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updated: 9/17/2018 11:06 AM

‘Demand for heavy equipment is extremely strong right now given the surge of infrastructure projects’

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  • Ravi Saligram, CEO of Ritchie Bros. in Downers Grove.

    Ravi Saligram, CEO of Ritchie Bros. in Downers Grove.

 

Q: Describe your company.

A: Ritchie Bros. was established in 1958 and since then, we have grown into the world's largest heavy equipment auctioneer. More recently, we're evolving into a multichannel, technology-led asset management and disposition company. We offer customers end-to-end solutions for buying and selling used heavy equipment such as dozers, excavators, cranes, over the road trucks and other assets through live and online auction marketplaces.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: Demand for heavy equipment is extremely strong right now given the surge of infrastructure projects. Original equipment manufacturers have not kept pace with new equipment production, so there is a shortage. We are focusing our sales teams on penetrating new customers to find new sources of used equipment supply.

We're also focused on integrating our largest acquisition ever, Iron Planet, which we closed in June of 2017.

Our third challenge is to be a pioneer in the industry, which has traditionally been male dominated, and improve the level of gender diversity in our workforce. It's already started, for example, as we have four senior female executives as part of our management team today.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: We have some customers write in their wills that their trusts need to use Ritchie Bros. to auction off their estates.

Q: What's a hot industry trend?

A: There are two key trends; first: the growth of online; second: growing importance of using digital technology to drive better data analytics and insights.

Historically auctions were primarily live, on-site events. Today's we're seeing the rapid growth of auctions with a simulcast online feature in conjunction with the live auction or a pure-play online auction. Ritchie Bros. is the leader in both types and close to 50 percent of our gross transactional value is now through online.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?

A: I've found that it's important to recognize that just because you're a CEO, you can't think of yourself as the big boss who just barks out orders. It's not about you. My advice would be to adopt an attitude of humility and servant leadership. Rather than think about what your people can do to make you look good, think about what you can do for your people to empower and energize them so they are successful.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: In a service business, which Ritchie Bros. most definitely is, a can-do attitude to solve your customers' issues in a rapid and ingenious manner is paramount. Responsiveness and follow up are very important. Ultimately, though, what I don't like to see is occasional brilliance and rampant mediocrity. I'd like to see consistent good performance 24/7/365.

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: All of our Ritchie Bros field teams including sales, operations and customer service employees really epitomize the ethos of the company. They amaze me with their passion for serving customers, pride in the company and incredible work ethic. It is very hard work and our company would not be what it is without their dedication. I truly admire them.

As far as other companies I admire, Church & Dwight would be right at the top, where I sit on the board. The company, which represents household names such as OxiClean, Arm & Hammer, etc., has quadrupled its market cap to more than $11 billion over the last 11 years. Jim Craigie, who recently retired as CEO from Church & Dwight and is now chairman of the board, did a terrific job leading the company for more than a decade. Matt Farrell, the current CEO, is building on his legacy.

A CEO I admire is my former boss at Aramark, Joe Neubauer, who was one of America's longest serving CEOs of a Fortune 500 company, nearly 30 years. Joe took Aramark private twice and public twice and created immense shareholder value.

Q: What do you do in your free time?

A: I was bitten with the travel bug early on and love to visit new countries. I'm also a wine collector, so I love when I have the opportunity to combine the two to seek out cult wines from Italy, France, or here in the U.S., like Napa Valley. I recently traveled to New Zealand and visited Cloudy Bay, one of my favorite wineries.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: I usually keep two -- one is a vocation, the other an avocation. So right now, I'm reading "Cork Dork" by Bianca Bosker. She used to be a journalist writing about tech transformations and then she entered the world of sommeliers. I'm also reading "Americana: A 400-year History of American Capitalism" by Bhu Srinivasan. It starts with a great story about the Mayflower and how the voyages were financed and how capitalism was born.

Q: If you were not doing this job, what do you think you would be doing?

A: I think I would be doing the same thing somewhere else. I love being a CEO. Work is a passion and I do it because I want to, not because I have to. I'm just delighted I get to do this job I love at a company I love. It's a great growth company with its best days ahead.

If I wasn't doing this, or retired, I would become a novelist and write books about mysteries and crime. It's been a passion and interest of mine since I was young.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: I started my professional career as a media trainee at Leo Burnett here in Chicago.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: Cricket has been a passion of mine since I was a young boy and remains my biggest tie to my native India, because in all other ways I am really quite American. So, I would love to be able to replicate the world's most famous of cricket grounds, Lord's Cricket Ground in London, here in Chicago.

Q: What is one funny thing that has happened to you in your career?

A: When I was in the media program at Leo Burnett, all of us entry level people would stay late and receive a meal allowance of $3. I didn't think this was a reasonable amount, so I wrote a memo to the CEO about inflation and how we couldn't get fries for that amount. I figured I'd get the pink slip after that, but instead, a companywide memo went out stating that the meal allowance was now increased to $5.

Q: Two people to follow on Twitter and why.

A: I follow my wife and her nonprofit work through @ArogyaWorld. I also like to follow some of my favorite authors like @NelsonDeMille and @BradMeltzer.

- Kim Mikus