It was a gut instinct, Aislynn recalls. As she was preparing to leave at the end of her shift at a convenience store, two gentlemen walked in. She turned around, went back to her register and asked if they needed assistance.
It was a chance encounter that led to a career. One of those two gentlemen was Matt Thornton, the CEO of Thorntons. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Now, here I am at Thorntons,” Aislynn says. “I was hand-picked.”
And being hand-picked isn’t something she has taken lightly. Aislynn became a general manager at a location that’s now one of the busiest in the Nashville market, serving between 1,500 and 2,200 customers in any given day.
“I never sit down,” she says. “My customers always come first.”
Those customers have become members of her store’s family.
“They come here because we make them feel welcome,” Aislynn says. “We’re on a first-name basis.”
Aislynn has also had the opportunity to grow within the company and now travels to help train new teams in other markets. She trained teams in Chicago and Cincinnati, but when asked about her training experience in Tampa, a huge smile comes across her face.
“I got to go to an alligator farm, and I got to hold an alligator,” Aislynn says. “It was kind of a life-long dream. Thorntons made it happen. It was awesome.”
As for her store’s team members, Aislynn takes great pride in their efforts. Whenever she receives recognition from management, she is quick to share the credit with her team. And she’s always looking for new talent to add to her store’s ranks. The pitch, she says, is an easy one.
“It’s amazing to work for a company that cheers your successes,” Aislynn says. “I honestly don’t know why anyone would want to leave.”
Matthew is a perfectionist. Maybe it comes from his experience in the military. Maybe it comes from taking over as general manager at a Thorntons store already known company-wide for its cleanliness.
Whatever the reason, he is constantly thinking about what he can do better.
The answer is not much.
Matthew’s store was named in the Thorntons Top 10 for three consecutive years.
“Three years straight and hopefully we’ll make it to a fourth year,” Matthew says. “We’re fighting for it. We’ve got a great crew. They’re the ones that keep this store going. They’re just about as passionate as you could ask for.”
In 2013, Matthew received the highest honor a general manager can receive – GM of the Year. The first thing Matthew did when he returned from the award ceremony was split his bonus check 12 ways between his crew.
“I gave it all to them,” he says. “They’re the ones that deserve it. To have your store and team recognized for all the hard work you’re doing, it’s extremely rewarding. It means everything to me.”
As part of his honor, Matthew has the opportunity to participate in the company’s advisory board, helping provide crucial information to both the upper-level management as well as other general managers. It’s a responsibility that he takes very seriously.
“It’s not like a regular corporation,” he says. “Thorntons management really relies on the GMs to let them know how things are running. They actually care about what our thoughts are. It’s really exciting.”
Matthew talks passionately about his store’s customers and their habits. He recalls events that his team has participated in within the community, including a local festival and fundraiser.
But even as he talks, the restlessness of sitting still is evident in his eyes.
Thorntons values restless dissatisfaction. Matthew lives it.
“You’re not just another number, you’re part of the family,” Matthew says. “There’s not really a lot about Thorntons that somebody can’t like.”
Chris might understand the importance of teamwork better than anyone else in the Thorntons organization.
Prior to becoming a general manager for Thorntons, Chris was a successful quarterback at both the collegiate and professional levels.
Needless to say, he likes working in teams. And he found that at Thorntons.
“I’m definitely team focused,” he says. “At my store, we operate as a team. All of us understand each other’s positions. It goes back to being a quarterback. I had to know my position as well as the front line and where my receivers were going to be. I try to take that same approach to the store. We all should know what each other is doing. That sets us all up for success.”
Chris graduated from college with a business administration degree, but didn’t start at Thorntons in a management role. In fact, after his football career ended, he started at Thorntons as a third-shift customer service representative.
Within a year, he moved up to manager. Two years later, he was named general manager. And while he’s passionate about his store, he’s always looking ahead in his career.
“I want to keep bettering myself and moving forward,” he says. “This company has the opportunities to do that.”
Chris’s store has been very active in the local community, helping out churches and Little League teams whenever possible.
“It’s the little things that can really help. We try to support the community because they’re always there for us,” Chris says. “Customers come in all the time to say thank you. It helps morale and our team members can feel good about the place where they work.”
And Chris has found a team that he has no intentions of leaving anytime soon.
“I can’t leave the people here,” Chris says. “I became attached immediately to this company. A lot of my colleagues are friends. I look for more than just money or security. I look for relationships and Thorntons has that.”