on Monday, October 9, 2023
Mechanical and utility contractor G.A. Rich & Sons is on track to have another record year. Based in Deer Creek, Illinois, about 20 miles east of Peoria, the company is operated by three generations of the Rich family. Gerald (Jerry) Rich and his wife Susan (Sue) were the first in 1968.
“Our goal was to retire at 55,” Jerry said. “But we never did. We just kept going until the kids took over. We’re still involved today.”
Jerry and Sue’s daughter, Tammy Stimpson, is now company president, while their son, Allen Rich, serves as vice president. The third member of G.A. Rich & Sons’ second generation is Brian Rich, vice president and director of business development.
“My father and mother laid a phenomenal foundation for us,” Brian said. “They showed us what it took to run a business.”
Brian started working for G. A. Rich & Sons at age 14 during summer breaks. He followed in his father’s footsteps after college by learning the ins and outs of the company in the field as a laborer before moving into project management and estimating. Brian’s sons, Jacob and Garett, are now the third generation in the family. Tammy’s children, Trey and Aston, have also joined in the business – which has grown 51 percent in the last two years.
“2021 was a record year. 2022 was a record year,” Brian said. “Right now, we have doubled our normal backlog, so 2023 should also be a record year.”
G.A. Rich & Sons' experience spans a wide range of services from commercial plumbing to wastewater treatment facilities, sanitary and storm sewer mains, plus hydro excavation, hot taps, line stops and design build capabilities. With 110 employees, the company has changed with the times, evolving to meet safety and technology developments in the construction industry.
“Safety and technology have changed how we do work, how we estimate work, how long a job takes and the equipment we need,” Brian explained. “Everything is always about how efficient we can be with our time and money.”
A RICH PARTNERSHIP
Technology helps G.A. Rich & Sons stay competitive, especially with the right partner handling the company’s equipment needs. In 1980, Jerry and Sue struck up a partnership with their John Deere dealer, Martin Equipment, the same year the dealership opened in nearby Goodfield, Illinois.
“That was about the time we started excavating,” Jerry recalled. “Martin Equipment was a big help for us. Working with Martin, we knew what we were getting, and we valued their honesty.”
As a family-owned and operated dealership itself, Martin Equipment’s leadership has spanned across four generations of family members, growing into nine locations and welcoming more than 200 employees.
Over the years, the G.A. Rich & Sons and Martin Equipment partnership grew into a friendship, with Jerry and Sue vacationing with Bob Martin Sr., the company’s second-generation owner, and his family – taking trips to Yellowstone National Park, Arizona and even Germany.
“We enjoyed our trips with the Martins and the camaraderie that came from traveling with the family,” Jerry recalled. “Bob and I became better business partners because of the trips.”
More than 40 years later, the partnership remains strong.
“We share the same values with Martin Equipment. That would be the first and foremost,” Brian said. “Second, the location. They’re less than three miles away. Their doors are always open to us, and they’re there to support us in every way.”
BACKED WITH SUPPORT, BACK TO WORK
Ken Hofer, a territory sales manager at Martin Equipment, works closely with Brian on both new equipment needs and service to current equipment. G.A. Rich runs a large fleet including 26 excavators – with favorites including the John Deere 345 and 470.
“We chose the 470 and integrated it with GPS,” Brian said. “It’s the machine getting the most hours on it. It’s been running year-round.”
Another workhorse is the John Deere TC54H wheel loader that Brian described as “bulletproof.”
“It has 16,000 hours on it and should have been rotated out of the fleet, but it has had no problems,” he said. “It’s an older machine, but it’s reliable.”
When Brian and his crew do need to service their equipment or reach out for parts, Martin Equipment is just a phone call away.
“We fully trust that when we call, they’re going to be there when they say they will, and they’ll deliver when they say they can,” Brian said. “I think that's what Martin has done the best over all these years.”
As the Rich family looks ahead to the future of the company, they recognize that while hard work, tough equipment and advancements in technology play a major role in success, family may be most important.
“Family is the most important thing. Not just true family but longtime employees who have turned into family,” Jerry said. “Without them, we would have nothing.”