Johnelle Hunt: Continuity Key for Growth, Culture at J.B. Hunt

by Chris Bahn  on Monday, Apr. 29, 2013 12:00 am  

“I don’t know what it was about him,” Hunt said. Something clicked. Before he walked out, I was asking him when he could come to work.”

“Kirk earned his way up,” she added. “So many of our top employees came to us young. I give the credit to those people. They were young. They were eager. They were energetic. They didn’t know a thing about trucking, but they came in with fresh, new ideas.”

Continuity has been key to success and growth after her husband stepped down as chairman of the company in 1995, Johnelle Hunt said.

Among the company’s nine executive officers — not including Roberts or Thompson — only one has fewer than 19 years of experience at J.B. Hunt.

Thompson agreed with Johnelle Hunt’s assessment that the culture of promoting from within had a positive impact on company growth.

Handing over the reins to Roberts in 2011 was seen as a move that could continue the success.

“I have noticed throughout my career that companies tend to develop a personality and certainly a culture,” Thompson said in an email exchange with Arkansas Business.

“That personality is an amalgamation of the people who make up the company. Often it is uncomfortable to try to infiltrate that culture/personality if you are coming from the ‘outside’ where you most likely have adopted or been part of your previous culture.

“When you basically grow up in a company as most of our leadership team have, you ‘fit’ better, understand the important tenets of the culture, embrace the goals, accept ‘the way we do it here,’ and know where the bones are buried, so to speak. Not that outside opinions [and] experience aren’t valuable, but when you’ve been with the same team for a long time you do generate a cohesiveness and, as you mentioned, continuity.”

A willingness to embrace fresh ideas is one of the most consistent parts of the J.B. Hunt culture that Thompson speaks of.

Not being afraid to try something new was responsible for a nearly $290 million bump in revenue over a four-year span from 1990-94.

Intermodal proved to be an innovation that had a significant impact for J.B. Hunt and the rest of the transportation industry.



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