All In The Family

I love working for a small, family company—it means I get to do a little bit of everything. As store manager of South Jersey Welding Supply’s branch in Maple Shade, New Jersey, I spend most days helping customers in the store, preparing trucks for delivery or heading out on the road to visit customers. From a young age, I tried to learn as much as possible about the business from my uncle, President Bob Thornton Jr.; my father, Vice President David Thornton; and my grandfather, our late founder Robert V. Thornton Sr. The same goes for my cousins, Andy Thornton, store manager of our Vineland location, and Matt Thornton, purchasing manager. We have always wanted to make ourselves as valuable as possible to our family’s company.

I started out at South Jersey Welding Supply in 1997, working part-time while studying human resource management at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Back then, I worked in shipping and receiving, loading tanks, rolling cylinders and pumping propane. When I came onboard full-time after graduation, I focused on counter sales before becoming store manager in 2004. Even now, I have a hard time sticking to my job description. Working for my family’s company makes me want to get involved in every part of the business, even 12 years in.

David Thornton

From cylinder filling to computer installation, David Thornton, 29, does it all at South Jersey Welding Supply.

Beyond my everyday duties of running the store, I’m the unofficial IT guy around here. In fact, one of my proudest achievements is helping with my company’s upgrade to a newer version of our software platform. I went to all three of our locations to set up PCs, run wire and get everything running smoothly. I wouldn’t say that falls under my job description, but that’s the beauty of a family company—we all jump in and help wherever we can.

I think my best professional quality is my attention to detail. After all, little things build up and greatly contribute to a customer’s experience with us. Given the state of our economy, those details matter now more than ever. As store manager, I am paying careful attention to small details in order to “tighten up the ship,” whether it’s eliminating duplicate delivery runs by checking the trucks as they are loaded or closely monitoring profit margins. It’s my job to make sure we are doing all that we can to protect and grow the business.

Six people report to me: two drivers, two fire extinguisher technicians, one counter sales rep and one shipping and receiving rep. I have learned over the years that each different personality requires a different management style. It can be a challenge, but I enjoy finding the right way to make people feel motivated, appreciated and engaged.

I know there are other industries out there where I could work and be content, but I love coming to work every day with my family and knowing that what I do directly contributes to our company’s success. My grandfather, uncle and father have done a great job building this business, and my cousins and I are proud to follow in their footsteps. It’s a family affair, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association