Driving through Western Canada, you’re likely to come across some of Getkate Construction’s work. “We built numerous bridges over the years—300 in my career,” says John Getkate, the third generation owner and operator who retired in early 2015.
Getkate Construction was established by John’s grandfather in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1948. He spent decades building churches and schools throughout Southern Alberta, and then John’s father took the reins, growing the company even further by moving into commercial construction, as well as building concrete-lined irrigation canals and irrigation structures.
In 1978, John joined the family business, having already grown up steeped in Getkate Construction’s ways, even learning to operate heavy equipment at the age of eight. The company eventually took on infrastructure-related projects, from water resource spillway and dam projects, to bridges, pile driving, and underground sewer and water contracts.
All good things...
Over the years, Getkate Construction flourished under John’s leadership, but eventually, retirement came calling.
“My dad was able to retire when he was 50 years old,” says John, “so that was the benchmark for me. We have no succession in terms of family taking over the business, and I don’t need to be doing this until the day I drop.”
John decided to wrap up the business that had been part of his family for more than 65 years. He tried selling his equipment and business himself, with no success. So John decided to sell everything by auction, and for him, Ritchie Bros. was the first and only place to look.
“I’ve been going to Ritchie Bros. auctions since I was a kid,” John says. “I’ve flown all over the world to attend auctions and there’s no doubt that Ritchie Bros. runs a very good spread. That reputation was a real drawing card. No buybacks—the standard they set—was appealing.
“I’ve sold lots of gear over the years through their auctions—but a complete dispersal? I mean, we didn’t even consider anybody else. Ritchie Bros. is the go-to auctioneer.”
Keeping things close to home.
John had 650+ pieces of equipment and trucks, his own home and more to sell, all located in Lethbridge County—more than 480 km (295+ miles) from Ritchie Bros.’ nearest permanent auction site at the time in Edmonton.
John worked with his Ritchie Bros. sales reps Morgan Bell and Jim Rotlisberger to find a solution that met his needs: a one-day complete dispersal auction at the Getkate Construction site in Lethbridge.
“It was so nice that I could have it all on my yard,” says John. “I didn’t have to worry about getting everything down the highway up to Edmonton. I could have a professional Ritchie Bros. auction at my location.”
As the Ritchie Bros. team started putting things together, John grew more and more confident.
“There were a lot of things to get done in a short amount of time,” he says. “Ritchie Bros. was very professional right from the day we signed the deal all the way to seeing it to completion. We marketed it for months in advance so the exposure was excellent. You couldn’t ask for anything more.”
More than customer service.
As the day drew closer, John’s relationships with the Ritchie Bros. team became even more important.
“It was almost like counseling,” he says. “Ritchie Bros. has a history of dealing with complete dispersals. This is a difficult thing to do for a family business. It’s new territory for us, but it isn’t for Ritchie Bros., so I came to rely on their advice and opinions. They helped me get through the whole process, and their experience was very helpful for me and my wife.”
The day arrives.
John woke up early the morning of the auction, excited and ready for the day to start.
“I remember being out there at 6 o’clock in the morning, standing on the trailer with my Dad,” he says, “just looking at the sun come up. I just couldn’t wait to get the day started. But once it went, it just flew by, and I really enjoyed it.”
The complete dispersal auction for Getkate Construction in May 2015 attracted more than 1,700 bidders from across Canada, the USA and beyond. While the day was a tremendous success, it wasn’t quite what John imagined.
“It was a very social and fun day for me and my family,” he says. “People who knew my family were saying to me, ‘if your grandfather could have seen this, it would have blown him away!’ It was one of the most pleasant experiences to wrap this thing up. It was a great day.”
Looking towards the future.
With the auction behind them, John and his wife are looking ahead. “We’re going to carry on and enjoy life with family and friends,” John says.
As the Getkates plan their future—one that will include a motorcycle trip through the Alps, and winter sojourns down South—John is reflective on the auction, his business, and his relationship with Ritchie Bros.
“It was a no-brainer to go with Ritchie Bros.,” he says. “They met and exceeded our expectations, and I would have no hesitation recommending them to someone else. This was the end of the line and it was a fun day. I’ve got fond memories that I’ll cherish forever. It was a celebration.”
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