Karen Hutton, President & CEO of Hutton, is a driven leader with a Southern drawl. She founded the company in 1998. Today it’s a fully integrated real estate development, construction and investment company. They focus on acquiring, developing, constructing and managing high-quality single tenant, multi-tenant and shopping center retail properties across the country. They recently diversified into multifamily, self-storage and convenience store developments.
“Working hard and putting in the hours, it's what I do. It's what I'm made of,” Hutton says.
Over the past 20 years, Hutton has completed nearly 1,100 retail developments, comprising more than 10 million square feet for more than 100 retailers, and holds a portfolio of 220+ developments across 34 states. In the past five years, Hutton has more than doubled its employee count to 85. Their ability to pivot to attract new clients and enter new sectors with agility means challenging internal resources, as well as branching out. Hutton’s recent senior hires of CFO, Chief Operating Officer and the Chief Information Officer will be key navigators of the constant change in Hutton’s world.
Hutton’s employee engagement is evident in the laughter and energy you’ll find with a visit to Hutton’s Cherry Street office space with unique décor and giant first floor windows kept open on sunny days.
“Mentors are super important at all levels of growth. I have a mentor and I think it’s one of the most important moves I’ve made,” Hutton says. “If I only had an experienced colleague when I started my career, I would have dodged many challenges that come with growing and leading an organization.”
Hutton’s core values are rooted in customer service and giving back to the community. Each year, Hutton partners with local nonprofits including the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy (CGLA). Hutton works on multiple projects with CGLA including fundraising, mentoring and the Hutton Gym.
While it’s true she’s a woman in a largely male industry, Hutton says she doesn’t think of it that way.
“Just be good at what you do. Be diligent and be consciously assertive. Women know as much and can grow as fast as men, but seem to have a harder time finding their voice,” Hutton says.
“With my team, it’s clear that we want to hear what you have to say. But you're not always going to have others provide the best platform to build your confidence. If you are shy or intimidated by speaking up, it may appear you don’t have much value to add, when more than likely you do. That’s why you were selected for the team.”