno, Oklahoma in April. We started hosting these workshops about 2 years ago and so far we have had more than 300 people come through the program. We usually host the workshops here at our ranch in Texas, but this year we were invited to do one at the Denver stock show, and also at Redlands College in El Reno. We are excited to ?take our show on the road? so to speak. 

Thank you Rachel and Ranch House Designs for serving as our February Guest Blogger. We look forward to working with RHD clients and RHD Auctions in the future!