Leaders Who Lift Others: Will Jones Named a “Most Admired CEO” by the #CharlotteBusinessJournal

                  Will Jones, President/CEO, Thompson

Excited to announce that 
@Thompsoncff‘s very own CEO, Will Jones, has been selected for the Charlotte Business Journal’s ‘Most Admired CEO’ Awards program.

The awards recognize established local leaders who have a strong vision for their companies, have shown commitment to culture in the workplace and made significant contributions to the Charlotte community.

Congratulations, Will, on this well-deserved honor!

Motivate employees and impress stakeholders by doing everything differently



Earlier this year, I read an article that shared the thoughts of 14 rich and powerful people and their definitions of success. The diverse backgrounds of the individuals were as intriguing as their views about business. From multimedia moguls and world leaders to global business magnates, the factors that topped their lists were the intangibles.

While the thought of their billion dollar bank accounts may have crossed their minds for a brief second, it was surprising and refreshing to read that money was last on all of their lists of accomplishments. So, what were the items that collectively hovered at the top? Relationships, wisdom, self-satisfaction and truly liking yourself were discussed; however, doing things differently and creating a unique path they can be proud of topped the charts.

As I have learned, success is defined differently for everyone, and the reasons for celebrating milestones aren’t always cookie cutter. While some companies and organizations perceive large revenues as a major win, others, like Amazon, value growth over profits. While both scenarios are critical, there is still one major factor that trumps all others … people. The measure of a company’s employee morale and stakeholder buy-in can truly be the difference between winning and losing. Many organizations are doing this right and the return on investment is scaling them upward.

Doug Conant, Founder and CEO of ConantLeadership once said, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” A timeless sentiment that is moving missions forward in both Charlotte and outside the Carolinas. It’s when you approach your employees in a way they have never experienced, that is when your business truly transforms.

While keeping in step with technology and exploring more streamlined ways to operate your business are priorities, maintaining the confidence of your employees and keeping stakeholders engaged are equally as important. As a service provider, Thompson’s model is people-centered; therefore, the organization must employ the most effective and surefire ways to keep employees driven, leadership inspired, and clients protected. Over the past year, Thompson has been laser-focused on doing things differently in order to boost employee morale and embrace stakeholders, in addition to addressing the mental health issues many people are facing in the Carolinas that require real solutions.

Creating partner events that allow employees and corporate alliances to connect and cultivate relationships builds skills. It makes your employees want to do more because you make them believe they can. Employee Appreciation Days are huge and go a long way, as they always bring out the best in everyone. This kind of inclusion boosts self-esteem and an enthusiasm that will transfer to clients.

When Thompson recently collaborated with CycleBar for their #GivingTuesday event, it not only brought donors and corporate partners together, but employees participated and felt good about being part of something bigger than themselves. Their contributions of time and resources moved Thompson’s mission forward.

Employing effective communications strategies and creating a culture of inclusion to ensure no employee is left behind is key. When internal information needs to be conveyed, Thompson utilizes creative vehicles to share updates, announcements, milestones, and staff achievements. On a weekly basis, a group or individual staffer is recognized for their hard work or a job well done. This simple practice has led to daily peer-to-peer shout outs and virtual high-fives among the organization’s 250 employees.

Leadership that leans in is perhaps the most vital because the entire organizational culture begins at the top. One of our nation’s leaders, President Ronald Reagan, once said, “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” It matters when your president and CEO knows your name and notices when you’ve had a haircut. And when the C-Suite thanks you for completing a task that takes you seconds to handle, employees feel valued and will express their loyalty at every turn. These very simple things heighten morale and impress stakeholders to the extent of wanting, desiring, needing to do more for your organization.

By doing things differently in 2020 you can experience exponential growth in the areas of your business that really matter. While profits impact bottom lines, employees are the built-in influencers for your business and brand.

Friends of the Children Knows Mentoring Matters

Some of America’s most instrumental people have been mentored by of our nation’s treasures. Oprah Winfrey was mentored by poet laureate Maya Angelou. Dr. Benjamin Mays, former Morehouse College president mentored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Astronaut and U.S. Sen. John Glenn was mentored by his high school teacher. For many kids in Charlotte, a mentor could change their life. Thompson Child & Family Focus has brought a new mentoring program to town. The Friends of the Children program is unique in that it pairs children with a professional mentor for 12 1/2 years–from elementary school through high school.

