Don’t tell Becky Alseth the heavy equipment industry is male dominated. The Senior Vice President, Brands & Innovation, for Ritchie Bros., the world leader in used equipment disposition, works among a diverse group of leaders and says she doesn’t subscribe to that point of view.
“I don’t think of the world that way: male or female dominated. I am interested in the business challenge and how I can contribute to the conversation,” says Alseth. “I seem to have different points of view from others around the table, both men and women.”
Alseth joined Ritchie Bros. in early 2016 from Avis Budget Group, where she worked as Senior Vice President of Marketing and led strategies designed to build brands, earn customer loyalty and defend market share.
The customer-focused strategies she implemented at Avis are helping her at Ritchie Bros. The Vancouver-based company has 2,000+ employees worldwide and a proud 60-year tradition of live onsite auctions. More recently, Ritchie Bros. expanded its digital footprint with the acquisition of IronPlanet, a Silicon Valley-based company leading the used equipment online marketplace.
Managing the two brands, as well as thinking about customers and employees, presents interesting challenges and opportunities. Glassdoor caught up with Alseth to discuss how she is navigating this transition, her experience entering a global equipment disposition company, Ritchie Bros.’ work culture and what she likes to do outside of work.
Glassdoor: What kind of customer service ideas and lessons did you bring from Avis to Ritchie Bros.?
Becky Alseth: There are a number of similarities between Avis and Ritchie Bros. beyond that both are experience brands and have served customers for 60 years. The rental car business is a tough one, think about it. Avis is in nearly every airport around the globe and sitting right next to it is its most fierce competitors. Car rental brands offer the same fleet of cars and at nearly identical prices. Employees and customer experience are the differentiators. I leverage my car rental days to ensure that I am pushing my thinking to solve customer problems. You can never think too much about your customer.
Glassdoor: Car rental is a very different industry to heavy equipment. How did you manage the adjustment?
Becky Alseth: I relish a challenge and have changed industries and assignments multiple times in my career. From Day 1, Ritchie Bros. employees were incredibly warm and inviting, particularly when they found out that I grew up in a mining town and already knew about draglines and 200-ton dump trucks. The best advice I have is to get out of the office and headquarters and experience the brand where it lives — in the field — in the hearts and minds of employees and customers.
Glassdoor: Ritchie Bros. is a global company with locations around the world, but it’s still not an immediately recognizable brand. How are you changing that?
Becky Alseth: Interestingly, I never heard of Ritchie Bros. either, but once you find out about this interesting company and its history, you are begging to find out more. Among our customers and within key sectors, including industrial equipment, transportation, energy and agriculture, we are well-known and respected. The most important thing is that companies who can use our service know about us.
Glassdoor: The company was started 60 years ago. How are you balancing the new technology with the more traditional aspects of your business?
Becky Alseth: Yes, this is our diamond anniversary and I am constantly in awe of our live auction business. Come to any of our events and you will be hooked. We don’t want to lose touch with our roots, but at the same time, we need to complement our core live auction business with emerging customer needs. Today’s customers are stretched for time and like all of us need to multitask during the work day. For those customers we have our IronPlanet marketplaces where the transactions all take place online.
Glassdoor: How do you get new employees to buy in to that customer relationships-first philosophy?
Becky Alseth: As new employees start at Ritchie Bros., we make sure they get out to a live sale and watch online auctions. Pretty quickly, employees see the powerful bonds our sales and operating teams have forged with customers. Fundamentally, our employees always rally around the customer and the bond of trust that customers put in Ritchie Bros. to sell their assets or even to sell the farms and businesses their families spent generations building.
Glassdoor: What is your favorite interview question to ask potential candidates?
Becky Alseth: I ask candidates why they are interested in our company. I want candidates and employees who care about the business and what we do.
Glassdoor: How do you spend your free time when not in Ritchie Bros.’ Vancouver head office?
Becky Alseth: My recent favorite pastime is learning about equipment. There are so many interesting pieces of equipment in our line of work and the more you learn, the more you want to know. Plus, it gives me more credibility when I can say “hey, did you see that nice feller buncher” in the yard?