Ritchie Bros. always did the right thing: they stood up to their word.
In 1958 – the year that Dave, Ken and John Ritchie started in the auction business – William Jackson Sr. took a chance of his own. Three years after finishing his term with the U.S. Air Force, the self-described "farm boy from Georgia, with no money and almost no credit," decided to start an earthmoving and clearing company. To do that, he needed equipment – and he had his heart set on a $6,000 used Allis Chalmers HD9 dozer.
The local banks in Sandersville and his home town of Wrightsville "thought I was crazy and wouldn't give me a loan," recalls Billy – so he traveled 50 miles to visit the First National Bank in Macon, Georgia.
"The bank officer kept warning me of the pitfalls of going into business; he kept trying to discourage me, but week after week I went back until I got the loan. A lot of people thought I wouldn't make it," says Billy, "but that gave me the determination to succeed."
In the beginning, Billy took on small farm jobs; by the early sixties he was doing light grading and cleanup at the local kaolin mines. The first 10 years were hard, but the business gradually grew – and with it, the company's equipment fleet. Billy started buying and selling heavy equipment at auctions in the sixties; he attended his first Ritchie Bros. auction in the early 1980s, when the company established a presence in the southeast.
"I was really impressed by Ritchie Bros. right from the start," says Billy. "I'd been to a lot of auctions put on by other auction companies and seen a lot of deals go sideways, but Ritchie Bros. always did the right thing: they stood up to their word. Dave Ritchie set a high standard and the newer employees have followed that tradition. Their honesty and integrity means a lot to me."
W F Jackson Construction Co. has experienced ups and downs with the growth and decline of the local kaolin mining industry. "We've built up and sold off our fleet 10 or 12 times in the past 50 years," says Billy. "We've had to turn it around every time we've had a recession."
Whether he needs to buy or sell used equipment, Billy's first choice is an unreserved Ritchie Bros. auction. He's bought and sold millions of dollars of heavy equipment through the auctions over the past quarter century. "Ritchie Bros. auctions are fair," he explains. "I know we're paying the true value when we buy and getting the true value when we sell."
Today W F Jackson Construction runs hundreds of pieces of heavy equipment and employs more than 150 people, including three of Billy's four children. Most employees stay for an average of 25 years; one employee has been with the company since 1961.
"He still wants to come to work every day and so do I," says Billy, now 78. "This has been my life and I still enjoy it. I've been very blessed and I've been very fortunate to have a lot of good people working with me. People are the greatest asset of any company."
Written and published: 2008