“It feels great to know that I’m helping someone and elevating the community,” said Erica Reid, program director for The Friends of the Children Charlotte program. “Kids are innocent, fun, loving and honest, and the bonds I build with them are really genuine.”

The mission of the program is to strengthen children, families and communities through healing, teaching, worship and play and to lead children and families into independent and rewarding lives by providing the most vulnerable children a nurturing and sustained relationship with a life navigator–a mentor they refer to as a friend.

Mentors in the program are salaried, professional mentors, for a child’s entire childhood, from kindergarten through graduation — 12.5 years.

“Everyone can benefit from having a strong person constantly in their corner, lifting them up, breathing life into their dreams,” Reid said. “Mentors can help build a child’s confidence and self-esteem.”

In many cases, mentors are a sounding board when a mentee feels no one else is listening and can provide the tools kids need to build resilience and the wherewithal to combat future challenges.

The mentors in the program have seen increased confidence and self-awareness for their mentees, teaching them how to manage emotions and make smart decisions while creating positive relationships.

Through the program, youth have access to additional resources such as mental health services and exposure to supportive adults. Youth have an advocate for their success in school and in life.

At the school, mentors look for extra tutoring services and advocate for them when a teacher or administrator may try to label them negatively. They help bridge the gap between teachers and parents and provide services and resources to families to receive food and clothing.

Youth experience new activities and gain resilience and strategies for self-management.

When a child is connected to a dedicated mentor, studies have indicated their self-esteem and confidence grows, they learn how to set goals for themselves and establish the work ethic to achieve them. Their attitudes improve, behavior is modified and relationships get better. Seeking healthy interactions becomes the new normal.

Research is conclusive that mentoring is beneficial to marginalized teens. A North Carolina State University study shows youth from disadvantaged backgrounds are twice as likely to attend college when they have a mentor.

For Reid, mentoring is important because it develops the future through interactions with kids. As life navigators, mentors have a lot of responsibility, and a large part of that is to teach and influence by example.

“This is life-changing work not only for the children we serve, but for us,” Reid said. Our youth have so much they teach us and impart into our lives. The human connections we make are invaluable, and if all of us tap into this, we’ll discover that we’re all better together.


Mentoring gives youth someone who is going to be there for them and someone they can count on when everything else may be falling apart around them.

A valuable resource in Charlotte for the mentoring community is the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The alliance educates mentoring organizations about best practices and mentoring standards, ignites impactful and enduring mentor-mentee relationships and connects Charlotte’s mentoring community.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.

How one local coffee company is bringing a global presence to Charlotte

By Jennifer Colter, Communications Director, Thompson Child & Family Focus
This article was originally published in the Charlotte Business Journal, Oct. 17,2019

Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day. That’s the equivalent of 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world, according to a Huffpost article. While this may surprise most of us, this is the kind of data that is paying off for one Charlotte business owner.

Meet Tony Santoro.

The former CMS teacher-turned-roaster-barista owner of Enderly Coffee is emerging as the region’s go-to source for coffee, consultation, equipment, training, and more. Like most entrepreneurs who experience the “lightbulb” moment, Santoro realized that the landscape in his chosen career, too, was shifting, and decided to make a change. For he and his wife, coffee is the tie that binds them. They fell in love over coffee more than a decade ago, and now it’s the integral element that fuels them (literally and figuratively) and their expanding business.

But founding a full-service coffee company with global partners wasn’t Enderly’s sole motivation when they set out to bring their endeavor to life. For Mr. and Mrs. Santoro, their goal is to have more than just customers and transactions. And it’s not just about selling a cup of coffee; they want guests to have authentic experiences when they step into Enderly. That experience could stem from a simple conversation or interaction with team member or another patron. Their mission is to humanize the customer or client experience. Kind of the way things were in the olden days — circa 2001.

I sat down with Santoro over a Guatemalan Finca Medina to learn more about Enderly’s “Why.” While doing things differently, doing more than what’s expected, and giving back are pillars in this entrepreneur’s business model, his approach to corporate social responsibility just might surprise you:

Is Enderly a coffee shop or a roasting company?

We started as roasting company and just sold to businesses around Charlotte. But we realized the value in being a 360-degree coffee company. We’re all-inclusive so we support farmers and growers by helping them with equipment, best practices, training, quality assurance, and sustainability — all in addition to running a brick and mortar, selling coffee, and hosting events that support other local product vendors.

