|By DENNE GOLDSTEIN|
Greg Hunter, 43, grandson of Edwin Hunter, is the third generation to lead the family business. Many of you have heard of Ed Hunter, the innovator who founded Hunter Industries; Greg Hunter has many of Ed's traits. He may seem a little shy and withdrawn, but don't sell him short.
As Hunter Industries celebrates 35 years in business, the brand has grown from a single product to a full line irrigation company. Its products are known around the world.
When Greg Hunter graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, with a degree in mechanical engineering, he joined the family business. However, it’s the dash between the year that he joined the company and the present that counts. It’s not what he got, but what his contribution is, and will be in the future, that will define the future of Hunter Industries.
Like many young people, while going to school, Hunter held down some summer jobs, internships and six-month assignments. Upon graduation, he moved to Cary, North Carolina (where Hunter Industries had a facility) and worked in the engineering department. After working there for a few years, he felt he needed to try something on his own. Hunter left the company to start his own business. “I was trying to run my own business, and it was challenging. It was a great learning experience, even though I didn’t realize it then. I didn’t lose any money but I didn’t make any money either; still, I know now that it was definitely a good move for me,” he said.
There is no substitution for hands-on experience. No matter what you learn in school, you still have to apply it once you get to the outside world. By going out and starting your own business, even if it is not successful, you gain experiences that will stand you in good stead later on. You learn certain nuances that money can’t buy.
A little wiser, a little smarter, Hunter re-entered the family business. Now fully committed, he dedicated himself to helping build Hunter Industries. He did a stint in the IT department and then worked in marketing, giving him a well-rounded exposure to major components of this business. Each move within the company gave him a clearer focus about how he envisioned Hunter Industries would grow. Over the years, he became chief operating officer and when his father, Richard (Dick) decided to retire, Greg became chief executive officer.
Entering a family business has both good and bad points. “One of the issues is, you’re given a position and you have a lot of people watching you, so you feel the need to prove yourself even more than the average person,” said Hunter.
Did he feel, going through the ranks, that other people in the company thought he was privileged?
“I don’t think so,” he replied. “In every job I had, I was accomplishing things, and I don’t think they were taken from other people, necessarily.”
One of the good points about a family business is that it’s bred into you. At home, at dinnertime, on evenings and weekends, even during family outings, there is always a lot of talk about the business.
“If my kids decide that they want to join the family business, I would urge them, before they come into the business, to get an outside job and gain some experience. Even the short periods of time I spent outside the company help me do a better job today,” he commented.
Every executive who takes over as head of a business will leave his imprint, hopefully for the better, and Hunter is no different.
Although still a young man, he has brought a different dimension and a fresh approach, as well as a determination to grow the company.
“Greg Hunter is driven by helping our customers be successful in their businesses,” said Gene Smith, VP, sales and marketing. “He is an astute engineer and businessman and considers our customers—both contractors and distributors—as partners and part of the Hunter family. A great element to his leadership is his commitment to this family.”
“We recognize our place in the industry as a manufacturer and cherish the partnership we have with distribution. So if we want to continue to grow, we have to grow horizontally. We need to get into new markets,” said Hunter. “We’ve made a few acquisitions, one of which will take us to the agricultural market, where we see great opportunities. We will continue to grow, and continue to play the role that we play, in the world of the irrigation business.”
This past December, Hunter took the reins of the Irrigation Association as its new president.
“I’ve seen the Association evolve into, at least at the board level, a more collaborative group, where we’re all on the same page with what we want to accomplish. I think that the momentum is going in the right direction. We’re focused on providing general education in irrigation, to promoting careers in irrigation, to influencing standards and codes that are being written,” said Hunter.
“There are things that are important—obviously, industry certification is an important part of what the Association does. But what I hope to accomplish is to continue the momentum that we’ve experienced over the past couple of years, of being a more cohesive, a more strategic organization with a stronger sense of purpose as to what we’re trying to accomplish and what we can achieve.”
Married to Wendy, the Hunters have two children: a daughter, Meredith, 15, and their 9-year-old son Edwin. Although the kids are still very young, both seem to be interested in the company. Will one or both of them follow in their father’s footsteps? Only time will tell.
However, “There are 15 grandchildren that Ed Hunter left, so I’m sure there will be some involvement.”
Going up through the ranks seasons people, giving them opportunities to learn various segments of a business. It allows them to feel the culture of the company; Greg Hunter was not immune to that. Highly respected in the business community, he is a bright, young star with a strong focus on the future. He is committed to taking Hunter Industries to even further heights.