Any company’s ability to survive the test of time over multiple decades should stand out as a true testament to their adaptability and resilience. The average lifespan for many leading companies is roughly 20 to 21 years. For small businesses, it’s much lower with about half closing in their first five years. That’s what makes a major milestone like 75 years of history such an important event to celebrate. Companies of that age have a lot to teach us about what it takes to reach such a high degree of success.
Valparaiso-based Chester Inc. is one such business. They are having a semisesquicentennial celebration this year – a fancy word for a 75th anniversary. Chester is a unique firm with services that span across multiple industries including agriculture, information technology, and architecture and construction. Their roots go all the way back to 1947 when the company was founded by two of Indiana’s most well-known Hoosiers from the popcorn and agriculture sector.
Founded by Hybrid Seed Legends
Two major figures from the popcorn industry founded Chester, Inc. after purchasing the former George F. Chester & Sons Seed company. Household name Orville Redenbacher entrepreneur Charles F. Bowman launched the company originally as Chester Hybrids. Throughout its time, the company tested tens of thousands of popcorn seed strains in pursuit of the perfect crop.
The world-famous Redenbacher’s popcorn brand was created after 20 years’ worth of seed research conducted by Redenbacher while working at Chester. Bowman served as the president of the popcorn business after it started. As their business grew, the two eventually sold Chester Hybrids and it became Chester, Inc. after pivoting to a bit of a different role.
No longer specifically in the seed business, Chester served all kinds of other agricultural needs. They started building things like grain bins and irrigation systems, much like what their agricultural division does today. As innovation and new business needs began to arise throughout the farming industry, the company’s service offerings expanded too. Throughout the years, Chester remained very much in line with evolving agriculture industry trends.
For example, the company’s farming customers began to have other needs like storage facilities. That’s how Chester’s construction and architecture division began to take off. Similarly, with increased use of technology came the need for an information technology division to help farm operations track and manage their inventories.
Today, Chester serves all kinds of other business sectors beyond agricultural clients. The company is structured into three primary divisions: Agricultural Systems, Architectural and Construction, and Information Technologies. The key lesson about Chester’s history is the way the company became successful by keeping a close ear to their customer needs and developing new ways to meet them. It’s a philosophy the company still maintains.
Proud History, Bright Future
Drew Peuquet, current CEO of Chester, shared a little bit with Building Indiana about the valuable lessons that Chester has learned over 75 years.
“Diversity has been the key to our business and continues to be today,” Peuquet said. “We tend to spread the risk and avoid putting all our eggs into one basket. If you put a lot of great minds together, the opportunity for innovation is endless.”
“We have also learned that there are a lot of great businesses out there that need a blueprint to succeed,” he added. “Over the years, we have continued to evolve on how to help with that blueprint and provide business growth for the future through a multiplicity of offerings from our three primary divisions providing continuous turnkey innovations, solutions, and deliverables to our clients.”
Peuquet also commented on Chester’s plans for the future, which will focus closely on aligning customer goals with emerging trends in technology.
“The future growth of Chester will be investing into new services and technologies to advance our market share into construction, IT, and agriculture,” Peuquet said. “Technology is ever-changing and becoming the dominant driver for our three core lines of businesses. Everything now is running through a technological platform, and we plan to service clients with ease of access through our knowledge base. Innovation will be our continual strategic offering as we partner and grow collaboratively with customer business objectives today and in the future.”
Success is Change
What creates the biggest difference between companies that last for many decades versus the ones that don’t? Perhaps it all comes down to a willingness to understand emerging customer demand and finding new ways to remain positioned to meet them. As Chester, Inc.’s history shows, the more a company can evolve, the more it can sustain itself throughout 75 years emerging trends, technological changes, and new advancements.