For these two brothers, success a family affair

Siblings: From modest beginnings, Louis and Kevin Hutt have built a successful business. Most important to them, they've done it together.

April 28, 2002|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

As an eighth-grader at Hamilton Elementary School in a rough portion of St. Louis, Louis Hutt had to take a proficiency test to help him plan his future. The results both mystified and angered him, suggesting, among other things, that he consider a future as a TV repairman.

"I went home and told my mother that something must be wrong here," Hutt recalled. "I [could] hardly fix a flat tire on a bicycle," much less a television.

No matter how much those test results angered the 13-year-old Hutt, they motivated him even more. And every success he enjoyed made it easier for his younger brother to follow.

Today, the Hutt brothers -- Louis G. Hutt Jr. and Kevin T. Hutt -- are two of the three partners in Bennett Hutt & Co. LLC, a firm that offers financial services for individuals and businesses and management consulting, and even corporate legal services through an affiliated company. It has offices in Columbia and in Albuquerque, N.M.

These days, instead of fixing flats or repairing TVs, the Hutts are pumping up their clients' investment portfolios, and energizing the companies many of these clients run. The firm's strength is working with small, emerging companies that need services such as those the brothers provide.

"They are full of integrity," said one client, Kenneth Davis, president of Main Street Technologies Inc., a Baltimore technology services company. "They are part of our family, ... they're very hands-on guys. When you call, you talk to the guys who built the company. That's important to me. You're not pawned off on some guy in the back room."

Davis became a client after attending one of the Hutts' management seminars. The brothers subsequently helped Davis get the financing he needed to expand his business.

Bennett Hutt's Columbia office does financial planning and tax work for individuals, many of whom are the founders of the same firms who rely on the Hutt brothers for business advice. And, for the services the firm can't provide -- such as business financing -- it has a roster of "virtual" partners to whom it refers clients.

The Hutts' other partner, Charles Bennett, runs the New Mexico office. A former FBI agent and forensic accountant, Bennett counts among his clients the National Football League Players Association, which hired him to make sure NFL players are getting all they deserve under the collective bargaining agreement.

Three decades after being told his future was in fixing appliances, Louis Hutt, 48, is a practicing attorney with a law degree from the University of Maryland; Kevin Hutt, 41, is an expert on business and personal finances with an master's degree in business administration from Morgan State. Neither has lost a taste for the work.

"We offer premium financial services and have the capability to provide solutions to ... a unique set of problems," Kevin said. "We want to continue to develop relationships with our clients. We really enjoy our clients."

The dream of working together was spawned early on, while Louis Hutt was at Washington University in St. Louis and he took an auditing class taught by two brothers. If brothers could team up as teachers, he reasoned, then why not as business partners?

"You can achieve what you can conceive," Louis Hutt said, using a slogan that adorns the office. "I envisioned my brother being a part of my business. It can happen ... . [That's just like] people asking: `How are you going to be both a CPA and a lawyer?' It can happen. You have to be positive. You can't have limitations. The more you achieve, the more confidence you have. The more confidence you have, the more that can happen. It feeds upon itself."

A caring teacher

But the dream of a Hutt partnership might never have been born if not for a caring teacher named Benjamin Quillian, who saw promise in Louis Hutt. Quillian helped him win a scholarship to Campion High School in Prairie du Chien, Wis. The teacher also urged his young protege to attend college and to use his strong math skills to make accounting his profession.

Louis Hutt said he'd never heard of accounting. But he refused to spend the rest of his life "in a community where you were often concerned about your personal safety, and where the school system at that time was nowhere near the best." He took Quillian's recommendations to heart.

His scholastic and subsequent professional successes helped clear a path for his younger brother, who would also attend high school away from home, traveling to Belleville, Ill., to do so. Little wonder that young Kevin viewed his big brother as a role model. Louis Hutt was special because he refused to succumb to peer pressure in a neighborhood where a teen-ager's worth was determined by his toughness, and not by his aptitude, his brother recalls.

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