Ritchie Implement’s core group (left-to-right) includes: Kevin Depies, sales and management; Connie Ritchie, CFO and co-owner; Ron Ritchie, CEO and co-owner; Chelsie Klaas, finance, HR and marketing manager; Jon Ritchie, vice president and co-owner; and Tony Ritchie, sales and management.

Diversity is key for Ritchie Implement. The dealership's commitment to a variety of product lines, a broad customer base and the addition of third generation management have made the dealer a success. “We don’t keep all our eggs in one basket,” says CEO and Co-owner Ron Ritchie.

Ritchie’s 3 locations in Cobb, Darlington and Barneveld, Wis., are 30 miles apart and the dealership stresses communication and teamwork between locations, as well as between departments.

Slow, but steady growth, along with recognition of the companies, customers and employees who supported the Wisconsin dealer in getting to where it is today are key principles in Ritchie’s way of doing business. While this Case IH dealer always looks forward to the future, it isn’t forgetting its past.

A Colorful History

Ritchie Implement, founded in 1961, was not always a Case IH dealership. When Co-owners Ron, Jon and Connie Ritchie’s parents opened the first store in Cobb, Wis., the dealership sold Allis Chalmers.

Ritchie Implement Inc.
Cobb, Wis.

Founded: 1961

Employees: 80

Major Line: Case IH

Locations: 3 (Cobb, Darlington and Barneveld, Wis.)


Great Plains
Land Pride
Top Air

It wasn’t until 1988 when a nearby dealership in Highland, Wis., went up for sale that Ritchie Implement became a full-line Case IH dealer. Since then, Ritchie’s has added numerous shortlines to supplement its major line, including the likes of Claas, Kubota, Kinze, JCB and, most recently, Bobcat.

“We’ve seen a lot of change,” Ron says. “So we got used to painting our trucks different colors every two or three years. First Allis Chalmers was sold in 1985 and it went to Deutz. At one time, when Allis Chalmers was going down, we wound up with just Deutz, which was a good product, but the biggest tractor they had was 120 horsepower. We were out of the big equipment business.”

While they were taking on the new dealership in Highland, Case and International Harvester were still settling out their historic merger to become Case IH.

“That was right when everything was changing, when Case and International were joining,” he says. “It took a few years, but we proved that we were good, fair competition, and we built on that. That’s what started our growth. Our dealership benefited from the large equipment Case IH offered.”

In 1998, Ritchie’s added the Darlington, Wis., location and in 2002 it acquired the Barneveld, Wis., location.

Success in Shortline Machinery is a feature in E-Watch, our bi-weekly e-newsletter. It is brought to you by Versatile.

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“The Darlington location added a huge market area for us,” Ron says. “It’s a whole different landscape. Barneveld offered a new market opportunity. We have a lot more of the compact tractor business now. The presence of a store in certain areas still makes a big difference.”

A Diverse Lineup

Ron says it’s important to be accessible to customers in southwestern Wisconsin. “Having 3 locations each within 30 miles of each other is helpful for our clients and necessary to compete in the region.”

When one equipment market is down, chances are another market will be up — at least in a diverse area like southwestern Wisconsin. Ron says, “You need to always be prepared to meet the needs of customers across different markets to take advantage of an upswing in one market or another.”

Ritchie Implement values its multiple shortlines for this reason. “As hard as it is to have several different lines, it has really contributed to our success,” Ron says. “The product selection we have helps us meet our diverse market. That’s a real key to our success in southwest Wisconsin where you have dairy, beef, cash crops and vegetables.”

“Where one area of agriculture isn’t doing so well, like cash grain, we can do really well with the milk and dairy, the beef and other non-cash crop markets,” says Tony Ritchie, Ron’s son, who works in sales and is part of the management team. “One year could be down in one area, but in the next we could be doing well. We’re able to hold things together by focusing on different markets and lines.”

“This year, like most dealers out there, the corn and beans are down and our large combine, sprayer and four-wheel drive tractor equipment business is down,” Ron says. “On the other hand, livestock is steady. They need their skid loaders every day. They need their spreaders and their mixers. They’re putting a lot of hours on their equipment.” More wear and tear on equipment means more service business for Ritchie’s and faster turnover on machines.

Using Diverse Products to Bring in Customers

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Ritchie’s sticks by its various lines so it can provide more choices for its customers. “Maybe an OEM thinks they can give you a pure choice now,” Ron says. “But when we started out, none of them could fulfill all of our needs in our market. So they can’t come in now and tell us to get rid of our shortlines. Those products helped us get to where we are today.”

He adds that Case IH has been good about not pushing Ritchie’s to remove its shortlines, stating the shortlines, in many cases, help to sell the main line.

“We actually gain a lot of new customers who see a shortline product in the front rows of our lot. We get people in the door looking at our shortlines,” Ron says. “We’ve opened so many doors with customers who come in for one thing, like a Claas chopper, and now we sell that customer Case IH tractors too. We would never have gotten the chance to sell that customer if we didn’t have the shortline.

“We worked hard to get our lines. They didn’t just come and give them to us, and we’ve proven ourselves since we took them on.” Ron says the dealership is as much a team with its many manufacturers as it is with its employees, departments and stores.

Ritchie’s most recent addition to its lineup was the Bobcat line of skid steers in 2013, which Ron says has sold better than he ever expected. “The first year we thought we were only going to sell 30 or 40 units, but we far exceeded our expectations and now we’re on track to double that this year.


When Ritchie Implement took on the Bobcat line of skid steers 1.5 years ago, the dealership expected to sell 30-40 the first year. In 2014, they sold 50 and Ron Ritchie, CEO and co-owner of Ritchie Implement, affirms the line brought in new customers for the dealership to sell other lines and service.

