10 minutes of inspiration with Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE

Dr Yvonne Thompson, entrepreneur and owner of ASAP Communications and author of '7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards' shares her inspiring story.

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Dr Yvonne Thompson CBE is a serial entrepreneur. For over 30 years, she ran her own SME media company, ASAP Communications, being one of the first of its kind to dedicate itself to providing PR bespoke services to black music artists in the early 1980s. Coinciding with this, Dr Thompson has been an advocate and a campaigner for change on matters of race and gender equality for minorities, small businesses and women. She has worked with many public bodies and agencies, in a leadership, think-tank or advisory capacity, however, her notable contributions have been, a founder member and Chair of the African Caribbean Business Network and President and founder of the European Federation of Black Women Business Owners.

For 15 years Dr Thompson as a founding director of Choice FM (the UK’s first legal black music radio station, now Capital Xtra) remained the lone woman on the Board of Choice FM. She experienced many highs during this time however, remembering the isolation she felt as the lone woman and the rarity of women occupying these positions she started raising awareness of the lack of women on boards. 

At the end of 2014, her efforts culminated with the publishing of her first book “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards”, further moving on the gender equality conversation in the boardroom. The book interviewed 22 women who currently occupy board positions in companies in the UK and Europe, including a number of Inspire women. She says they are not “role models, but real models.” 

Dr Thompson identified seven main traits shared by each of the women through their interwoven stories, anecdotes and tips for the top and provides realistic, practical and proven pointers for women careerists to follow on their route to the boardroom.  

What inspired you into this career path?  

Looking back, I was inspired by my mother Edna May’s energy and determination to ensure that her children would get a better start in life than she did.  She gave me the work ethic and the notion that there was always another way. She was the original domestic entrepreneur. I was passed over several times in my first job in communications at a music company. After the third time, I thought the only way I could move up was to move out…so I left. I also have an abundance of self-belief and I needed it in those early days. I was constantly being told as a woman I couldn’t do this, or as I woman I should have this view or that. The naysayers steeled me, which put life into my purpose.

What have been some of the highlights? 

There have been many highlights, working in communications for one of the largest record companies in the world - at the time, CBS Records, starting my own business, meeting Nelson Mandela when he came to the UK just after his release, receiving a CBE on the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2003, receiving my first doctorate in 2005, and last year receiving my second doctorate, and last but not least publishing my first book “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women On Boards”. 

There are many more, such as overseeing the positive impacts being made under my watch as the Chair of the London Central Learning and Skills Council, and being in the first administration for the first elected Mayor of London.

Have you encountered any challenges along the way and what helped you to overcome them?   

It would be a rare breed to be in business as a woman, for over 30 years and not have challenges. There have been many challenges along the way - both personal, and work related. Having had my daughter at a young age one of my very first challenges was how to justify both to myself and to family the benefits of leaving a full-time paid job to start my own business without knowing where my next pay cheque would come from. Being an “entrepreneur” was a word that was foreign to the UK vocabulary 30 years ago.

The next hurdle was financing aspects of my business with banks demanding a man’s signature before they would even consider a loan. And the triple whammy was being a woman, being black and having the audacity to think I could do PR - a service that did not have tangible evidence of getting a certain amount of column inches for a certain amount of money. I was able to overcome these hurdles with focus, determination, knowing my trade, having confidence that I knew what I was doing and having a go get attitude to make things happen.  

The equality “brand”, both race and gender, is always difficult and I have been dealing with it for over 30 years, but continue to champion these areas with every belief that inequality will change, keep rising for the cause and keep giving back.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?  

In 5 years’ time I will have written at least one more book and will still be championing the causes I have always done and seeing some of the changes that I have hoped and worked for start to bear fruit. 

If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?    

You’ve done a great job with the resources you’ve had to do it with. Stay focused and stay determined the road is not for the swift but for those who can endure.  “Life is like a tale, it’s not how long it is but how much you fit into it” (ad lib - Lucius Seneca).  

Don’t let the journey pass you by. Enjoy every breath of it, take a deep breath at every hurdle and jump, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Win a copy of ‘7 Traits of Highly Successful Women’

To add your wisdom to the women on boards conversation and to find out more about the women/diversity on boards workshops and course in conjunction with the Greenwich School Of Management please email your name, company name and phone number to 7traits@7traits.co.uk.  

The first 10 people to text their name and email address and your favourite trait, or your own top trait to, 60777 along with keyword 7Y9Y4, will receive a free downloadable  or hard copy  of  “7 Traits of Highly Successful Women on Boards - Views from the top and how to get there” Author: Dr. Yvonne Thompson CBE - ISBN 9781909623736 and is published by Panonma Press and available on Amazon and all good bookstores.