It’s hard to pin down THOR’s President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Johnny Walker; but when you do, you’re always guaranteed a good story and great company. Recently, THOR’s Training Development Team (TDT) had the privilege of spending some time chatting with Mr. Walker and learning about THOR and its 10-year history.
TDT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today, Mr. Walker. It’s obvious that service is a passion of yours. What influenced your choice to continue serving as a civilian, and how did it lead to opening your own company?
JW: I was part of a great team in the U.S. Navy for 30 years. I wanted to build that same great team that kept ships and sailors number one, and I felt like our industry needed a diverse business like THOR.
TDT: How did you get started and where did it all begin?
JW: In February of 2009, I began supporting the Coast Guard Acquisition Directorate (CG-9) working on diesel problems they had been having in their brand new National Security Cutter (NSC). Simultaneously, I was working on various studies as a subcontractor to American Bureau of Shipping.
TDT: I believe your first employee was James Crandall. Why did you choose him?
JW: Actually, Derek Webb was the first employee that I brought onboard in February of 2010. He was a retiring Navy diesel engine inspector and had a particular expertise my customer was interested in. Jim started in 2011 --- he was a retiring diesel inspector as well. Like many of our employees, I served in the Navy with Jim on the USS Gunston Hall.
TDT: That’s great that you were able to take your Navy family and add them to the THOR family. I’m sure that helped immensely when it came to winning your first contract.
JW: Absolutely. Our first prime contract was Coast Guard Machinery Control System (CGMCS), a technology THOR was very familiar with.
TDT: Your personal motto has always been “Fleet First” and “keeping the main thing the main thing”. Why is this important to you?
JW: None of us are immortal. We have so very little time on planet earth, and if we want to make a difference in the lives, safety, security, and prosperity of others we need to have a sense of urgency and priority. We need to remember that we are here to keep the ship and sailor number one.
TDT: How do you continue to be relevant in this ever-changing environment?
JW: I truly believe that our priority Fleet First sets us apart. Take a look at our business environment; if you find another company like ours let me know! I enjoy knowing that we are delivering great sustainable, reliable, and robust products and services that make a difference.
TDT: In what ways has this journey changed your perspective from when you started?
JW: It is a lot harder than it looks, but persistence and resilience overcomes resistance! Building a sustainable company takes time and you can’t give up, but when you believe in your mission you can build something unbelievably rewarding.
TDT: How does your company today compare to your original vision?
JW: Our customers increasingly understand that we are serious when it comes to our priorities. We have always strived to keep ship and sailor first, and now we just have a scaled up version of our original vision.
TDT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us! It sounds like THOR has come a long way and that we can expect some exciting things in the future.
JW: Thank you for all you do for our ship and sailors and for always keeping them number one!