Wednesday 7 May 2014

2inspire Business Profile: Inspirational Business Woman Dr. Yvonne Thompson CBE

In this inspirational interview we meet Dr. Yvonne Thompson CBE, a renowned entrepreneur who has been in business for over 30 year. As a successful Public Relations guru and one of the founding directors of Choice FM (Now Capital Xtra), Yvonne has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with the world and will be hosting a workshop at the The 2inspire Ladies Day on June 28th. 
Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
There is no typical day when you work for yourself.  It really depends on what is going on at the time.  However, I tend to wake up around 5.30 to 6.00am.  I don’t use an alarm it’s automatic whether I’m working or not.  First is a cup of coffee, depending on my schedule for the day either 30 mins of yoga or 90 mins in the gym. My gym opens at 6am which is great.  Exercise out of the way – its then back to emails, diaries, and as necessary off to first meetings.  But basically it is filled with mobile of office based working, planning, seeing clients and or event organising. Sometimes lunch – sometimes not, again depending on the day.  Attending or organising launches, networking events, receptions, dinners, seminars and or workshops. Again depending on the day it can finish anytime from 6 onwards.

What made you start the business and what steps did you take to start operating as a business?
I’ve been in business 32 years.  32 years ago, I felt it was the only way of getting a promotion as racial and gender prejudices were far more prevalent than they are today.  I worked at  CBS Records (now Sony BMG) and the music industry was very different then than it is now.  After working in press and promotions and working with high profile singers and performers for nearly seven years, and being  I felt the only way to move up is to move out and that’s what I did.  If I could do it for them I could do it for myself.  With business plan in hand, potential clients already in the bag, support on hand, and a place to work from, I set up my first office in Marylebone High Street, and Capital Radio Music Festival was one of my first clients, who went on to include the Sunsplash Reggae Festival in Jamaica, UK and internationally amongst many others.  I built the business gradually and strategically.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
 My greatest commercial business accomplishment was being a founding director of the UK’s first legal radio station Choice FM, launched in 1990.  Bringing Black music to the mainstream of the UK’s music industry and music charts. It gave Black UK musicians the opportunity to get their music made and heard on radio
bringing them to a wider audience, but also helped black businesses to promote and grow their businesses across London and Birmingham. It was successfully developed into a group covering Birmingham, and London (North London and South London) and later sold to Capital Radio – and now owned by Global Radio
which bought Capital Radio Group and most of the other independent radio stations across the UK.  The name was recently changed to Capital Xtra. Starting my business support networks, including ACBN and the EFBWBL.  Supporting and inspiring others businesses to start up and grow their own businesses and experience the troughs and peaks of being an entrepreneur was also a personal great for me, for which I was recognised on the Queens’ birthday honours list in June 2003 with a CBE(Commander Of The British Empire). In 2004, I was recognised by the Mayor of Houston with an Yvonne Thompson Day 4th January, and in 2005 I received an Honourary Doctorate from the London Metropolitan University for services to small, minority and women owned businesses and marketing, PR and mass communication.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
Business growth in the first 12 years of running it was the biggest challenge.  Just keeping the business alive and growing felt like I had a triple whammy against me.  When I started my business, the banks and clients were not used to talking to women, even more so Black women, and even more so talking to a black woman about the business of PR.  Back then PR was not seen as tangible.  You could not say for sure you would get a certain amount of coverage for a certain amount of money paid.  But there was also nothing to say  you wouldn’t get more than you paid for.  It was a big learning curve for businesses in general and also my business. 

What are your future plans for the business?
The radio station has been sold, and I am now retired from the PR company but still working as a consultant.  I think after 32 years in business I have a few books in my head which I am planning to put on paper and publish them.  After that it is to enjoy life, do the things I want to do, see the things I want to see, go the places I want to go, and not have any regrets.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Not much, apart from getting more qualifications under my belt before starting my business, be more global, and aim higher, think wider, travel more and be more selfish.

What’s the best compliment you could receive in business?

I think having a satisfied client base, and getting great feedback, support and compliments  from others.
I have received the best compliment of being recognised by the Queen for my services to businesses, and having the legacy of black music being on an equal stage of the UK’s music industry.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
If you don’t follow your dreams how will you make them come true. They will inspire the next generation, as I was inspired by generations before me.  Not necessarily in business but in the ambition of freedom.  Working for yourself is freedom to do what you want to do, when you want to do it, with who you want to do it with. Women are 51% of the world, we are the majority, but we are the minority in so many things and in so many ways.  Without starting my rant about women’s equality, we have to look to ourselves for our own well-being, but we have to bring the brothers with us.  So good luck with that dream.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
It’s such a different world now to when I started my business.  With the digital age you need practically no permissions, there are no barriers, and you can do practically anything from your laptop these days.  So if its what you really want, ensure you have all your ducks lined up, contacts, networking, media contacts, a database, social media, education – not text speech, people skills, communication, and last be not least and probably the most important, good work ethic.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
As the youngest of 5, I’ve always felt the need to be competitive to catch up with rest of the family.  I’m one of these people who is more interested in working for what I want.  It may be a fear that if someone gave it to me – someone can take it back!  If I work for it I own it and can do what I like with what is mine.  I’ve never depended on anyone to live and God’s will - I never will have to.  My love for work, achieving is the biggest high I can get, and I love being on a high so I strive to keep it going.  If I’m not busy I get very irritable.  I need to work and I need to achieve.  That’s what inspires me.  Who inspires me are the people that tell me I can’t.  Tell me I can’t, and if I believe I can – I will.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?

There are so many –Here are a few:-

Seven Deadly Sins - Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Science without humanity, Knowledge without character, Politics without principle, Commerce without morality, Worship without sacrifice." Mahatma Gandhi

Chinese Proverb
"Tell me and I'll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I'll understand."

Love Like You’ve never been hurt,
Live like there’s no tomorrow,
Laugh like no one can listening
Sing like no one can hear you,

Dance like there’s no one watching
Enjoy life to the fullest

On June 28th Yvonne Thompson CBE will be running a workshop entitled  "How To Build Your Business Brand Through Your Personal Profile in 7 Easy Steps."
One of the most important tools for advancing your business is defining and using your personal profile to build your business brand. Dr Yvonne Thompson will teach attendees about building your business brand, how your brand is your vision of who you are and what you want your target market to know about you, and what you can do for your target market. She will teach how it is a message that distinguishes you from your competition. It is what makes you unique, memorable, trustworthy, and builds loyalty and connects your audience with you. Defining your personal profile and building your brand is simple using her 7 -step process. Book your place here

For more in-depth information on Yvonne Thompson visit

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