Tony knows his grains
If you love your job, you don’t have to work a day in your life.“
Those are Tony O’Donnell’s views on his business based out of his Blue Earth home, Tony’s Grain Systems and Buildings, LLC.
O’Donnell, an eight-year United States Army veteran and father of three (Chantal, 24, Marissa, 22, and Cody, 20) and soon to be a grandfather, has been working with Sukup Systems for over 15 years, and has been in the local area for close to three years. From 2002 to 2016, O’Donnell was based in Iowa, working directly with the Sukup family and corporate leaders Eugene, and his sons Charles and Steve, as a dryer service manager.
When O’Donnell isn’t out at farms putting endless hours in for his customers, no matter how small the concern, he has enjoyed putting roots into the Blue Earth area. He has recently become an American Legion member and enjoys watching the local baseball games during the summer. He’s also been an avid member of the Center?Creek Trap Club, and enjoys supporting local school events.
Throughout his years working for the Sukup Manufacturing Company, which he is now a supplier for, O’Donnell has traveled all over Europe from Denmark to Norway to Sweden to countries all over the world, like Singapore and Haiti.
Farmers across the world utilize Sukup Manufacturing products for a multitude of different things from grain bins to grain dryers to steel buildings, even homes.
When Haiti was ripped apart by an earthquake in 2010, the Sukup group sent hundreds of their steel bins to the country to create practical, efficient, stable shelter solutions for the country’s families. This philanthropic adventure put forth by the Sukup family is a direct reflection of their Christian values and their desire to give back.
But here in Minnesota, O’Donnell says the need for housing isn’t as prominent, though they do make quaint little shelters for a barbecue or outdoor gathering.
O’Donnell likes the big stuff. He focuses his work on dryers, heaters, buildings, bins…entire grain systems. From checking for loose, missing, or damaged parts, to running augers, meter rolls, fans and heaters; O’Donnell has had enough experience with Sukup Manufacturing that he can get any small or large farm up and running in no time.
“The Sukup team is a family-owned business and I love working for them. Their own core family values reflect not only my own, but many of the farming families I work with on a daily basis,” says O’Donnell. “If someone needs a part, I know I?can go and get that part that I need at any time, which makes labor costs more effective for our customers.”
O’Donnell and the Sukup team’s global reach has helped farmers with drying, stirring, building, and completing their grain management projects across the globe. But locally, there are only a select few certified Sukup suppliers who can help farmers with their grain management system needs.
“You have to be certified to do this stuff. There is so much technology and information that changes and grows in today’s world, it is required of all Sukup dealers to have the utmost in company product knowledge,” says O’Donnell. “When a product, be it corn, beans, rice, is ready, it takes a farmer a tremendous effort to get that grain dried and stored if they don’t have their own systems in place.”
Without their own drying and storage systems, profit that could go to the farmer goes to a cooperative elevator.
“It’s a technique called save now, store later,” says O’Donnell. “Purchasing a grain dryer or storage bin now could be paid off in just a few years with the money saved from going somewhere else. Especially how corn prices are sitting right now, I’ve had conversations with farmers who talk about how much they didn’t lose with their corn.”
O’Donnell says his years as a dryer service manager has helped him not only with product knowledge, but care and compassion put into his work.
“It’s the little extra touches that I like to do for my customers that show them how much I care,” he says. “Like when I install something, maybe some part needs replacing. I’m not just going to replace that part and see if your dryer works. I’m going to replace that part, get it working, and call you up to tell you your bin is back to drying. Service is the most important part of my job.”
And it is only one part. O’Donnell sells, installs, and services parts, buildings, and entire systems for Sukup Manufacturing. If an auger is worn out, if a grain bin floor needs replacing, O’Donnell says he is happy to do it. From loop systems, double runs, augers, conveyors and everything in between, O’Donnell has the craftsmanship and the know-how to get it done.
As much as O’Donnell knows, he says there are difficulties to this job. The most difficult part being how he and his customer can choose the best product for the most efficiency for that farm.
“There are many factors at play,” he says. “How long will the farm be running? Five years? Twenty years? What will the demand for the products be? How can we use such a wide array of different products to best utilize what each customer needs from us? It’s a hefty question at times, but we always come up with a good solution. I don’t accept defeat.”
O’Donnell says there are even grain systems with GSM modems on them in order for farmers to be texted when a dryer is not working properly.?That way, the minute an issue arises, O’Donnell can be there the next minute to alleviate the problem.
The army veteran has both mental and physical strength and stamina. His mentality of “only the strong survive” has helped him to create a name for himself in a field of business he has come to truly appreciate.
“Nope, I don’t have a start in farming,” he admits. “But that has not stopped me from learning everything I possibly can not only about Sukup’s line of products, but about the agricultural industry in general. We live in Ag America. We’re smack-dab in the middle of it. In this field, I am a salesman, a general contractor, a construction worker, and material handler all in one. Sometimes, you have to be a MacGyver with this stuff. I want my customers to trust, 100 percent, in the work that I do. If I knew these products weren’t the best around, I wouldn’t sell it.”
O’Donnell has always prided his business on service and satisfaction. He strives to constantly be in the know because he knows that fast turn around will only help the farmers he works with.
“This is their life, not mine. I cannot put their life on hold for parts or time or labor. One day can make a difference in profit for them,” he says passionately. “I’m committed to these farmers like they are committed to their crops.”
And that is the most rewarding part for O’Donnell, handing the key of completion to a grain bin or grain system and completing the job.
“I like supporting local products, local families, and local businesses. That’s why?I work for Sukup. That’s why I work with area farmers. It’s a core value that I carry with me in my heart and in my own life.”
In that sense, perhaps O’Donnell has not worked a day in his life. Perhaps Tony’s Grain Systems and Buildings, LLC is not a business, but a trusted friend with a positive solution right here in the local community.