O.A. Newton began in 1916 as a farming and poultry business, but has evolved into a company with an agricultural irrigation business that sells through the company’s Farm and Ranch Hardware store and a material handling business that provides engineered material handling systems to producers of PVC pipe, vinyl siding, PVC fencing, wood composite decking, and carbon black handling solutions for the tire and rubber industry.
“Reputation is one of the critical elements that a family business needs to survive multiple generations,” says President and CEO Robert F. Rider Jr., who’s been with the company for 34 years. “When decisions at all levels of the organization are made with integrity and high ethics, then reputation follows.
Rider also says mature businesses like his need to “look ahead for changes and be able to let go of the past, embrace the future, and always behave like an entrepreneur.”
O.A. Newton requires family members who join the company to start from the ground up. Rider’s grandfather required Rider’s father to work on the farm and learn several businesses that were ancillary to the main business so he could learn sales, accounting, management and operations. Why an ancillary business? Because he had promised his management team for the primary business he wouldn’t impose a “son-in-law” on their efforts so he kept Rider’s dad working on four or five other businesses until he took a leadership role when the company’s poultry business was sold in 1969 and most of the management team elected to go to work for the buyer.
Rider himself started working for the business when he was 12 in the construction area and fabrication shop and subsequently worked in every other area of the business. He says they are doing the same for the next generation of family and non-family leaders.
Some of O.A. Newton’s customer relationships go back 70 years or more — what the company calls a customer for life.
Agriculture and manufacturing
In North America, 40 percent of the wood composite decking is manufactured using some equipment made by O.A. Newton.