O’Neil’s Farm Equipment (1971) Ltd.

Family-run equipment sales and service in Binbrook, Ontario
Written by: 
Molly Shaw
Produced by: 
John Carioti

Located in Binbrook, Ontario, O’Neil’s Farm Equipment (1971) Ltd. has been a trusted name in agricultural equipment, service and leasing for more than 97 years. The family-run business spans generations and remains one of the few locally owned farm, lawn and garden sales and service companies in the province. O’Neil’s takes great pride in maintaining family ownership and serving the community since 1918.

Honesty and integrity in family ownership

“The business was established by Jim O’Neil in 1917 in Caistorville, Ontario, and his son, Maurice O’Neil took over shortly after the war in ’47,” recounts Larry Smith, now president and owner of O’Neil’s. “In ’52 we moved to our current location in Binbrook.”

Larry started his career working for International Harvester in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1960 as an accommodation merchandiser. From there he was promoted to the stock desk, which handled orders as well as obtaining equipment for 79 dealers throughout Ontario and northern Quebec.

In 1962, the Hamilton District office was closed and Larry was offered a job in Toronto with International Harvester. As this announcement filtered through the dealer network, Maurice was ordering some equipment from Larry and asked if he was planning on transferring to Toronto.

“I told him I hadn’t made up my mind yet,” says Larry. “In response, Maurice offered me a job.” Shortly thereafter, Larry joined O’Neil’s in May 1962. At the time, the company only had a handful of employees and one parts person.

“I started in parts and began to work my way into sales,” recounts Larry. Working his way up the ladder, rung by rung, Larry eventually purchased the business from Maurice in 1971.

Today his twin sons, Casey and Craig Smith, have started a succession plan to assume ownership and responsibility of the business from their father when he retires. “We take great pride in being a family-owned business and serving our community for nearly a century,” says Craig. “A lot of things have changed over the years, but the principles of our dealership have stayed the same. We believe in serving our customers with honesty and integrity.”

Craig says a transaction is more than a sale for O’Neil’s. “We want to find our customers the right product for the job and support them all the way through because it’s more than a single sale and done,” he says. Over the years, O’Neil’s has expanded its selection and service in order to deliver on this promise.

“Our roots are in the agricultural business, selling and servicing IH, Case IH and Case equipment, but as we’ve grown, we have expanded by taking on quality lawn and garden products,” says Craig.

“As far as I know, we’re one of only about four locally owned Case dealers in Ontario,” adds Larry. “We’re also selling more small Mahindra tractors now, which are really starting to pick up.”

A growing product and equipment line

O’Neil’s now has a staff of 25 people, serving a range of customers, from the professional farmer to the hobby farmer and home gardener. “Our target market is agricultural construction, but we’re getting more into lawn and garden equipment and supplies every year and now we have a home and hardware franchise as well,” says Larry. “We sell everything from push lawnmowers to four-wheel drive tractors.”

O’Neil’s is proud to partner with quality distributors such as Cub Cadet, Troy Bilt, Stihl, Grass Hopper, Kuhn, Toro, Lawn Boy and many more. “The main lawn and garden supplier is Cub Cadet, we’ve been with them since 1962 and on average, we sell about 100 Cub Cadet riders a year,” notes Larry. “Managing supplier relationships is key. If the company likes you and your credit rating is good, they’ll offer you specials deals.”

Managing inventory

The company’s team includes nine factory-trained technicians to serve and support any service, repairs and warrantee work. “We are here to service all your needs,” says Craig. “We can also offer our large, fully equipped parts department to serve all your agriculture and lawn and garden needs as well.”

To better meet the needs of its extensive customer base, O’Neil’s has steadily added products and equipment lines, which in turn results in serious overhead. Larry says O’Neil’s main push right now is to reduce this inventory, particularly in the parts division. “We’ve hired a new parts manager to manage our inventory line, which right now is more than $1 million,” says Larry. “It’s important to keep a close eye on overhead and balancing inventory so we’re not paying a lot in interest.”

But now, Larry is leaving most of this oversight up to his sons as they take on the next generation of responsibility at O’Neil’s. Craig and Casey are moving O’Neil’s forward, making the key business decisions that determine success.

At O’Neil’s Farm Equipment (1971) Ltd., the goal has been and continues to be quality sales and the service that builds strong customer relationships, all under one roof.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
MTD Products Inc.