April 2014

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26 | www.cedmag.com | Construction Equipment Distribution | April 2014 One-On-One Who has had the biggest impact on your leader- ship throughout the years? When Ritchie Bros. Founder Dave Ritchie retired in 2004, there was a lot of press around this. He was an icon, Blake says. However, Clifford Russell Cmolik, a.k.a. "Russ," a Ritchie Bros. director, also played an important role in the company. Although he was more behind the scenes, Cmolik was just as important because he was the "financial genius," Blake notes. "I was schooled and mentored by them," he said. "They are both brilliant leaders. They both left the company, but we still managed to survive. No one person will be tagged with the success or lack of success in the organization. I can leave or Dave can leave, and Ritchie Bros. will carry on. We have tremendous people in the organization and we are focused on growing and having the right people in the right positions." Ritchie and Cmolik had the biggest impact on how the company is run today. Both had very different skill sets, but when they worked together, they were "a dynamic duo," Blake says. An important part to creating this dynamic, Blake says, is realizing your own weaknesses and strengths. "You need to take your ego and park it outside the door," he said. "A lot of leaders today realize that they can't be everything they need to be and they surround themselves with people who have those skills. This is a good leadership lesson. You can find people who have the skills you don't, and bring them in. That's what I've done. I've hired people smarter than me, but this isn't always the most popular thing to do these days." The company's four core values – "stuff you learned in kindergarten and what your mom and dad tell you," Blake says – have also kept the company on track for success. The core values are: It's all about the customers; do what is right; we are all one team; and we have fun. "These are so important," Blake said. "Doing what is right is really important. This hasn't always been 'en vogue,' either. We have turned away a lot of business because it wasn't the right thing to do. If you lean back on your values that you were schooled on as a young person, that is how we operate. As for being team, it's not complicated. If I don't do my job or the guy in the yard doesn't do his job, then it throws everything off. We all work together." Blake also emphasizes the fourth core value of having fun. "This is my favorite," he said. "Life is short. If you're not having fun, figure out something else to do." What are the most challenging issues you have had to deal with or tackle as CEO of the company? Despite a strong company foundation based on the core values and a good team, the recent severe economic downturn and the recessions in the 1980s and 1990s were still significant challenges, Blake says. The drop in U.S. construction spending was 12 to 13 percent in both the 1980s' and 1990s' recessions. And then, for a period of about 18 months – from about mid-2008 to late 2009 – construction spending dropped about 38 percent, Blake says. "If you put it in the context of the last 30 to 40 years, there was about a $460 billion drop in spending," Blake says. "People can't get their heads around this." Playfully putting these numbers into context, Blake says that wrapping the Earth in 6-inch-long dollar bills would require 240 million of them. To reach $460 billion, you'd have to repeat that process around the planet 1,742 times. Using another analogy, Blake explains that if $460 billion in $1 bills were laid down and driven over at 60 mph for 10 hours per day, it would take 200 years to drive over all of it. "We have been through one of the worst construction spending drops in a lifetime," Blake said. "When you talk about managing through that, anyone who survived should get a platinum medal. There are better signs in the economy today, but people don't appreciate the storm we just went through. We are in the equipment exchange business. To see a drop and manage our way through this – and still be very profitable – took an entire team. It was like a hurricane. It was so off the scale it is hard to comprehend." What will you miss most about Ritchie Bros.? Blake says he will miss the people and the friendships he has made throughout the years with customers and employees. "Traveling to auctions is an event," Blake said. "It takes time and effort, and people are appreciative of what you do and know you are adding value. It really means a lot when [customers] are putting their entire family wealth in your hands. That's an incredible level of trust. We honor that and make sure we deliver value for them." Besides the people, Blake says he will also really miss catching bids on the ramp and the energy surrounding that experience. "Once you get good at it, you can look at people and you know when they want to bid one more time but they are still thinking about it," he said. "You want to make sure you give them enough time but keep the auction going ("On the Ramp with Ritchie Bros.' Peter Blake" continued from page 24) Blake says leaders should identify their own strengths and weak- nesses, then hire the skills they don't have. 24_Peter_Blake_Feature_KP.indd 26 3/27/14 4:27 PM

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