Brian Hodgson - from 'English for beginners' to international auctioneer
Brian Hodgson – from ‘English for Beginners’ to international auctioneer (Photo: Tristan)

HONG KONG – “10 thousands, 20 thousands, 30 thousands, 40 thousands, 50 thousands, 60 thousands sold!” The man in black suit on the stage finished raising numbers, closed a stamp lot at a tongue-twisting speed within less than a second long. His rhythmic monotone hypnotized the audience until he announced the winning bidder’s name again.

Everyone in the ball room must have known him, Brian Hodgson, a professional public speaker and auctioneer. But not everyone knows his secret. Until the age of 11, he could hardly make anyone understand him, due to a mental disorder called “speech deficiency”.

An unforgettable childhood

Everyday life at school of the 11-year-old boy Hodgson 38 years ago was so dreary that he would never forget. “During break time, the other students just pushed me in front of the playground and said ‘Talk, talk, talk!’ It was not an easy time for a child at all,” Hodgson still recalls, 38 years later.

His sad story continued endlessly until the day he met a lady, the mother of his brother’s friend, who passed by his poor house in Stockport, England, several times and learnt about his mental issue. “I still remember her name, Mrs. Naisbey, who spent 20 minutes of her everyday lunch time to teach me how to say properly, starting from A, B, C all over again.”

These “English for Beginners” lessons took them seven months. “Mrs. Naisbey said I don’t have any physical problem. It’s just that my brain kind of goes faster than my mouth, so I must learn how to control it. And so she made me different,” Hodgson said. His speech problem vanished.

Speaking normally made it easy for him to continue with his studies. In 1984, after graduating from university, he got a job at The Guardian newspaper with a good salary and worked there for three years. However, in 1987, he quit to travel around Australia with friends. “I decided it was time to go out and see the world. So I gave up the job, the money, the good life in London.”

The raising career

Another three years passed in Australia as Hodgson found a job in advertising sales at The Daily Mirror newspaper, Still eager to see more of the world, in 1990, he moved to Hong Kong with only 400 HK$ in his pocket. He survived by teaching English in a language school, then got a job at the South China Morning Post before moving to Chinese version of Forbes magazine.

In 1997, Hodgson started his first company, a barter exchange company. Two years later, through a British Chamber of Commerce event, he successfully sold his company to a US listed internet company. He got a share in his old company, later on added the online shopping element and became its President. With the share, he split out and co-founded Industrial Equipment Auction Company, dealing with the markets in Dubai, Perth or Jakarta.

Drawing his career line through media sales in the press companies to founding and running his own companies in Hong Kong, Hodgson has ended up living here for 22 years. He has become a Public Speaker, a Live TV chat show host, taught Public speaking and Presentation skills at several universities and corporations. “Now ironically, I make my money from teaching people how to speak confidentially and properly. I also won a lot of speaking contests, Toastmaster contests in Hong Kong as well as represented Hong Kong in Asia and China at Divisions Contests.”

The auctioneer who used to have speech-deficiency problem

Being a famous Public Speaker for more than 12 years, Hodgson had made his name even more popular as an auctioneer. In 2006, he founded Hong Kong Auctions Limited, the Asia’s leading auction company specializing in Fine Art, Fine Wine, Memorabilia and Charity auctions. He conducts around 50 auctions a year in Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia., “I can earn much more in a Wine auction than doing a whole year charity auctions. But I know that through the money raised for charities, I may help people who have the same or different problems as me. It’s my way of giving back something.”

Items sold in charity auctions vary from luxury hand bags, giant pearls, antiques to memorabilia’s. Some items are even very special like a dinner with the Chief Rabbi of Israel who came to visit HK, which raised fund for the Jewish Women Association to open schools in Israel. Sometimes, specialty comes from the place auction was held. “Once I conducted an auction in a boxing ring during break times of a boxing match to raise fund for Operation Breakthrough, an association of HK Police Officers uses sport and self-development courses to help, rehabilitate and positively reinforce young people from disadvantaged backgrounds or families.”

A kind hearted man for charity

As part of his charity activities, Hodgson is also a member of Rotary International. Became a Rotarian in 1992, he has been in the Board of Director of Rotary Club Kowloon for 12 years, which is among the 48 Rotary clubs in HK, benefiting different people through educations, orphanages, polioplus campaign, Hunger-Health-Humanity program, elderly homes and hospice care.

By a lot of fund raising, Hodgson has given supports to many charity organizations such as HK Cancer Fund, HK Juvenile Diabetes Association, Italian Women Association and Christina Noble Charity Foundation. “Once I and Rotery Club did a deal with Kiehl’s that they will give 1 HKD for each skin care product sold and eventually raised 1 million HKD for Watchdog HK, a charity organization providing programs for children with special educational needs. When I went to meet the lady at this organization and said, ‘We had a million HKD for your new centre,’ she couldn’t believe it and just kept asking, ‘Are you joking, are you kidding me?’ This charity means a lot to me because I also received special education for my speech problem when I was a child.”

Having been to many developing countries in Asia and Africa for auctions as well as charity purpose, Hodgson has seen a lot of people dreaming to have a better life, to get out of poverty, starvation, diseases, etc. “Most of them are even not in the position to be able to unpack their own dreams, which I can help by raising money for them through my charity auctions. And I found it the most joy I’ve ever had in life, helping people achieve their dreams.”

About the Author – Tristan Truong

Tristan Truong

Tristan is based in Ho Chi Minh City as a Marketing Consultant for the Hinrich Foundation. He is responsible for further advancing the organization’s mission through marketing and communication integration. He is 2013 Hong Kong Baptist Universty Alumni with a MA in International Journalism. His previous work includes the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation which focuses on road safety in Vietnam and Grey Global advertising agency.