Representing next-gen leadership, Lorron James contends his number one customers are the people who work for him at James Group International (No. 30 on BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s annual list of the top 100 black-owned businesses with $138 million in revenues). As such, he is a believer in empowering each staff member and providing them with whatever resources they need to do their jobs the most effectively and efficiently. “My philosophy as a servant leader isn’t to hire smart people just so I can tell them what to do,” he says. “They are the subject matter experts and I work for them.”
James, 36, was appointed in 2018 as CEO of JGI, the Detroit-based holding company. The company’s founder, John A. James, turned over the reins to Lorron and his brother, John E. James, 38, an Army veteran who serves as president of JGI and who ran as a Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018 and lost by a narrow margin (he will run again for the U.S. Senate in 2020). As for the elder James, he remains active as board chairman.
A BE 100s mainstay, JGI has entered its second generation of management and keeps upgrading its business model. Launched by John A. James in 1971, the company has transformed over the years from a trucking operation into a full-fledged supply chain management company that includes two divisions: Renaissance Global Logistics, which handles export consolidation for Ford Motor Co. and Customer Care & Aftersales for General Motors, and Magnolia Automotive Services, which manages tire and wheel assembly for the Toyota Corolla and cross functions for the automaker’s domestic assembly plant in the U.S. southern region.
The new leadership has proven its mettle by accelerating revenue growth by 16%, from $119 million in 2017 to $138 million in 2018. Lorron and John attribute the $19 million gain largely to “our talented staff who have mastered the ability to utilize the technology and resources they have to not only garner new business but maintain and build on the current contracts we have.” JGI’s ability to increase business with existing customers and developing relationships with new clients also contributed to the rise in revenues.
Lorron says growth plans include expanding the company’s tenant base by leasing space on industrial real estate the company owns in Detroit to businesses seeking to operate within the city. JGI owns several parcels of vacant land around its headquarters, including valuable waterfront property. Moreover, the company intends to generate additional revenue from a project it launched in 2018: selling software that gives customers real-time visibility of their material within the supply chain.