Greg Berry is the CEO and founder of Municibid, the go-to online marketplace for government auctions. As a councilman for the Borough of Pottstown, Greg noticed a huge problem: his borough and almost every one of the United States’ 86,000 local government agencies were selling surplus for dirt cheap because so few people knew the items were for sale. The sealed-bid process for which agencies would accept bids was also not a truly competitive process. Greg launched Municibid in 2006 to solve these issues. Municibid is now a leading platform for state and local governments, schools, authorities, and other government agencies all over the US and Canada to sell their surplus vehicles, equipment and all kinds of items directly to the public, 24 hours a day. As a business leader, Greg educates entrepreneurs on why government auctions benefit enterprises, tips for launching a successful online company, and more.
Where did the idea for Municibid come from?
“Municibid is an online auction marketplace where over 4,000 state and local governments and schools auction items that are no longer needed, forfeitures (seized items), and lost-and-found items to the public. Founded in 2006, we’ve helped municipalities take advantage of the online marketplace to get 50-200% more for their items than they would with traditional sealed bids or newspaper ads. We don’t charge a penny for municipalities to use Municibid, so 100% of the proceeds they receive go back into the community.
Municibid is the easiest way for municipalities to sell their surplus. They pick the items they want to sell, take a few photos, fill in an item description, and that’s it. We do all of the heavy lifting with marketing their items, running the bidding system, and providing sales reports. Likewise, it’s a convenient and streamlined process for buyers to place bids and pick up items they win.
The story of Municibid began when I was in a council meeting and we sold a Chevy truck for $500. It was easily worth at least $5,000. Then, about 30 minutes later, we bickered about spending $1,000 on a community project. It was 2005 and I was 25 years old. There was an open town council seat in the Borough of Pottstown, Pennsylvania. I was born and raised in Pottstown, an industrial town in the ’70s and ’80s that went stagnant. I wanted to help revitalize the town that had shaped who I was, starting with building a new annex at the community college and economic development. I ran and won the seat.
I sat in hundreds of town council meetings and it happened again and again. We sold vehicles, equipment, and other items for pennies on the dollar through a sealed bid process. A sealed bid is when people put their bid in an envelope and drop it off or mail it in. Then on a specific date, the government opens all the bids and awards the item to the highest bid.
Oftentimes, a Ford Crown Victoria worth $3,000 would be sold in a sealed bid for $300. There was no competition, as no one saw what anyone else was bidding. Plus, there was very little advertising for these items so hardly anyone knew these items were for sale. The Borough of Pottstown was losing tens of thousands of dollars with this archaic process that they could have been reinvesting back into the community.
How many other townships across the state — across the country — were doing the same? Why weren’t we selling our items online? Why weren’t we using eBay? In 2006, Pennsylvania local governments were just then legally allowed to sell online, but very few were. A few municipalities were using Craigslist and others were trying out eBay. Neither Craigslist nor eBay were set up to meet the requirements governments have for selling their surplus. Plus, neither had any customer service or guidance for this uncharted territory for governments.
The day after graduating high school, I founded an IT company that I grew for 12 years and eventually sold in 2010. With my background in technology, I built the first version of Municibid for about $2,000. It was nothing fancy, but it was good enough to run a basic online auction. I convinced a few local municipalities to give Municibid a try. The first item listed on Municibid was a riding mower by the Borough of Pennsburg, Pennsylvania. They were hoping to sell it for $100. It sold for $500.
Then another township listed a Ford Crown Victoria with a blown engine. They just wanted to get rid of it and maybe get a few hundred dollars for it. It sold for $2,800. They truly didn’t believe it. They thought something was wrong — and to be honest, so did I — until the guy showed up with a $2,800 check and a flatbed. Needless to say, they were ecstatic.
Meanwhile, I spent every hour I could getting the word out about Municibid and the items that were up for auction. I made those flyers with tear-off tabs you see hanging on community bulletin boards and posted them at The Home Depot, Lowes, grocery stores, anywhere. I ran small ads in the classified section of the newspaper and in those penny pincher magazines at convenience stores.
