April 1 2007 12:00 AM

SOME PEOPLE CLIMB THE LADDER of success by moving from one firm to another, each move taking them a little higher up the corporate ladder. Others are one-company people, hitching their star to the success of a particular company. Brandon Meadows is a fine example of a one-company man.

It's interesting to meet people in our industry and watch their development over the years. It is exciting to see them advance in their careers and mark their contribution to our markets. I first met Meadows twenty years ago when he joined Hunter Industries. But first, a little background.

Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Meadows moved with his family to Rancho Bernardo, in the San Diego area of California, when he was but a boy. His father was an architect and his mother a housewife. He attended Poway High School. Since the surrounding area was highly agricultural, Poway High offered programs and classes that were ag related, like soil science, for instance.

By the age of 16, most kids begin to look for some sort of part-time job, like a paper route or mowing lawns, to give them a little spending money while attending school.

Meadows was innovative; he developed a water route. He would go to neighbor's homes and water their shrubs and flowers (there weren't any lawns surrounding the properties). Watering by hand is very time-consuming, and although Meadows wanted the extra money he earned, he also wanted more play time.

He had heard about drip irrigation in school, and decided to see if he could apply it to his water route. From the hose bibs at his customer's homes, he would hook up a line and install drip emitters alongside each shrub and plant.

After graduating from high school, he was encouraged by one of his teachers to enroll at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo (Cal Poly SLO). He received his bachelor's degree in Ornamental Horticulture in 1980. Meadows then went to work for a general contractor, running the irrigation and landscaping crews.

Having the entrepreneurial spirit, Meadows decided to branch out on his own, focusing on commercial landscaping. Unfortunately, the commercial market in the San Diego area dried up in the early 1980s, and Meadows found work hard to come by.

Since the market in Texas was booming, Meadows followed a friend there to work for his company. In Houston, Meadows ran the landscape crews, then moved to Dallas to run the crews out of a new office there, and then to Austin to open a branch, becoming general manager. However, after a few years, Meadows started to miss his California roots.

Back then (only 20 years ago) Hunter Industries was just five years old. The company was in its infancy and growing at a fast and furious pace, keeping an open eye for young talent. Meadows decided to move back to California in late 1986, and in February 1987, he joined Hunter as southwest district sales manager.

Meadows took to the Hunter culture like a duck takes to water. He loved what he was doing and he did it well. Although he didn't realize it then, he was on a fast track to the top. The rest is history.

He moved to a new position as western states sales team manager. One evening, in a hotel room writing a proposal for the position of national specifications manager, he received a call from his boss, asking if he would be interested in taking over international sales. It took Meadows about two minutes to accept the offer, and a few weeks later he was in Europe. He was promoted to vice president, international sales, in 2002, with a counterpart to head up North American sales.

Unlike many of his counterparts who live in the U.S. and travel to their territories, Meadows felt the need to keep his finger on the pulse of his market. Learning from his earlier success by living in Australia to put more focus on the Pacific Rim markets,

Meadows decided to move to Aix en Provence, France, to better concentrate on the markets of Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Meadows is a people person. To keep strong relationships worldwide, he felt he should learn the language of his customers. Where some people find it difficult to learn one language, Meadows decided to add conversational French to complement the Spanish language skills he learned as a contractor.

In the meantime, Hunter kept growing. About three years ago, a consolidation of sales management took place. Meadows was put in charge of all sales, both domestic and foreign. Shortly thereafter, with European sales in place, he moved back to San Diego.

I marvel at people who have a full-time job and can take on additional responsibility and do it well. Last year, Meadows added the duties of marketing to his already full plate. He was now vice president, sales and marketing, for a major brand-name company in the irrigation market.

Just last month, Meadows, financial officer Sherry Dunn, and manufacturing vice president Carlos Gallastegui, were all promoted to the positions of executive vice presidents. Richard Hunter, president and CEO of Hunter Industries, will focus his efforts on business development, new products, and long term strategy, while this new team of executive vice presidents will lead the company for the next decade and beyond.

Meadows attributes his success to hard work and some good luck. He points to several mentors that came along at just the right time. One showed him how to work hard, another how to work smart, another helped him polish his act, and yet another showed him how to navigate the politics that come with working for a large company.

Meadows' goal is to make Hunter Industries the most important vendor in the industry -- to the distributor, the contractor, the designer and the architect -- down to the homeowner. He is committed to making sure that the same qualities which brought success to the company when it was small don't get lost as the company continues to grow.

Brandon Meadows learned his trade well. "Work should be fun," he said. "I love what I'm doing." The rapport and relationships he has developed through the years will stand him in good stead. At the age of 49, Brandon Meadows is at the top of his game.