A lot has changed in the last 40 years, but for San Diego-based Hunter Industries, its cohesive family structure has powered growth through both acquisitions and new product lines.
“We changed the way people did irrigation with a unique business model and creating a distinct corporate culture,” says Hunter Industries CEO Greg Hunter, whose father Richard helped create the company with his uncle Paul and grandfather Ed, an irrigation industry pioneer and entrepreneur. “Being a large extended family helped build the corporate culture and it also ties with our commitment to corporate social responsibility that we apply to this day.”
It is a corporate culture where non-Hunter family members have just as much influence as those with the Hunter last name. No matter the family dynamics, or generation at the helm of the company, Greg Hunter has learned one important lesson: to lead and empower your employees for success.
“We are a very large and diverse company,” says Greg Hunter. “One of the most important things is empowerment, we have thousands of people at this company who are specialists that know a lot more about what they are doing than I do. So it is my job to make sure they are supported to build and executive a successful strategy for them, then it is my job to get out of the way.”
He says the company has recently been reflecting on the influence of Chuck Huston, founding vice president of sales, who spent over 25 years with the company and passed away in July.
“His impact on our organization was huge,” says Greg Hunter. “As a company moves from generation to generation you have to deal with more diversity of thought and staying focused as an organization. Having someone like Chuck set the tone in the early days then grow with us as we expanded influences a business decades after they leave it. We are still reaping the benefits of Chuck’s presence.”
Greg Hunter took over as CEO in 2013, and in those eight years he has supervised the company’s growth, bringing the number of employees to nearly 4,500. Selective expansion has played a major role in the company’s development.
“For us the acquisition market means that we are looking for a product line that adds diversification, but is still familiar in other ways,” says Greg Hunter. “We have entered the lighting business in a big way, and our lighting acquisitions have been important because it gave us the initial entry point to drive new revenue streams. As we have expanded to maintenance, hardscapes and other business areas, we always keep our goal of increasing the breadth of our offerings as our top goal in acquisitions.”
The company had been positioning for a year-long celebration for its 40th anniversary, but the ongoing pandemic has minimalized those plans. Hunter will officially celebrate its 40th anniversary in November by giving away a 1981 Corvette to a lucky customer that month. That following month, at the Craft Brewfest at the Irrigation Association’s Irrigation Show and Education Week held Dec. 6-10 in San Diego, Hunter Industries will be leading a toast to their 40 years in business the evening of the show’s opening night on Dec. 8.
“With the pandemic it has been so hard to make plans,” says Greg Hunter. “Our plan is to celebrate the best way we can with our peers, our people and our customers.”