EXPERT’S OPINION: Advice from a long career

By C.A. Lawton | February 23, 2022
lawton todd swanson blog

The C.A. Lawton Co. periodically publishes input from professionals within the foundry industry and outside the casting world. These Expert Opinions may be casting-related, Continuous Improvement (CI / LEAN), Operational Excellence (Op-Ex), or just working through the challenges of today’s business environment. The goal is to present you with differing viewpoints on how our guests adapt, adopt, and improve. Today’s expert is Todd Swanson.

We welcome your input on any of these topics. Contact us at for details. Thank you for reading!

From music and electronics to manufacturing and executive coaching, Todd Swanson shares a few tidbits from his long and varied career.

Todd, tell us a bit about your professional background.

I worked in a variety of industries, primarily human capital, and operations. I was VP of Operations for a medical device manufacturing company. I worked for Ariens Co. in Brillion, WI and I’m a former C.A. Lawton board member.

How do you spend most of your time right now?

I left my last full-time position to get into executive coaching. I spent some time at the Center for Exceptional Leadership at St. Norbert College and have worked with individual executives since 2016. I’m semi-retired now and spend half of the year in Naples, Florida.

Todd, you have much experience in operations. Could you share a story that you think could help manufacturers right now?

In the case of Lawton (and most manufacturers), focus on how to evolve and grow. Lawton’s LEAN and CI focus drives decision-making to the most relevant level of the organization and gets everyone on the same page.

I worked with Barry Adamski (Chief Operating Officer of Lawton Standard) at Ariens, and I saw him implement LEAN there and continue to drive those initiatives today. Likewise, Alex Lawton (Chief Executive Officer of Lawton Standard) makes a genuine investment financially and time-wise to ensure that his people learn.

What training or education do you think helped you the most professionally?

I spent much time studying LEAN, CI, and six sigma. I think the most helpful learning has been those principles and their application. Learning how to apply them and integrate the principles culturally.

Where would you invest time, money, or other resources right now (as a company)?

Training and development of people. Invest in people and learning. Make sure you involve everyone in a complete understanding of your business, their role, and how they are responsible for contributing. Invest in leaders who will bring business into the future.

What advice would you give to young professionals today?

Never stop learning. Say yes to as much as you can handle.

What characteristics make a person the most successful at work?

Humility in a leadership role. Don’t let your ego get larger than it needs to be. You don’t have all the answers. Reach out for and accept help. Be approachable, willing to listen, respect individuals, regardless of their position. Keep an open mind.

If you wrote a book about your career, what would the title be?

Something related to all the different roles I’ve taken on. I grew up in Los Angeles, so entertainment was right in my backyard. I worked in film in college while going to UCLA for business. I had a fascinating job working at capital records doing HR. I kept applying the same set of skills from music, electronics, security printing, credit card manufacturing, safety, fire alarms, building snowblowers and lawnmowers, or manufacturing medical-related devices.

What excites you the most about the future of manufacturing/foundries?

People are coming to realize the importance of manufacturing in this country. It is essential to maintain a base onshore. I think Lawton is doing all the right things to develop people, tech, and markets, and finding the right customers.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just that I wish Lawton all the best, they’re truly visionaries in the industry.