“It’s brought a lot of new customers to our business,” Ron continues. “When we were looking to pick up Bobcat, I thought that in 2015 and 2016 we could see a downturn for some of our large equipment, so it’s complementing our service and our parts business, as well as our business in total.

“We have a nice group of products to sell and that has gotten us through downturns in different markets. We usually have something that hits the mark for us.”


“We worked hard to get our lines. They didn’t just come and give them to us...”
— Ron Ritchie, CEO and co-owner

Ritchie Implement was one of the first North American dealers for Claas when it took on the line in 1997. “When Claas was coming to North America, the self-propelled forage harvester business was just starting to evolve. Nobody around here had one. We heard a lot about Claas and they had the machine ready to go,” Ron says.

While Claas started as a specialty product for the dealer, it’s been a significant growth area. Though Ritchie’s only sells Claas from the Cobb location, the dealership is a market leader for Claas and 30% of Cobb’s wholegoods sales come from the manufacturer, as well as 40% of its parts.

While both Claas and Ritchie Implement have grown over the years, Ron appreciates that the manufacturer hasn’t grown too big to still recognize its dealers. “We like to deal with the companies that like to deal with us,” he says.

Creating Product Specialists

With 22 shortlines in total, it would be impossible for every salesperson to know everything about every piece of equipment Ritchie Implement carries. So, rather than having accounts for each salesperson, each specializes in a few products.

This started 15 years ago when Ritchie’s first took on Claas. “We started with a Claas specialist for forage harvesters. Today, everything’s become more technical so we need specialists we can go to who know how to configure the machine and work with it.

“We found that focusing on one product is a very big help to our sales team. The specialist is factory trained on the product and we know who to ask if there are questions,” Ron says. (Related video: Specializing in Products by Salespeople)

Over the last 5 years, Ritchie’s has been spreading the product specialist system around to its other products. “Now we need specialists for all of our equipment lines,” he says.

The usefulness of the system proved particularly true when Ritchie’s took on Bobcat and hired an employee designated as the Bobcat specialist. Having a committed and knowledgeable salesperson for the new line was key to surpassing first-year sales expectations for the line, says Ron.

“We’ll have two salespeople call on the same customer, if necessary,” says Kevin Depies, sales and management. “That way, we know we’re giving our customer the best information.”

Serving Large & Small Producers

“Ritchie knows how to support and take care of its key customers,” says Rick Rank, Case IH senior director of regional sales. “But having said that, they also know how to take care of the small, independent customer and they’re important to them too.”


“Don’t lose focus on your customers, no matter their size...”
— Tony Ritchie, sales and management

Ritchie’s broad scope of customers also reflects the many markets and lines the dealership serves. The dealership’s motto is “big enough to serve you, small enough to know you,” and Ritchie’s strives to treat all its customers with this philosophy.

“It goes without saying,” says Ron. “Everyone is treated the same when they walk in our door. We value all of our customers regardless of size. We are fortunate we have a diverse customer base in our area.”

To do this, Ron says it’s important to train and stress with employees from the beginning that they need to treat each customer who comes to the dealership with the same level of service. “We instill that in our employees more than anything,” he says. “It’s especially important now when we aren’t selling as much big equipment. If it wasn’t for all of our customers, we wouldn’t be here today. We talk to our employees all the time to make sure they recognize everyone who walks in our dealership.”

Investing in the Future

“You can see a future for Ritchie Implement going forward,” says Rick Rank, Case IH senior director of regional sales. “They don’t have blinders on. They’re looking to the future and investing in it.”

Ritchie’s has been renovating and updating its locations over the last 3 years and has plans to continue doing so going forward. The dealership recently modernized its Cobb location, adding a 12,000 square foot shop with two overhead cranes and air conditioning. It expanded the accounting department and added a large, 2-story exhibition room for showcasing large equipment indoors. It also added a second floor meeting space.

“They’ve invested in the dealership,” Rank continues. “They’ve taken an older building and put in the attributes that we look for in a class act dealership. They’ve taken that to heart and they’ve done really well.”

“We keep putting back into the business,” Ron says. “Every year we’re doing something. Keeping our rolling stock up to date and keeping our buildings well maintained. That’s very important.”

“We were bursting at the seams when we renovated the Cobb location,” Connie says. “We were either going to need to cut back on what we were selling or we needed to build on.”

“We closely monitor our cash,” Ron says. “We like to know where we’re at and what we can do without overextending ourselves because you can get in a bind if interest rates go up and you have to borrow money.

“We like to have a strong cash position,” he says. “It’s kept us strong for the next opportunity that might arise so we can do it again, whether that’s an acquisition or investing money back into our business to stay modern.

“We don’t have a set formula for reinvestment. If we need to do it, we do it. People know that if you’re investing in your business you will be around for a while and they will want to keep doing business with you,” he says. “We kept our growth slow, but steady. We don’t overextend ourselves. We hope to add more locations in the next few years. Not a lot, but we’d like to surround ourselves.”

“If you grow too big too fast, you can become too bureaucratic, where it’s too much paperwork to get anything done and you lose your sense of urgency and your effectiveness,” Depies says.

Ritchie’s believes there are times when it’s more difficult to pull the throttle back than to push it down.

“That might be the case now more than ever,” Ron says. “Don’t grow outside your means.”

Originally published in 2015

Success in Shortline Machinery is a regular feature in E-Watch, our bi-weekly e-newsletter. It is brought to you by Versatile.

Versatile, celebrating 50 years of 4WD production, is a full-line equipment manufacturer known for building products that are simple, reliable and easy to service and maintain. Versatile is seeking independent-minded dealers capable of selling and servicing equipment for large scale farming operations. If you want to add more horsepower to your bottom line, contact Alan Graff at agraff@versatile-ag.com or (920) 819-9039.

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