Dr Yvonne Thompson, entrepreneur and owner of ASAP Communications and author of ‘7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards’ shares her career journey and advice.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Yes – I planned to be a Doctor. Started down the necessary education path and then got derailed in various ways. I always knew I wanted to be in the caring profession and in a curious way I am. I take care of client’s reputation, profile and to a certain extent their business and sometimes personal lives, through the PR and public affairs work which I do for them. I guess also in a way my plans came through twice over, as I have two honorary doctorates, one from London Metropolitan University and one from Plymouth University for my work with small business, minorities and women owned businesses, and also for Global Diversity and Gender Equality in the work place …not medical but you can still call me Doctor! As far as running my own business is concerned. I also guess I knew I would eventually be in an officious position. As far as the PR business is concerned – I kind of fell into it, but once there I did take the reigns. I am very good at ceasing the moment, hesitate and you are lost is one of my mantras, so when the opportunity and the time came together I started my own business. When the opportunity and the time came together I accepted an offer to be part of the UK’s first Black music Radio station Choice FM (now Capital Xtra) amongst many others including time and opportunity coming together to write my first book “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women On Boards” – my gender equality and business expertise coming together in …I’ve been told a very inspirational, and achievable advice.
Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
I’m guessing I faced what a lot of women would have faced given the situation of them starting their own business many years ago – when it was not the done thing. I felt I had a triple whammy – first – who told me I could start a business – as a women, who told me I could start a business – as a black women, and how audacious was I to think – me a black women could start a PR business…when PR was not taken seriously as it is now. But every time I faced such roadblocks, I always find a way around it and always come out a level or two higher then when I went in. You have to “feel the fear and do it anyway” in order to get on in life. My mum always said “what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”…so do or die! It is about believing in yourself, being focused, but also having the right educational backup to do what you want to do.
What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?
There is so much. First and foremost, know what kind of leader you are or need to be for the position you are in. Every good leader will develop an organic fellowship. Every good leader will command respect, not demand it. Surround yourself with the kind of people you want to aspire to be. As Mr Miagi in Karate Kids says “Daniel San to succeed in life find your focus, and focus on your focus”. If you believe it you can achieve it.
When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?
Depends on the role, the company and the candidates. Where possible I would look for the best Diversity fit as I believe diverse companies make for better companies, broader thinking and better solutions. So if it the company needed more women and there was a gender choice – I would choose a women, and if there was a race dimension and it needed more race balance I would chose the minority candidate.
How do you manage your own boss?
That’s me. I could do a lot better! But most bosses I think need people who are – loyal, creative, supportive, forward thinking, entrepreneurial and knowledge in the job at the level their position requires…without sucking up to them.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?
There is no typical work day. Every day if different which is why I enjoy working for myself. The only typical thing is that I like to work before the “white noise” of the day starts, before I start getting interruptions from phone call, emails and all the other things that are time drainers. So typically I would be at my computer around 5.30 – prioritise and get what needs to be done – done. If I have time I would be int he gym for an hour by 7.30 and then at my desk or meeting for 9.30 on wards. My day typically finished the next morning – sometimes as little as 4 hours before my morning routine. I am one of these people – it does not matter how early or how late I go to bed – I will wake up at 5.30 or close to it what ever I do and even wherever I am. So long days – Sleep gets In The Way!
What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?
Again it depends on the culture of the organisation. A media company would be totally different to a bank or a legal company; but one of the best things people can do to raise their profiles no matter what company they are in is to volunteer to do things for others. Networks, events, support others, socialise appropriately and strategically, join social media and internal networks as well. I’m also a big advocate for personal websites.
How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?
When I started out in business coaching and mentoring was not as prolific as it is now, so I never really had either. however I have been a coach and mentor for others and what they have fed back is that coaching – helps them bring out what they already know and helps them to apply it to situations whether good or bad, for guidance. Mentoring is also invaluable for someone who needs more intensive guidance, help and support. Both a important depending on where you are on your career timeline.
Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a new networker?
Not enough people take networking seriously enough. It has become more and more important for the female careerist who has her eyes on the prize of moving up the corporate or entrepreneurial ladder. Network are so important. Three tips would be – always network up, look at networking as an extension of your job, and network outside of your usual circles as you never know where your next “leg up” will come from.
What does the future hold for you?
I’m a forever optimist but I’m not one for sitting on my laurels, so more of what I’m doing now, just better and smarter.
Yvonne Thompson can be reached at: [email protected]