Keith Brubacher's father Ben founded Brubacher Excavating – the largest excavation contractor in central Pennsylvania – with one backhoe and a commitment to fairness, honesty and integrity.
When looking for business partners, the Brubachers choose companies that share their values.
With Ritchie Bros., I know that I am more than a number, more than a means to an end.
Like many contractors, Ben Brubacher will never forget the first piece of equipment he purchased: a John Deere backhoe. It cost him $17,500 – a small fortune in 1971. He returned to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and started a small excavation business; he had his second piece of equipment and fi rst employee before the end of the year.
Today Brubacher Excavating Inc. employs 375 people and operates a fl eet with a replacement value in excess of US$50 million. The company specializes in site excavation and preparation for residential subdivisions, commercial and industrial properties and golf courses. Ben's eldest son Keith has been president since 2004; his other son Myron is Fleet Manager. After 37 years with the company, Ben remains actively involved as a board member.
"He grew up with a love of dirt and a love of equipment," says Keith. Ben passed on that passion to both of his sons – along with his strong sense of integrity, fairness and a belief in the importance of putting customers first.
"Dad always says: treat customers the way you want to be treated," says Keith. "Be a problem-solver; don't make excuses. Give people good measure for the dollars they're spending. Ask yourself: if this was my money, how would I spend it?"
Keith says those principles have a lot to do with the company's success – and its choice of vendors and business partners. "We enjoy doing business with people that share our values, with companies that we can trust," says Keith. "Ritchie Bros. is one of those companies."
Ben took Keith to his first Ritchie Bros. auction in the late 1980s, when Keith was still in high school. "I remember going to that auction and looking at all the equipment and being just in awe," he says. "We bought a Cat D4C and a Cat D5H for an upcoming job – and we've been Ritchie Bros. customers ever since."
The Brubachers employ a systematic approach to the turnover of their fleet: before buying a piece of new or used equipment they calculate the cost of operation, maintenance and replacement, which helps determine the best time to sell. When that time comes, they turn to Ritchie Bros.
"We sell through Ritchie Bros. for one reason above all: the integrity with which they operate," states Keith. "We broke ties with another company that offered to do something underhanded that would have benefited us. I thought: if they're doing this to help me, what are they doing to hurt me?
"When we sell through Ritchie Bros. we know that's it going to be done right, that we're going to be treated fairly, that our sales rep is going to be professional and responsive and at the end of the day it's going to work out well," he says. "Ritchie Bros. makes selling equipment easy."
With the sale of their equipment in capable hands, the Brubachers have more time and money to focus on what they do best: working with dirt. But they still like going to the auctions to check out the equipment and socialize with peers. In the midst of his last winter vacation in Florida, Keith took a side trip to the Ritchie Bros. auction in Orlando. He bumped into company founder Dave Ritchie, who greeted Keith by name; they'd met once before.
"The way Ritchie Bros. is run is a mirror image of the way Dave Ritchie treats people and views business relationships," says Keith. "I find it amazing that he remembers me and remembers my name out of the thousands and thousands of people he meets. That goes miles. With Ritchie Bros., I know that I am more than a number, more than a means to an end."
Written and published: 2008