B&B Technologies builds spray equipment business by focusing on niche markets, customer service
The flashy red 1930 Model A Ford depicted in the logo for B&B Technologies is more than just eye-catching artwork. It pays homage to the real-life hot rod that the company’s owner, Bill Japp, has prized for 58 years.
He restored the classic car himself in the early 1960s, customizing the roadster into a drag-racing dream. To build—and race—hot rods, it takes patience, courage and mechanical aptitude. And those traits served Bill well when he launched B&B Technologies in 1994 and started building his own line of spraying equipment.
“I worked at an equipment dealer in Omaha for 22 years, selling tractor loader backhoes and golf course equipment,” Bill said. “The company that made the sprayers we sold to golf courses closed down, and a gentleman who worked for that company, Bob LeClair, and I decided to start this business to fill that gap. He was the other ‘B’ in our name.”
Bob left the business about six months later, but Bill kept the pedal to the metal, expanding from the initial offerings of small, 12-volt spot sprayers and large pull-type sprayers to a dozen different product lines and more than 50 individual models within those categories today. In addition to a full range of agriculture, turf and lawn-care sprayers, parts and accessories, some of B&B’s newest offerings are carriers for combine heads and lawn spreader-sprayer equipment.
All of the products are designed, fabricated, assembled and shipped at B&B’s facilities in Tekamah, Neb., about 25 miles away from Bill’s homeplace in Kennard, Neb. It’s now a family affair, with Bill’s wife of 51 years, Mari, and their son, Jason, working side-by-side in the business along with six other employees. Mari, who has a banking and secretarial background, handles the finances and bookkeeping while Jason manages the shop and shares responsibilities for orders and customer service. He started working here with his father 25 years ago right out of high school.
“Through the years, I’ve done everything from welding to painting to assembly,” Jason said. “That’s one thing I always tell the guys—I’m not going to make you do anything that I haven’t done before.”
Bill also has been hands-on from the start, using his engineering degree and sales background to not only design and build B&B’s products but also grow the business across the country. True to the company’s roots, golf courses are still very much a part of B&B’s customer base along with lawn care and agricultural markets. And MFA has been a loyal customer all along, Bill said.
“I’ve appreciated MFA’s business all these years,” he said. “They’ve always had good people who are excellent to work with. A lot of the products we offer today have come from ideas we’ve gotten from conversations with the managers, employees and customers at MFA.”
MFA’s exclusive Brush Buster range and pasture sprayer is one such example. The 300-gallon boom sprayer mounted on a high-clearance trailer was developed by B&B in collaboration with MFA’s Farm Supply Department.
“Right now, our most popular items from B&B are sprayers designed for range and pasture, such as the Brush Buster, and UTV sprayers,” said Ryan Mauzey, MFA Farm Supply product manager. “The biggest reasons that we work with B&B are their vast product knowledge and high level of service.”
B&B also began offering sprayers with boomless nozzles for producers who need to control pasture weeds in Missouri’s hilly terrain, Bill said.
“If you listen to your market, they’ll tell you want they want,” Bill said. “We’ve never wanted to be the biggest company but rather offer products that fit into niche markets like MFA stores. As a small, family-owned company, we can more easily adapt to specialized needs of our customers. Our products are tailored for the kind of geography we’re selling into and the types of farms our customers have.”
Along with flexibility and creativity, B&B employees also pride themselves on attentive customer service and strict quality control, Bill said.
“We want to be more of a service company, just like MFA,” Bill said. “Customers know they can call up here and get an answer to the problem. And we try to keep everything as simple as possible. We ship our sprayers already assembled so we know that they are put together correctly and will work properly for the customers.”
The Japps have personal proving grounds for their company’s products. Bill and Jason raise 600 acres of corn and soybeans on the family farm, where they put B&B’s sprayers and combine head carriers to the test in real-world conditions. Bill and Mari’s other son, also named Bill, was a golf course superintendent and now owns his own seeding and landscaping business. Their son-in-law, Jamie, married to their daughter, Heather, also owns a lawn-care company. B&B’s turf and lawn-care sprayers and equipment carriers are used daily in their businesses.
“We use everything we make,” Bill said. “There are a lot of people who build widgets and have good ideas for widgets. But they don’t know how to use the widgets. We don’t do that. We go out, use it, see how it works and how we can make it better.”
With his company generating a little over $2 million in sales annually, Bill said he believes B&B is positioned well for the future. Orders have continued to roll in despite agriculture’s challenges over the past few years. Like any business, however, he knows B&B must continue to evolve with its customers.
“After 27 years in business, we’re seeing newer generations—the younger generations—taking over,” Bill said. “Product lines don’t necessarily have to change, but the way you do business has to change. I’d say our future depends upon where the future of agricultural products go and our ability to keep relating to those needs. We can’t be everything to everybody, but we can be the best at what we do.”
For more information, visit b-btech.com to browse B&B’s online product catalog or talk with the experts at your local MFA or AGChoice retailer.
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