A coffee shop in Enderly Park? That’s a unique location.

We wanted to create a sort of “staple” in a neighborhood that showed a lot of promise. We envisioned an entity that would bring positivity and new life to an area that needed a boost. We felt that we could create jobs and show residents what good and caring bosses were like.

Is it true that you help other entrepreneurs promote their products.

Absolutely! We understand how difficult it can be to find platforms and the means to promote your products; we provide space for other entrepreneurs to do pop-ups and special events to market and promote their products. Cultivating relationships and collaboration is how you build and elevate people and communities. When you invest in people — be it time, money, talent, or resources — everybody wins.

How did you fund your venture and prepare for the ups and downs startups experience?

Funding from investors wasn’t an option. Our operations were small and bootstrapped and instead of borrowing or seeking major investors, we focused on organic growth and made sacrifices. Seven years of laser-focused work and passion for our product was an experience that money can’t buy. By 2015, we were being 100% paid from the company.

Would you say that organic growth is key?

For us it is. Entrepreneurship isn’t cookie-cutter. The journey is often unique to each person and success is relative. We were and still are learning slowly and as we go along the way. For our business, having a slow growth mindset is proving effective because it’s allowing us to see and anticipate the pitfalls, and we’re building as we go. For us, slow and steady is keeping us in the race.

What does a typical day look like?

No two days are alike, but there are a large variety of items I address daily and that are critical to our operations. I’ll start by getting orders placed by wholesale customers; do some roasting and packing for distribution or shop work for supporting our clients; accounting, marketing, everything. Everyone on our team jumps in when and where needed. We are “all hands on deck” at all times.

With a Starbucks or Panera on every corner, are you seeing the benefits of being unique and independent? Do you feel you’re a better fit for this geographic area?

When I was canvassing potential areas, I understood that the neighborhood [Enderly Park] didn’t need me. I didn’t plan to swoop in like some superhero and save it. I just wanted our shop to reside in an area that would be a great mutual fit. Our plan was to provide a different option for people in the community and create a place they could call their own—and get an amazing cup of coffee. Like in any uptown area where the trendy cafes are on every corner, we wanted to give customers something else to set their eyes on and experience in their own back yards.

Was it an easy process?

Just like in life, your business is going to be faced with challenges. There were mixed emotions from residents; me trying to be a good neighbor, treating everyone with respect and kindness wasn’t immediately embraced. But with any good relationship, it takes time to build and trust is a factor. Slowly we began to break down stereotypes and barriers by getting people out of their comfort zones.

We’re happy to report that those community members are now our regulars. Our foundation. And they contribute to a good amount of our business.

How does corporate social responsibility play a role in Enderly’s game plan?

Giving back, being a socially responsible company that endeavors to make a real difference in people’s lives is what we strive for. While we’re not the type of enterprise to host galas and major events to raise awareness of the issues that impact Charlotte — or the world; we are, however, dedicated to contributing to the elevation of underrepresented communities and populations. Supporting our farmers and growers – from Guatemala, Ethiopia, Honduras and beyond – is our passion, as well as how we support local small business owners by hosting events at Enderly.

At the end of the day, coffee is what we love. It’s our business. But we also understand that coffee is more than just a product. It’s a thread that is creating the bigger piece that’s bringing people together and enhancing lives — from a village in Guatemala to Charlotte, North Carolina.

“We seek to encourage and inspire others to live for others. It is the best way to live,” said Santoro.


How to create an engaged and loyal workforce through corporate volunteerism

By Ashley Juricich – Director of Marketing, Technocom (contributor)

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business,” is a well-known adage by Richard Branson, founder of The Virgin Group. It’s an easy enough notion to agree with, but how does an organization build value for an employee? Is it a fun office space? Catered Friday lunches? Cool tech gadgets? The answer is much simpler and actually more cost-effective than that.

Connecting to your employees goes beyond providing them with materialistic objects; it’s about building a culture founded upon serving others. It’s the growth and development of not just your company, but your community.

Corporate philanthropy is an initiative many companies are adopting because of the many benefits they bring to the office, their culture, and their brand – it’s one of our main corporate pillars at Technocom. Having your team take part in community projects helps energize and engage your office, promotes team building, builds leadership skills, helps attract and retain employees, and shows shareholders and prospects that you’re in touch with the community you’re a part of.

