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Ask Bob about his new clock. Bob Thornton celebrated his twentieth anniversary at ACS early this year, and so received a lovely Howard Miller clock of his choice, engraved with his years of service. Bob came to ACS in February 1989 as a combination support analyst and account manager. In his two decades here, he has done almost everything, with the exception of programming. Bob worked on a number of implementation projects for Advantage clients large and small, and has done training, consulting and even some sales work. Yes, for one Advantage client, Bob not only did the original software demonstrations for them, but also handled the follow-up sales process tasks.

Bob likes the fact that he can build long-term relationships with clients. For instance, he worked on the original 1992 implementation at NAMG (North American Membership Group) in Minnesota, and serves as their account manager today.

"I've worked with Bob since sometime in 1992 when we started planning and testing for our conversion to Advantage," says Lana Carnahan, Information Manager at NAMG. "Between the time he spent in Minneapolis and the time we spent on the phone working through test plans, conversion prep/issues, (which seemed to be every night for months) I've gained an enormous amount of respect for Bob and his values. He is always patient, understanding and willing to do anything he can to help someone out. If he doesn't know the answer (which is rare) he will make certain to find it out."

Lana goes on to say: "I'm proud to say that through all these years, I do also consider Bob a friend."

Another long-time client is José Garcia of Health Communications, an Advantage client since 1994. "I've known Bob for a good number of years," says José, "and it's always been a pleasure. Bob has always been there for us in any capacity that we've needed. I've had him as a trainer, installer and now as our account representative and he's always been someone that I enjoy working with."

Currently a senior account manager, Bob is responsible for close to a dozen clients. He says that although his plate is full, he is able to juggle it all. One of his favorite aspects of his job is teaching clients how to use the software and how to use it more efficiently. He really enjoys "figuring stuff out"?getting questions from clients which cause him to dig to find the solution. Asked which part of the job he enjoys least, Bob responded?not surprisingly?invoicing and account maintenance. He prefers to deal with people rather than paperwork.

"Bob is very customer oriented," says his supervisor, Greg Stout, VP, Client Services. "Plus, he has an acute knowledge of Advantage functionality. This combination of skills positions Bob well to understand his clients business concerns and help them take full use of Advantage features. He is a very effective trainer and a great resource for providing input for new Advantage enhancements."

Bob travels to each one of his clients at least once each year for a "wellness" visit. As opposed to identifying modifications or an operations review, which have specific goals to be accomplished, he maintains that his number one priority on these visits is "to listen." He is there at these times to deal with issues involving such topics as the overall software, the client's future plans, or the relationship between ACS and the client.

"We look forward to our visits from Bob," says Andy Wright of Oxford University Press. "He's one of life's Good Guys--always cheerful, always helpful. His all-around system knowledge comes in handy whenever we are introducing a new business model."

Scott Simerlein, VP of IS at NAMG, feels this way about Bob: "He is one of those rare people who represents his company as a consummate professional, yet always makes you feel like your concern is his personal concern, too. A true gentleman and Advantage scholar, Bob has provided a consistent and valuable connection between ACS and NAMG."

Bob was born and raised in Minnesota and attended college there at St. John's University in Collegeville. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in government and political science, he moved with some friends to Michigan and took a job working for an interdenominational religious organization. During his tenure there, he spent a year working and living in London, England. Bob met his future wife, Rosemary, a few years later and they married and settled in the Ann Arbor area to begin raising their family. Bob and Rosemary have four daughters, ages 14 to 21, and Bob is proud of the fact that, despite two of them being in college and with the difficulty of coordinating everyone's jobs and activities, they have always managed to schedule a week-long family summer vacation. That includes this year, when the six Thorntons plan to rent half a duplex on the ocean in North Carolina, one of their favorite spots. Another favorite spot is the west coast of Michigan along Lake Michigan where they have enjoyed using their pop-up camper.

Bob's Minnesota roots are very evident in the winter months, when even hardy Michiganians are pulling out their scarves and hats and gloves and he is in a light-weight, unzipped jacket, saying: "Cold? This isn't cold!" It must be that warm heart that keeps you from getting cold, Bob!



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