RALEIGH – Walk West CEO Donald Thompson is a well-known entity in the Triangle startup scene. But perhaps it’s less common knowledge that his younger sister is Amie Thompson, CEO and president of Creative Allies, a content marketing firm based out of Raleigh.
The brother-sister duo recently teamed up to produce two free ebooks: A Business Leader’s Guide to Driving Diversity Inclusion in the Workplace and All Hats On Deck. WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently sat down with the elder Thompson to discuss his career, and what it was like working with his sister. Here’s what he had to say:
- So you’re related to Amie Thompson. We interviewed her about Creative Allies a few months back here. Tell us more.
Amie is my younger and more talented sister. She is successful in her own right. She’s building her own brand. If people ask, we tell but we don’t lead with that. She’s making quite a name for herself with Creative Allies and doing an amazing job. I remain on the board of that company, but the smartest thing for me to do to make my investment grow in that business, is to kind of get out of the way and let her do it.
- So she played a part in publishing your eBooks. How did that come about?
Creative Allies is basically a firm that can build a dynamic marketing team for you on the fly using its community of crowd source content providers. Amy and her team at Creative Allies interviewed me for about eight hours. They videoed each interview, created transcripts. So they were able to help produce the content in the book in my voice, in my words. [That’s how] I was able to get these books written even with my busy schedule. I don’t have time to write two eBooks, but I have time to eat lunch and share my thoughts and work through edits. They created this process, which is basically “a book in a box” where they put their team of writers, editors, creators, designers and videographers [on it]. They gave me the tools to then share my perspective, and then they helped pool it together into that ultimate product, which is the eBook.
- How was it working with your sister?
It was very cool. I just agree with her. (He laughs). No, just kidding. It’s easy. We’ve done a pretty good job of not mixing the personal and the professional. So when I’m working with my sister, it’s almost like I don’t view it that way. I’m working with a high-end professional who has a job to do. If we agree, phenomenal. If we don’t, I share the prospective and she needs to make the call for the business as a CEO. We’ve worked together in different firms for the last 10 years, so we’ve learned how to develop a good rhythm. When we see each other at family events and other things, we really don’t talk about work. We never made that an explicit thing, but we don’t kind of blend the two. So every other time we see each other, it’s all about the job.
- Do you think it’s well known in Raleigh’s business community that you are both related?
I don’t know. I think people that have worked with us for a while know. But again, we’re not running from it. I’m super proud of her. Now with the work that she is doing, and really hitting her stride with Creative Allies, most people now Know me as Amie’s brother.
- What does Creative Allies get from this arrangement?
Money. They got money. (He laughs hard again). I paid them.
- So you’re offering this book for free that you paid that have published?
They offer a great service, and I did fund this. This is not something that we just threw together. This is something that I thought could provide meaning to many. I also funded this to be able to create the framework for what Creative Allies is doing, and to rinse and repeat that process. I also wanted to have these foundational books out there for the world.
- So who is your target audience?
There are two target audiences. Actually, the book is broken up into an A-side and a B- side. The A-side is for folks that are in corporate America that are looking at how I can create change in my environment. How can I create a more diverse workforce if I may be the leader of the business and a part of that independent community? How do I use diversity to grow my business, and why should it matter to me? I talk about those subjects from the point of the corporation, the business owner, the executive.
The B-side is for people that are in the hustle, that are growing their careers, coming up through the ranks and are reaching and hitting some of those headwinds that may be holding them back. The B-side is about giving advice to the young entrepreneur, to the young upstart in their career about how to think about diversity and inclusion so they can win also.
- So what’s the main takeaway?
You can’t change the status quo. You’ve got to focus on changing who you are. You can’t wait for society to make the changes you seek. You have to create the environment where you can win in spite of things that are wrong. I’m hopeful that things like racism and bigotry will change and continue to evolve over time to a good point.
Right now, today in 2019, I can’t wait for somebody in the sky to change the environment. You’ve got to win with the cards that you’ve been dealt. My advice, the book, is about practical things that you can do. How do you operate in a meeting where you’re feeling like you’re being spoken over? How do you look at your career in developing mentorship relationships to help you navigate things that you cannot see? A lot of times people will write theoretical things. I like things that are applicable tomorrow. I want you to be able to read this book and be stronger in your career tomorrow.