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McClatchy-Tribune  06/21/2014 7:51 AM ET
B&B Hydraulics business of the month [The Hutchinson News, Kan. :: ]

June 21--B&B Hydraulics was born of necessity and opportunity.

And its how the 25-year-old company has survived and grown -- responding to its own and customer needs, and seizing opportunity while trying to address those needs.

That's how it's gone from a two-man operation launched in 1989 to employing 23 people today, with multiple locations and two subsidiary businesses. It also has partnered with several other major companies as a product distributor.

The business at 2400 Line Road is the Hutchinson / Reno County Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Month for June.

It was also recognized last week by the Governor's office and federal regulators with a SHARP award for workplace safety.

From adversity

Mo Penny worked as a salesman for Cessna Fluid Power about a dozen years before he went to work for Alex MaCleod at a Massey Ferguson combine store. MaCleod had stores in Wichita and Hutchinson, and Penny managed the Hutchinson location.

Part of their business at the store was putting together hydraulic hoses and fittings for agricultural customers. They also acquired surplus hydraulic parts manufactured in Hutchinson by Cessna for their business.

Most farm and industrial equipment, from tractors to backhoes and loaders, rely on hydraulics to operate. Liquid -- usually oil or hydraulic fluid -- is pressurized to provide power and lift.

When they saw "the writing on the wall" that the Massey Ferguson combine corporation was going to file for bankruptcy protection, Penny and MaCleod, recognized an available niche market reselling the surplus hydraulics.

"Cessna had a surplus they needed to get rid of, and we found an outlet to sell," Penny explained. "We had customers that needed one or two for a loader, while Cessna's customers were for large orders. That's how we got started."

Some of their customers inquired about getting parts for hydraulic pump valves or cylinders, or asked if their business could do repairs, Penny said. So they hired a third employee, a service technician.

They started out in a small building on Whiteside Road, but quickly moved into a building they shared with its owner, with three times the space, on Line Road. Eventually, they bought and occupied the whole building.

A new partner

In 1997, Dennis Rayl, who'd operated his own small farm and oilfield repair shop near Windom for about 5 years before a lightening strike burned it down, heard from a former customer that B&B was looking for someone to run its shop.

He was employed at Sterling Drug in McPherson at the time, working to pay off debt on the old business, when he moved to B&B.

"When I came on there were three in the shop and three working up front," Rayl recalled. "I worked in the shop about 5 years before I became active in management decisions."

He's now a partner with Penny in the business -- MaCleod has retired -- and oversees sales.

"Dennis Rayl has done more for this company than anyone ever before," Penny said. "He's helped the company grow tremendously."

In 2004, Bill Speakman, who'd been working at Keystone Manufacturing in McPherson, learned from his father, a customer of B&B through the Union Pacific Railroad, about a position there.

"I worked my way up from the shop to managing the shop," said Speakman, also from the Windom area. "Over the last five years, I've moved into day-to-day business management."

Now he's general manager.

"We also, throughout pretty much the state of Kansas, have found another niche where we service, repair and install balers and compactors," Penny said. "You find them behind Wal-Mart, Dillon's and Kmart. We do that for a number of manufactures of that type of equipment," which all run off hydraulics.

The service was added about 20 years ago, Penny said, and continues to grow. Also on the management team is Chuck Buggeln, who overseas service and installation of the compactor units.

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