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Business students hear Thornton’s thoughts on negotiation

John C. Thornton

Although he rarely speaks to groups these days, John C. Thornton agreed to share several tips with UTC business students at the Negotiation Forum, sponsored by the College of Business. “When you negotiate, listen four times more than you talk. While you are listening, someone may share their hot button. Just listen,” Thornton said.

The Negotiation Forum was initiated by Andrew DiPaolo, a current entrepreneurship student who saw a need to offer students a unique opportunity to learn about the art and science of negotiation. Students learned and compared negotiation styles based on real-life stories from successful business people.

Thornton, a developer, is chairman of Thunder Enterprises. He is also the founder and former chief executive officer of American Rug Craftsmen. The company is the leading manufacturer of machine-made rugs in the United States, and it also is the largest producer of decorative floor mats. In 1994, Thornton founded American Weavers, a Calhoun, Georgia-based manufacturer of afghan throw blankets and tabletop products.

Thornton, who also serves on The University of Tennessee of Board of Trustees, was inducted into the UTC Enterpreneurship Hall of Fame in 1999.

Thornton enthusiastically approved of the concept of the forum. “I don’t care if you’re a brain surgeon, you still have to negotiate, you have to sell.” He told the students the relationships built early in life are most important in business. “Surrounding yourself with great people is the most important point in business.”

He assured the crowd winning is not always the best option when negotiating a deal. “You can’t win all the time, because all of a sudden you’ll have nobody to play with,” Thornton said. “Try for a win for you and a win for them. You don’t always have to come out ahead.”

Thornton discussed his winning bid to purchase and develop land on Nickajack Lake he hopes will be used for homes, a marina and golf course. Acknowledging that Marion County needed economic growth, he negotiated to trade three archeologically rich parcels for a smaller site. “We had an opportunity to do a land swap. Burns Island is being donated, which is the richest archeological spot. Hernando De Soto camped on that site,” Thornton said.

Following Thornton’s speech, an interactive panel discussion followed.Students had an opportunity to question panelists including Kurt Faires, Of Counsel with Chambliss Bahner and Stophel; Hugh Sharber, attorney with Miller and Martin; and Jim Teague, Executive Vice President of Enterprise Products Partners of Houston, Texas. Charlie Ragland, The Ragland Group and adjunct professor in UTC's College of Business, was the panel moderator.

Tom Bissonette from UTC's Career and Counseling Center discussed power and personalities with the students to close the event.

Visit the College of Business site for a gallery from the forum.

March 3, 2006

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