Engage your office

Highly engaged teams are proven to be more productive, are absent less, and produce more/generate more profit. Camille Preston, PhD, PCC of Forbes Magazine Coaches Council discussed this issue’s impact on organizations and found that engaged employees are often synonymous with happy employees. “Okay, so how does giving back create a happier work culture,” you may ask? Simple. Participation in charitable activities stimulates the same part of the brain that is responsible for the release of endorphins. A company that focuses on serving its community is in turn also serving and positively impacting their employees.

To read the CBJ article in its entirety, go here!

Professional Mentoring Crafts New Endings to Children’s Life Stories

Everyone can benefit from a mentor. Some of the world’s most well-known business leaders have attributed their personal success to the guidance, support, and encouragement they received from a mentor. For a large portion of Charlotte’s youth, having a mentor could transform their life—giving them a positive outlook on their future, helping them build confidence, and instill a desire to achieve. In many cases, a relationship with a mentor can be the difference between life and death for an at-risk youth.

In this PSA, Will Jones, President and CEO of Thompson Child & Family Focus, shares insight into this high priority need that is growing right here in Mecklenburg County and he provides information about the work Thompson is doing to address it.

To learn how your company or organization can support a professional mentor through a structured program with evidence-based, proven outcomes please visit www.thompsoncff.org/friendscharlotte.

Mentoring Programs Helps Kids Believe and Achieve

Life can be pretty challenging at times, and as adults we tend to rely on friends, colleagues, or even a therapist to help us navigate the course when waters get rough. We have the resources and maturity to either seek help or work through our problems. Now imagine you’re a six year-old kid…or even a teenager…would you know how to overcome these obstacles by yourself?

What makes us human is that all of us can benefit from the  positive guidance and support from others. For kids, this kind of assistance is especially critical in the years when their self-esteem and character are in the building process.

Mentoring is the key.

In Mecklenburg County alone, almost 1 in 3 children live in a single-parent household (mainly comprised of a female head) where financial stress reigns. Couple that with a myriad of other issues struggling families face and the impact on the children becomes evident in their schoolwork, behavior, etc. Programs that work to provide structured mentoring to kids can change these scenarios and ultimate outcomes.

When a child is connected to a dedicated mentor, studies have indicated that their self-esteem and confidence grows, they learn how to set goals for themselves and establish the work ethic to achieve them. Their attitudes improve, behavior is modified, and relationships get better. Seeking healthy interactions becomes the new normal. Mentoring can do that!

Thompson Child & Family Focus recognized this at the onset and as a solutions-driven organization, Thompson worked to bring a forward thinking mentoring model to North Carolina. The Friends of the Children program is not only highly effective, but unique in that it pairs children at the highest level of risk with a professional mentor for 12 1/2 years–from elementary school through high school.

The outcomes from this program are astounding, and the youth who were once ruled a statistic are re-writing their stories by graduating from school, avoiding the juvenile judicial system, and seeking positive and healthy relationships.

While some mentoring programs are designed for kids who have experienced trauma or more difficult family situations, others are ideal for children who may be experiencing bullying in school or who simply need a role model to look up to. Or maybe a child just needs math or science tutoring after school to encourage them and ignite that spark of academic achievement.

No matter the socio-economic status, ethnicity, or gender, kids can benefit tremendously from adults who genuinely care and have a desire to inspire and shape a mind. Whether it’s Friends of the Children you child or a family member may need–or perhaps it’s the Reading Buddies program–Thompson is passionate about providing help, access, and resources to our most valuable assets…our children.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of mentoring, becoming a volunteer or have questions about our programs, visit www.Thompsoncff.org.

Creating Change That Transforms Lives

It’s probably safe to say that most people want to feel happy and secure in life. Having a purpose and knowing your “why” is the thing that gets us up every day, ready to face the world. And relationships…perhaps THE foremost thing we seek as humans along with unconditional love and support. As life has taught us, the things we want or desire most don’t always come so easily. There are obstacles in life that inevitably come our way, and it often takes mental and emotional strength to push through.

Unfortunately, some people have bigger obstacles than others, such as those who are being challenged by mental health symptoms or who have experienced trauma. Adverse experiences, especially at an early age, can create real barriers in individuals that make navigating life’s ups and downs a seige. At Thompson, it is our job as a professional organization and service-driven community to recognize these unique needs in people (primarily children) and employ effective treatment that address the whole person. As agents of change, understanding how to process trauma begins with thinking differently and doing differently for those we serve.  