I took these results and the testimonials from the governments on the road and, as they say, the rest is history.”
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
“My days got a lot more ‘typical’ since the pandemic started, with not traveling. I’ve enjoyed having a bit more structure for the day-to-day. Here is my daily schedule:
– Wake up between 6:30 a.m. – 7 a.m.
– Make the bed.
– Do a 10-minute guided meditation on Calm.
– Write at least three pages in my journal.
– At 8 a.m. I take a look at my email and news.
– See what’s been listed on Municibid.
– Check in with the team.
– Get solid work time in from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
– 11:30 a.m. leave for my daily HIIT class.
– At 1 p.m. I make lunch and usually eat at my desk while I watch some instructional Youtube videos that I call my ‘lunch and learn’.
I’ll wrap up some days at 4 p.m., and on other days I’ll work into the evening, depending on what’s going on.”
How do you bring ideas to life?
“I have a lot of ideas! I’ll share them with my team for thoughts and usually we’ll test them out to see what happens and if they’re worth pursuing further. I encourage our team to share their ideas and that no idea is a bad idea. Some ideas are bigger than others and will take more time to test and have complicated factors, and others are simple ideas to make incremental improvements to something that exists.”
What’s one trend that excites you?
“I love automating things and enjoy tinkering with services like Zapier to connect various apps together to solve problems. When I was in high school back in the ‘90s, I liked developing software, but knew it wasn’t quite for me. So all of the No Code apps that have been popping up feed my inner-nerd.”
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
“For me, it’s a collection of habits that work together to help me better focus, which then allows me to be more productive. One, making the bed when I wake up gets that tiny bit of momentum going. Two, I do a simple 10-minute meditation each morning to reset and get me in a good mental and emotional space. Three, I journal every morning, at least three pages. This is a meandering of topics, ranging from random thoughts to things I want to accomplish today or in the future, or just ideas that come to mind. Four, I do a hard workout at least five times per week, for my physical health, but also for the mindset boost.”
What advice would you give your younger self?
“Travel the world as soon as you can. Live abroad. Don’t worry so much.”
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
“Governments (of all levels) will face major disruption over the next 25 years.”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
“Show up and be reliable.”
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
“Being consistent. We never looked for hockey-stick growth — our goal was to consistently grow year-over-year, something we’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish every year since our founding. There are no slick hacks or shortcuts; it simply comes down to staying consistent with your sales efforts, while over-delivering what you promise and doing what you can to keep customers happy. The rest will fall into place.”
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
“As an entrepreneur, I’ve had many failures, but I don’t dwell on them, nor look back and spend too much time thinking about what I would do different. I learn from them and move forward. I wouldn’t change a thing and believe I, and the company, are right where we are supposed to be.”
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
“Building paid communities for niche-specific professionals to be able to network, share stories, offer advice and help, and exchange best practices — that are more fun and engaging than traditional industry associations.”
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
“AAA insurance for my RV! Battery and tire issues are common in RVs. Being able to rely on AAA to come out quickly, and for free, when there is an issue saves a lot of headaches and money.”
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
“Slack – We utilize Slack for more than just chatting with each other. We have several integrations and automations built in Slack to help us be more efficient and productive, while also keeping us on top of what is happening with our customers. For example, we are automatically notified when a new selling agency comes on board and then again when they list their first items, so we know to reach out to them to thank and congratulate them.”
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“I recommend A New Earth, by Ekhard Tolle. While not necessarily a business book, I highly recommend it to my fellow entrepreneurs. Everything you do and create ultimately comes from within, and this book goes a long way in understanding the ego, staying present, and how to better trust yourself and your instincts.”
What is your favorite quote?
“My favorite inspirational quote is:
‘Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.’ – Henry Ford
This was one of the first business/life quotes I remember reading. I’ve always loved the simplicity of it and think of it often, especially when I consider trying something new.”
- There are no slick hacks or shortcuts; it simply comes down to staying consistent with your sales efforts.
- Show up and be reliable.
- Everything you do and create ultimately comes from within.
- Travel the world as soon as you can. Live abroad. Don’t worry so much.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.