Great leaders bring out the best in other people, pushing their abilities and enhancing their potential. They use their vision to create a goal structure and culture that motivates each person to do their best work. Holding people accountable for their professional commitment, they set the optimum conditions so that every teammate can realize how their personal success can contribute to a team’s larger success.
In the field of digital marketing, Donald Thompson is one such exemplary leader who enables his enterprise to thrive by exalting a culture of excellence. Donald always sets a high standard for his team. He knows that it instills in them the belief that they can achieve and maintain the benchmark, especially when their leader believes in their abilities.
As the CEO of Walk West, recognized among Inc. 5000 for three years in a row as one of the fastest growing marketing agencies in North Carolina, Donald Thompson has driven many people to the heights of success from scratch. “Along the way, they have started believing in their own unlimited potential and capacity for growth. That’s what inspires me,” affirms Donald.
A REFRESHING ALTERNATIVE
Established in 2007 as a break from traditional marketing strategies that simply provided thoughtless and templatized products and services, Walk West relies on a rich culture of curiosity and learning.
This culture allows Donald’s team to cultivate a more thorough understanding of clients and their goals. Donald clarifies, “We believe that our competitive curiosity, agility, and diversity of thought help our partners become more successful. Our name harkens back to American pioneers and reminds us to take the uncharted path; we forge ahead to embrace the unknown.”
Under Donald Thompson’s skilled leadership, Walk West operates within a simple framework: strategy plus execution equals business results. The company builds data-driven and innovative digital marketing strategies with an incredibly diverse team of specialists, journalists, entrepreneurs, and MBAs. This team foregrounds the diversity of ideas, which helps Donald “marry innovation with a modern, multicultural mindset; this way, we can churn up fresh ideas that transform the way our clients approach their marketing.”
Moreover, Walk West invests time and energy in teaching its clients how to win on their own. It focuses on making its clients’ internal teams self-reliant, building their capacity for success through impactful mentorship, modern tools, and other necessary resources.
Speaking about his role as the CEO of the company, Donald Thompson explains “My focus is on partnerships, client relationships, and internal training. I seek opportunities to coach and develop the leadership capacities of my team and am still highly involved in daily operations, including pitches for new business and client meetings.”
As the leader of this modern enterprise, Donald sets the perfect work conditions and creates the best milieu for its success.
A CULTURE OF GROWTH, TEAMWORK, AND EXPERTISE
Donald considers Walk West’s thriving culture of teamwork and individual excellence as his greatest input to the agency. He claims, “Over the years, we have built an energetic culture that relies on inclusion, collaboration, and innovation.”
As an experienced leader, Donald ensures that each team member is an expert in their role. The ensuing core stability allows everyone to perfectly execute their individual roles while also collaborating with others to find creative marketing solutions. Ultimately, every member benefits and grows from the consolidated strength of the team.
Donald Thompson claims, “Diversity is key, and creating an inclusive, accessible culture unlocks its power. It also helps you win better talent, because people look for organizations where their differences will be celebrated and valued. The more I learn about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), the more excited I am to see that social good and financial success are intricately interwoven. Walk West excels at celebrating diversity and teamwork, and I’m proud of that.”
As integral as it is, building the right culture is often challenging, as every member might not be in the same page. Over the years, Donald has had to make some tough employee decisions in order to improve the chemistry within his team. He considers those changes to be inevitable, “because they reinvigorate your culture and reset tones for higher performance.”
FULFILLING EXPECTATIONS AND OFFERING VALUE
When it comes to marketing in the new era, the key to maintaining a successful agency is to correctly gauge client expectations and bring something unique to the table. The former is possible through a healthy collaboration between creative minds, while the latter is the result of cultivating individual creativity and innovation.
Donald has learned this while going through a wide range of experiences, at both professional and personal levels. Growing up in the South as an African American with no college degree or technology background, he has succeeded against tough odds and is thankful to have people in his life who insisted on his personal growth.
Donald admits, “As the son of a football coach and a college football player myself, I’ve always known the value of teamwork and the power of my personal hustle. My family, along with my mentor and friend Grant Williard, held me to a high standard, showing me how to overcome an unfair playing field and always keep pushing forward.”
Being a leader in digital marketing, Donald Thompson has acquired one crucial lesson that he has turned into his golden rule: always invest generously in client services talent. This is because management expectation is the central factor that decides the mettle of a digital marketing agency. Donald avers, “The consultant-client relationship is based on clear expectations. It’s all about making the right promises and deftly managing communication.”
TRANSFORMING THE FUTURE WITH TDM
Donald Thompson considers himself fortunate that Walk West is already geared into the digital realm and focused on communication. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is Walk West’s mode of operation that has made Donald and his team stand strong in the face of competition. “Digital marketing has helped us refine our message and develop our strength,” Donald notes.
“My future is all about DEI and building my new firm, The Diversity Movement (TDM), which was born from Walk West in 2019. TDM is a tech-based, data-driven learning firm that offers consultancy and education for organizational culture transformation, guaranteeing better business results.”
In the ace digital marketer’s opinion, the future of communication requires everyone to learn how to effectively collaborate on business projects. To this end, Donald has been actively pushing for inclusivity in Walk West’s daily operations and prioritizing DEI. “My best advice for everyone I talk to is to take our new course, Improving Company Culture Through Inclusive Language.”
What should the coming generation of leaders do to emulate Donald Thompson’s success? He makes it clear that competitive, receptive, and driven learners are the need of the hour: “You have to be agile and keep on learning as fast as tech and culture are shifting, as fast as the priorities and needs of your employees are changing. The best leaders work hard for continuous growth, and they’re open to great insights, no matter where they come from.”