Mecklenburg County is becoming more and more aware of community needs by conducting independent resource assessments that can provide a more detailed, objective and comprehensive evaluation of a person who may have had adverse experiences. Navigating the Maze is one such assessment that was published in 2017 and highlighted several areas for improvement we can make as a community.

The issue of suicide was vital piece in the Navigating the Maze assessment because according to the 2017-2018 Community Health Assessment for Mecklenburg County, there were 105 cases in 2016. Data showed that 32% of high school students experienced acute sadness or feelings of hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row. This prevented them from doing normal activities and interacting with others. These types of behaviors, however, are manageable and even preventable; but it takes individuals, the community, and well-equipped organizations to raise awareness, create a dialogue and act.

Thompson Child & Family Focus has been a dedicated partner throughout this process of growth in the community and is making strides in creating innovative mental health treatments and prevention.

Remaining on the leading edge by employing the most advanced mental health practices, Thompson views everything through a trauma-informed lens–from the direct care employees to the Human Resources team. Having CARE (Children and Residential Experiences) infused into our culture, adding trauma-focused and other evidenced-based models, and increasing our focus on early intervention is really starting to bear fruit.

Thompson leadership chose the CARE model to really have all employees ask– “What happened to this child and family, and what can we do to help?”, rather than just seeing behaviors on a surface level. Because of this shift in view, there are families now reporting an increased improvement in mental health gains; including the reduction or elimination of suicidal thoughts in some cases. Some of this is being seen in the direct work clients and their families are doing in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TFCBT). The current Thompson cohort being trained in this evidence-based model are seeing impactful reactions to the model, giving us all hope that the treatment of trauma can directly decrease mental health symptoms, including suicidal ideations.

CARE, TFCBT and many other models and interventions are being strategically implemented at Thompson and because we are partnering with equally committed community members and organizations, we will see the real impact of partnerships. We will see suicide rates decrease. We will see people working together to build strong, thriving communities. We will see lives transformed and witness people who have struggled with trauma come through the other side.

Foster Care Awareness…in May and Beyond

Foster care has been growing at an enormous rate. In 2017 there were over 10,000 children in foster care just in the state of North Carolina. Children enter foster care for a variety of reasons, but the highest percent of kids who are placed into “the system” are there due to neglect or parental substance abuse. This is where we get to work. Thompson focuses on building relationships with children and their families in a concerted effort to establish a foundation from where healing can begin. Add worship and play to the mix and the process of transforming lives is thriving. Foster care programs at Thompson offer a structured environment where the child can work together with a team of professionals to get the help that they need to succeed in the home, school, and community. Incorporating the family into the foster care plan enables the child to learn healthy coping skills as well as other enhancing their ability to grow and build relationships with others in a positive way.  

May is Foster Care Awareness Month and we would like to take the time to thank those who have opened their hearts and homes to help a child in need.  Here at Thompson, our focus is on strengthening the relationships that lead children and families into rewarding lives. Each day our foster care staff and foster parents work together to help our youth build healthy relationships with their peers, their teachers and other authority figures. Throughout the 30 years that Thompson has provided foster care services to the youth in Mecklenburg County, our focus has always been to help children lead happy and healthy lives.

To accomplish this mission, our foster parents are trained in evidence-based practices that equip them to provide support to our youth who have experienced trauma. Our foster parents are supported by our highly skilled FC staff who are qualified professionals that work hard to ensure that our youth get the well-rounded help they need. It does, in fact, take a village and Thompson is that 133 year-old foundation.

All children deserve to be happy and thrive in a healthy and safe environment. As foster parents, they are creating a fresh setting that will aid in the healing and growth of a very special child. And while foster parenting can be difficult at times, many of our parents feel that it is the most rewarding thing that they have ever done. Many also feel as though they are a far better person for each experience. Well imagine a hopeful child’s sentiment about fostering. Imagine finally feeling plugged in and part of loving and supportive family. THAT is what we strive for at Thompson—with every single child.

With the ongoing training that our parents receive, the learning never stops and they are able to apply what they have learned to helping those children in need. Our foster parents often rally together to provide support to one another by sharing stories, offering advice to one another and building a support network within their own community. Through the Thompson lens, futures have never looked brighter.

If you have a desire to open your home to a child in need , please contact us at www.Thompsoncff.org or call 704-376-7180. Watch our video here to learn more about Thompson’s foster care programs.