Simon Hunter, CEO, Hunter Apparel Solutions


Over the Christmas and New Year period, Director is profiling the winners of the IoD Director of The Year Awards. Today we meet Simon Hunter, CEO of Hunter Apparel Solutions, who won the Family Business Director award and was named the overall winner of the ceremony…

During his time in the hot seat at professional apparel manufacturer Hunter, Simon Hunter has led the transformation of the company from loss-making traditional uniform business to the UK’s fastest-growing enterprise in its sector. Here, he discusses inspiration, networking and building a great team…

At what age did you first spot your business acumen? I was sent to cub scout camp at eight years old with £10 and came back with over £15. I’d sold half the sweets I’d brought and made a tidy profit.

Who or what has inspired your career? I’m the third generation of my family to run our business, so my father and grandfather were both inspirations; hard work ethic, survivor mentality.

What’s been your most pivotal business moment to date? Taking over the CEO role as we slid into global recession, coupled with a series of global weather events (producer country flooding), which caused raw material prices to spike between 30 and 80 per cent. It was a baptism by flood.

What’s the best business advice you’ve had? Get closer to the numbers!

How and where do you network? The IoD, CBI, Chamber of Commerce, industry events. I love coming over to IoD events in London. It’s amazing what you can learn.

What’s the secret to building a great team? Listen to and respect the views of your key staff and socialise over dinner and drinks to celebrate success.

How do you relax? Really hard weekly gym sessions, a long Saturday evening with my wife and two boys, and a great Sunday breakfast watching Andrew Marr.

What are your plans for next year? Launch a new technology platform which will see us reshape our industry.

What should government do for business in 2016? The Northern Ireland assembly needs to get a deal for our country on corporation tax – it is the only game-changer we have.

Hunter Apparel Solutions vital stats

Business Hunter Apparel Solutions, specialists in the design, manufacture and aftercare of branded professional clothing and protective equipment

HQ Derry-Londonderry

Staff 47

Export markets Republic of Ireland, Middle East, Europe, Pacific Rim

History A family business now in its third generation, the company will celebrate its 80th birthday in 2016. Recently appointed Padraig Canavan as chairman – the first non-family shareholder in the business for over 40 years.

Financial highlights Pre-tax profitability up 127 per cent in 2014

Simon Hunter is a fellow of the IoD and member of IoD Northern Ireland

What the sponsor said…

The competition was stiff for the Family Business category this year and Hiscox is delighted to congratulate the winner, Simon Hunter, on his fantastic achievement. Hiscox has been working with the IoD for over 10 years and continues to be impressed by the hard work demonstrated by UK businesses.

Being successful in business involves taking calculated risks, to deliver growth plans and to help stay ahead of the competition. As the preferred insurance provider to over 180,000 businesses, Hiscox is proud to help businesses manage and offset some of the risks they face with flexible insurance products. As an IoD member, you can save five per cent with Hiscox over the life of your policy.

About author

Director magazine

Director magazine

Director is the magazine for business leaders. Free to IoD members and available to purchase through subscription, each edition is full of insightful interviews with entrepreneurs and company directors.

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