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James Cavoli, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

James Cavoli

Vice President, Distributor Support Services 

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Growing up a U.S. Army brat and watching my father interact with soldiers taught me a lot about respect. He was a senior officer, but you wouldn’t know it. His manners, actions, and emotional connection with his troops revealed a dedication to truly knowing people and building a team with a sense of mission.

The diversity and brilliance of my peers at Georgetown University and Harvard Business School taught me humility at a young age. Those college years opened my eyes to the fact that the way I approach problems is one of several options – not the only way. I’ve carried that perspective throughout my career in service to the Army and subsequently for Ford Motor Company and Progressive Insurance, as an entrepreneur and now for Swagelok.

Effective managers and leaders are open, collaborative, trusting, and empowering. They pay attention to details with a sharp focus, while remaining flexible enough to see new facts and make adjustments. One of my earliest professional leadership tests was a change mission in the Army. I was assigned to an underperforming platoon after a leader was dismissed for cause. It turned out that many of the soldiers were unmotivated to strive for success because they didn’t see how their individual efforts helped the organization. My two big lessons learned: organizations always have hidden talent and connecting people with an organization’s goals will create positive momentum.

I discovered the competitive difference that organizational agility can make during my time at Progressive, where managing the knowledge cycle – making decisions, seeing results and adjusting quickly – allowed people to succeed with above average frequency and learn from failure rather than fear it.

In my current role as vice president and chief financial officer, my goal is to foster enterprise-wide financial acumen to help drive sound decision making. As a function, finance excels when it can shorten the distance between operational decisions and financial results. We have stretch goals for Swagelok’s growth and to achieve them we need a foundation that allows for scalability. It’s not as simple as hiring two of everybody or asking customers to buy double to spur growth. Our competition is getting better every day. We have to find new ways to understand customers and deliver new levels of value.

My passion for learning, continuous improvement, and our youth – tomorrow’s business leaders – motivated my involvement and board membership with Junior Achievement of Greater Cleveland. I love helping kids begin to see how values such as integrity, respect, innovation, and customer focus influence a company’s standing in the marketplace.