The Austell-based company is the nation’s oldest seller of Caterpillar products, predating Caterpillar itself by 10 years. Today, it’s the authorized Caterpillar dealer for the state of Georgia.
“The nature of our business is to serve people, to help our customers with their equipment needs,” said CEO Jim Stephenson, who married into the family through his wife, Donna Yancey Stephenson. “If you choose the right kind of people, they help each other and feel supported every day in what they’re trying to do. It’s a beautiful thing.”
The Yancey campus near Six Flags Drive was converted into what looked like a county fair to mark the occasion. Rides, vendors, food, music and inflatables filled the parking lot outside company headquarters. Attendees were greeted with Yancey branded hats, koozies and even barbecue sauce.
Legal administrator Jane Law has 12 years’ experience working at Yancey and said she’s enjoyed every minute.
“Yancey is such a family-focused company,” she said. “It really is a great place to work.”
The company was created by brothers Earle and Goodloe Yancey in 1914, who started out selling equipment to local governments and prisons. Soon after, a company called Holt invented a new kind of tractor it called the Caterpillar. The Yanceys talked Holt into letting them sell their products in Georgia. Thus, the first Caterpillar distributor was born.
Stephenson took over the company in 1994 but was actually asked to get involved years earlier by his father-in-law,
former Yancey President Don Yancey. At the time, Stephenson was working for a law firm in Atlanta and turned the opportunity down. But in the early 1990s, Stephenson finally went into the Yancey business, becoming the fourth generation of Yancey family leadership.
“In some ways, it’s like the blink of an eye,” he said of his time leading the company. “In some ways, I feel like I never did anything else.”
Sitting in his office overlooking the festivities, Stephenson talked about progress made by the company.
“In 100 years, obviously you’re celebrating the accomplishments of a lot of other people, including a lot who are not with us anymore,” he said. “But there is something there that runs through all of it that’s the same.”
Since Stephenson took over, Yancey has grown from 400 employees to 950. It bought out south Georgia’s Caterpillar dealer — the Carlton Company — to become the sole dealer for the state. The company also has expanded into several new areas, such as selling Bluebird buses.
But when asked about the biggest changes in his 20 years leading the company, Stephenson mentioned technology.
He said Yancey now has satellite technology allowing it to monitor all of its equipment remotely, including detailed mechanical information that helps identify problems and make repairs easier.
“We’re getting close to the day of machines operating without operators,” said Stephenson.
A number of smaller machines have been added by the company in the last two decades and emissions have also come a long way, Stephenson said.
“A lot of times now the air that comes out of the bulldozer is cleaner than the air that went in,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson attended Yancey’s 80th anniversary celebration when he first got involved with the company and was proud to be able to celebrate again 20 years later. He said he looks forward to moving Yancey into its second century.
A 100th anniversary promotional video is available at YanceyBros.com.