WHY BERRY COMPANIES STILL COUNTS ON GENERAL AVIATION
Aircraft have been a part of the Berry family business for 70 years. Three generations of pilots have used their passion for aviation to grow their company. It has become a large construction and industrial equipment distributor based in Wichita, Kansas, with 31 locations in six Midwest states.
“I’ve loved aviation all my life. We’ve always had an airplane – 20 in all over the years. We would not have grown as much or have been as successful without aircraft,” said Berry Companies chairman emeritus Fred Berry, who founded the company in 1957.
A longtime pilot, Fred Berry soloed in a sea plane in 1945, and went on to obtain his instrument and multi-engine ratings.
“We started with a 1948 Cessna 170 at my father’s predecessor company in St. Louis and my, how proud of it we were. We currently fly a Cessna Citation Mustang – our first jet. We love it even more.”
The Berry family of companies spans Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado and Wyoming. Berry’s son, Walter, is now president and chief pilot, having flown since high school.
Both men say it is difficult to cover that much territory by driving, and it’s not practical to fly commercially. Reaching customers, branch locations, industry meetings and training sessions requires the company to own and operate its own aircraft.
“We would not have expanded over the years or picked up business in places like Houston if we had to run back and forth on the airline. We value face time with our key people.”Walter Berry, president and chief pilot, Berry Companies
Over the years, Berry Companies has established or acquired seven companies, including those that sell, rent and service Bobcat, Yale and Komatsu equipment, among other manufacturers’ brands. Like its customers, Berry’s 600 employee are spread out in the 600-mile sales territory. With the Citation Mustang, the typical flight is less than two hours, saving a significant amount of time.
“We like being able to just get in and go,” Walter Berry said. “All that communication and customer interface and time with key employees is critical to growing our business. We work at avoiding the ‘ivory tower’ syndrome.”
“Flying is so much fun. The technical aspect is part of the joy.”Fred Berry, chairman emeritus of Berry Companies, former private pilot
As for growing his business, Walter Berry is confident aircraft will continue to be a valuable tool for the company.
“The aircraft helped us grow. As we had opportunities to expand, to open a new store or branch out a little farther away, we used the aircraft to get us there. We wouldn’t have been able to reach a lot of those places any other way,” he said.
“We went into Colorado early because we could see the growth potential of that state. We’ve been there since the 1960s. That would have been very difficult and expensive without an aircraft. Whether it’s a Cessna 170 or a Citation Mustang, aircraft have been smart tools for us.”