Drive by New York Mint’s Crosslake office and you’d never know it’s home to a thriving company that is all about money: buying it, selling it and, at the end of the week, sending a lot of it home with its employees.
Going about its business in a nondescript log-sided building south of Crosslake, and in a quiet unassuming manner, New York Mint deals with collectible coins — lots of coins. The Twin Cities-based company, which has been in business over 25 years, buys rare and valuable coins, paper currency and other related items from around the world and sells them to coin collectors across the country. Considered one of the largest retail collectible coin marketers in the country, New York Mint is the official U.S. distributor for 2012 Olympic coins.
New York Mint’s Crosslake office has a short three-year history but it’s already a success story that illustrates how the Brainerd Lakes Area continues to be an attractive place for companies to expand.
Oddly enough, the decision to open an office in Crosslake was made in 2008, right when the bottom had fallen out of the economy. But that didn’t matter to company President Bill Gale, a nationally recognized numismatist who was convinced that Crosslake was the right place to open a new office and had the human horsepower and work ethic to ensure immediate growth.
To open the new office, staff it and manage it, Gale turned to Randy Johnson, who was a successful Crosslake Realtor for 30 years. Jim Martin, a former Crosslake Realtor who moved to the Twin Cities about 20 years ago to sell for New York Mint, introduced the two.
“Bill really likes the area and wanted to locate a sales division up here,” Johnson said. “He knew he had access to talented sales people here, which is why he chose Crosslake to expand. The Brainerd lakes area should feel blessed to have a company like this on board.”
Johnson started with a three-person sales team, which generated a profit for the company right out of the gates. During the next three years, he continued to add to his sales team, which now numbers 22 full-time people. Sales figures have steadily increased as well and are currently at about $6 million annually. He flashes a giant smile when asked if he’s happy with their sales performance.
His office’s success starts and ends with the sales people, Johnson says, which is why he has hired people with a very specific skill set: the ability to establish relationships with customers and a knack for closing the deal. He hasn’t had to look far. Most of his hires have come from the same real estate and mortgage industries in which he worked for three decades. But he also has hired sales people with unrelated backgrounds, too. For example, he hired a local resident who had built a successful seafood brokerage company in the Twin Cities from scratch before selling it and retiring to the area. His skill set proved to be a perfect match.
Extensive sales experience and a strong work ethic are critical to the success of Johnson’s sales team because the work is demanding and the customers are very knowledgeable about the products. Each sales person has a list of customers who are active coin collectors. They all collect coins for different reasons but typically are interested in specific types of coins, like foreign coins, those with historical significance or coins that are in a series.
“The key,” Johnson said, “is understanding and managing those customers and their buying habits. We’re not selling our customers a coin, we’re developing a long-term relationship with them. It’s not an entry-level sales job. There’s nothing easy about this. You can’t make this kind of money just by showing up.”
New York Mint rewards its sales force handsomely for success. On average, sales people make about $50,000 their first year and then double that by their third year. The position also comes with full benefits and a 401(k) plan.
Johnson’s role in the company is to support his sales team, which includes a significant amount of ongoing sales training and educating everyone on new coins and products as they’re introduced. Each week, an average of three or four new coins or products are added to the mix.
His main focus, though, is to ensure the success of his sales team, which is what either excites him or keeps him up at night.
“I get excited developing the individual sales person’s business, to see growth and repeat customers, and to have a great company behind them,” Johnson said. “That’s what excites me.
“What keeps me up at night is when one of my sales people isn’t operating at an optimum level and not meeting sales goals,” he added. “I want them to be successful.”
The office’s impact on the local economy is significant. In addition to the $1 million-plus in salaries, Johnson estimates that his office spends north of $100,000 each year with local businesses.
Johnson’s name is a familiar one in the Crosslake area. In addition to raising two daughters there— both graduated from Pequot Lakes High School and moved out of the area — he’s been very active and visible in the community since moving to town 35 years ago. But it’s Johnson’s voice that many might recognize first. That’s because Johnson’s passion is a vocal one: auctioneering.
For more than 20 years, Johnson has donated his time and talent to call benefit auctions for organizations locally and statewide. Most of the items he auctions off are tourism packages, sports memorabilia and local goods and services. It’s a talent that he’s been interested in for his entire adult life. In 1989, he even attended a nine-day class at the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Iowa to learn the finer points of his craft. He almost turned around and headed home after the first day because he showed up in a golf shirt and hat while everyone else there was wearing cowboy hats and boots, and Wrangler jeans. “I was feeling a little out of place,” he said, laughing.
He stuck it out, though, and is glad he did. He added auctioneering to other interests that might be considered more typical of the lakes area, like golfing and fishing. He also has a love for jazz music, which he picked up as a youth when his mother was a jazz singer with number of big bands in the 1940s.
Johnson is still active locally but now he devotes most of his time and energy to his employer. Including the 22 sales people in Crosslake, New York Mint has a sales force of 170 throughout Minnesota. New York Mint is a division of AMS Holding, LLC in Burnsville, which has about 400 employees total and an operation that includes coin buyers, marketing, shipping, product development and, of course, sales.
New York Mint’s excellent reputation in the industry has enabled the company to work with the Smithsonian Institute, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the largest mints in the world. The company also has earned exclusive rights to many coin “hoards,” which is a cache of coins that is discovered. Some of the more high-profile hoards that New York Mint has sold include the Redfield hoard of Nevada, Continental hoard of Illinois, the Rive d’Or hoard and the first-ever General Services Administration government hoard of vintage gold coins.