With about three years of experience in the produce industry and as an executive for Ontario-based Highline Mushrooms, CEO Aaron Hamer knows well the value of a company’s culture in its past and future success.

Hamer, born in Arizona and raised in Chicago, came to Highline in 2014 as chief financial officer.

The business was going through a major transition from family ownership to a professionally managed business. He was named CEO in August of this year.

Before coming to Highline Mushrooms, Hamer was in a management role at Enginetics Aerospace in Ohio, another family business that was moving to professional ownership and management.

Through these experiences, Hamer has realized that understanding the culture of a family business is essential to management as it transitions to a new model.

“The critical piece is that the business survived and thrived for a specific reason, and it typically can be traced back to the culture and the DNA of the organization,” he said.

“It is being able to put systems in place and make the investments in the business that allow you to grow the business while maintaining and promoting and continuing what made the business special,” he said.

The fact that Highline has survived for decades and is a leader in the Canadian and North American mushroom industry can’t be taken for granted, he said.

“Naturally we want to maintain and help foster its continued growth ... to be able to take the Highline culture and the culture of businesses that we acquire and make sure that we have a very well-oiled powerful machine (that can) keep growing.”

Glenn Martin, former CEO and now chairman of Highline Mushrooms, said Hamer has been a quick study, with high intelligence and a lot of energy.

“As far as his leadership style, he is very collaborative in his approach,” Martin said.

“He thinks strategically and long-term, and that’s refreshing,” he said.

He said Hamer has built an effective management team around him, sets goals, and lets the team execute.

Hamer has been an executive for about 15 years, and one of his principles is the need for a strong group.

“A team that isn’t afraid of challenging leadership, that gets engaged in the business, gets engaged in the strategy and executes, that’s the way I’ve been successful,” he said.