1. Who is answering the questions? Tom Ritch- Associate Broker
2. What is the primary purpose of your business? Land and timber broker
3. What is the business background of the owners? I received a BS in Forestry from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Business Administration from Georgia State. I am a licensed real estate broker in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Alabama and a registered forester in Georgia.
Prior to working for myself as a land and timber broker, I have 25 years experience working for forest product companies in Georgia as well as serve on the Board of Directors of the Georgia Forestry Association.
4. Why did you start (or purchase) this particular business? It has always been a dream of mine to work for myself and I am not getting any younger.
5. What makes your business unique? I have averaged $14,300,000 in land sales per year at Rome, since I started this company seven years ago. With over 25 years experience in the huge Georgia timber industry, I have been able to use these contacts through networking to keep my business going.
6. What do you enjoy most about your chosen profession? Actually it’s a combination of three things. The first is getting paid by earning a commission. The second is the thrill of closing a deal. Thirdly and probably the most satisfying are the friendships I'm making representing the sellers, negotiating with buyers and co-brokering with other real estate agents.
7. What has been the biggest or most interesting challenge to overcome as a small business owner? Without a doubt, the economy. When I started in 2005, I was basically taking orders, easily closing on about 24 tracts per year. The smaller investors and speculators have vanished for several reasons that are mostly related to lenders. The main sources of my activity now are the institutional buyers. My biggest sale, 15,000 acres, occurred last year and was a European company looking to invest in a more stable environment such as southeastern US timberland. Also because there are some beautiful creeks, rivers and mountain ridges in NW Georgia, conservation easements have been a good exit strategy for several of my sellers that have tracts suitable for this.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers? I had two great mentors here in Rome, Ben Lucas and Lynn Dempsey. They’re both professional real estate people and they really helped me make the transition from a corporate employee to a small business owner a lot easier than it could have been.