The Faces of Entrepreneurship: Bob Shell, Guyan International
Issue:Winter 2015 : Articles
From his home office in Barboursville, Bob Shell presides over far-flung network of business interests that stretches all the way to China.
Raised in Logan, Shell recalls he enrolled at Marshall University with a dream of becoming an astronomer but found he couldn’t do the math. Instead, he left Marshall and followed in his father’s footsteps in the mining equipment business. Ironically, he’s had no trouble dealing with the math in his multi-million dollar business deals. Today, his company, Guyan International Inc. is a leading manufacturer of high-pressure pumps used in mining, construction, drilling, timbering and other industries. Guyan has manufacturing sites in the United States and China, with distribution in the U.S., China, Europe and Africa.
In 1968, the Shell family was part owner of two businesses – Guyan Machinery, founded in 1913 in Chapmanville, W.Va. and Permco, a fledgling manufacturer of replacement hydraulic pump parts near Cleveland, Ohio. Shell’s father put his young son to work at Permco where his business skills could be honed. There Shell was successful in turning the struggling company around. Not satisfied to merely manufacture replacement parts, in 1976 Shell began producing entire hydraulic pump units.
Soon Shell began overseeing the family’s interests in both Permco and Guyan Machinery. In 1985, he initiated a leveraged buyout of Guyan Machinery. Later he also took over Permco in another buyout. “The companies really took off after that,” he says. In 1989, Shell and his wife Lena moved to Barboursville, where their home is located on a wooded site just a stone’s throw from the Huntington Mall. “I found that with a fax machine, e-mail and a jet airplane, we could make our home the corporate headquarters,” he says. Shell visited China for the first time in 1980 and returned frequently over the next few years. Obviously, he liked what he saw and senses the sprawling nation’s economic prospects. His initial foray into China was in a joint venture with a Chinese company. Later, he formed a new wholly owned company, Permco (Tianjin) Hydraulic Inc. Ltd. In 1998, the company built a new modern factory in the Tianjin Free Trade Zone.
A second wholly owned subsidiary, Permco Fluid Power Manufacturing Co. Ltd., opened in Tianjin in 2006. And today Tianjin is also the home of Permco’s China R&D Center.
Shell was named to Marshall’s College of Business Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2005, RCBI honored him with its Distinguished Alumnus in Manufacturing award.