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André Thornton leads ASW Global through tough times Featured

8:01pm EDT June 30, 2011
André Thornton leads ASW Global through tough times

André Thornton doesn’t make excuses. He didn’t do it as a baseball player with the Cleveland Indians and he doesn’t do it as president and CEO at ASW Global LLC.

In both cases, he faced sizable challenges.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the man once known as “Thunder” hit a lot of home runs, but played in front sparse crowds at cavernous old Cleveland Municipal Stadium with a team that had almost no hope of ever winning a title.

Today, Thornton leads the 170-employee supply-chain solutions company in the midst of an Ohio economy that is still recovering from the 2008 recession. But just as he did in his playing days, Thornton stays laser focused on the job at hand.

“You can’t sit back and say, ‘Well, I’m in here in Northeast Ohio, so therefore, I’m crying about business going out all over the world,’” Thornton says. “Well, that’s not going to change. You have to figure out a way to be competitive and to survive in an ever-changing global marketplace. That’s what a leader and his leadership team is always thinking about.”

When Thornton bought ASW in 2007, he saw employees that had quite a bit of fear about what the future might hold.

“People’s anxiety levels were up,” Thornton says. “Frustration was up with things going on around them. To go through those ups and downs, you really have to trust the people you are following.”

So it was up to Thornton to be open with his people and give them a reason to trust him.

You need your employees to be an active and committed part of your team so they can do their best to help you compete. You can start by clearly explaining to them what you’re looking to do.

“It’s making sure that the plan you have in place, people can understand it, they can believe in it, they can trust it and they can see the practicality of it,” Thornton says. “They can see the progression even though they may not see all of the plan rolled out at once. They can see a progression of where you are trying to go.”

Thornton draws a parallel to the very nature of his business, which is to provide solutions for clients with warehousing and distribution needs. You need to do the same with your employees.

“This is where we’re going and this is why we’re going there and this is what we want to accomplish along the way and this is the benefit to all of us,” Thornton says. “Those are things that a leader has to establish.”

But it’s not just your ability to explain a balance sheet or lay out a strategy that is going to make the difference for your business. You need other people who can play leadership roles too and help you move things along.

“I need to have the right people in place to help promote, direct, guide and advocate the vision throughout our organization,” Thornton says. “That’s through leaders both formal and informal in your organization. They have to buy into it and continue to advocate. They have to be people that have the respect of the organization. What I mean by that is they are not only saying something, they are doing it. Their lifestyle and management style is one of respect and one of integrity.”

And while respect doesn’t have a slot on your balance sheet, it’s probably as important as anything in determining whether your business succeeds.

“It’s the way you carry yourself,” Thornton says. “It’s what you do and how you do it. It’s how you treat people. It’s how you listen. All those things are vitally important because for you to follow me, there’s a respect level that needs to take place.”

Evaluate yourself

André Thornton is a respected man in Northeast Ohio and that’s something that matters a great deal to him. It should also matter to you as the leader of your business.

“We see leaders struggling today,” says Thornton, president and CEO at ASW Global LLC. “It is often around a lack of management around their personal life. Look at the breakdowns that we see taking place in the business community and the political arena. “You are constantly being bombarded with all sorts of information, challenges, requests and opportunities. If you don’t have a way to manage that in your own life, it could throw you off kilter. Whether it’s success or lack of success, people respond to those things in ways that are not healthy.”

So take a moment once in a while to look in the mirror and assess what you see.

“Be honest in assessing your own personal management,” says the leader of the 170-employee supply-chain solutions company. “That it is not a hindrance or deterrent to the success of your organization. Secondly, make sure that what you’re doing organizationally is not a deterrent to the success of your organization.”

How to reach: ASW Global LLC, (888) 363-8492 or www.aswglobal.com