This year I was nominated for the Surrey Board of Trade’s “Business Person of the Year” and was one of the finalists. Each time either myself, or our firm, is nominated or wins an award, I feel a great sense of pride. As this is our 25th anniversary, it has particularly had special meaning for me. I thought I would like to take this moment to reflect.
In many ways, who we are as a firm, and who I am as a community member is directly a result of my belief in doing what is right. This has sometimes meant taking the highroad when things haven’t gone smoothly, even if it came at a financial cost. It has sometimes meant thinking with our hearts, rather than our business minds, to understand where a client, potential client or community friend is coming from. It has pushed us to be creative beyond colours and shapes by also trying to find ways to create possibilities when we see roadblocks or speed bumps. Each time we partner with a client, we no longer see ourselves as simply Thornley Creative, but rather a part of that client’s team. People talk about customer service as a value add, but for my team and I, it’s at the core of our philosophy.
I’m very proud of running a business in Surrey. Twenty-five years ago, when it was just me at a desk using borrowed office space, it was in Surrey. It has never crossed my mind to move my business out of this community. I have always seen the potential in Surrey, and wanted to be a part of the success that I knew we were all capable of. Now, as I drive throughout the City, I see little parts of our work sprinkled throughout – from the City’s own logo, to that of the Cloverdale Rodeo, or maybe the Surrey Schools, Surrey Libraries, Surrey Food Bank, Surrey Community College or Surrey Connect, just to name a few. Seeing brands and art work we’ve created throughout the City is something that reflects well on my firm, but also on the City – each represents a business or organization that is thriving, growing, or working to make its own mark.
Over the years, I’ve tried very hard to support the community organizations in my off time. I’ve been on many boards from the Surrey Arts Centre Theatre Program Advisory Committee, Chairman of the White Rock Branding review committee, the Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee to the Semiahmoo Arts Board of Directors. I’ve had the pleasure of hosting yearly fundraising concerts with my band – often for the Surrey Food Bank Tiny Bundles program, and many times stood up to Emcee different events in our City. I’ve gotten to know so many unique and wonderful individuals – the faces behind the arts, the not-for-profits and the businesses. In many ways, the “Business Person of the Year” award could go to so many different deserving people.
If I were to look back on my community involvement, I would have a hard time selecting one event to represent everything that I believe in and work for. There have been so many highlights, and so many wonderful people that I’ve had the fortune to work beside for a common goal. But there is one story that speaks to our community rallying together. In 2008, in the middle of the economic downturn, the Surrey Food Bank was robbed five times in six days. Fortunately, no food was taken, but the damages totaled thousands of dollars and the staff no longer felt safe – all while the need for their services was growing not abating. When the news hit, I knew that something needed to be done. Many of us in this great community did. Immediately, a phone chain began. We called each other. We rallied. We reached out to our business connections, our colleagues and our partners. Donations rolled in and people showed up in unprecedented numbers to show their support to the community. In that moment, we weren’t individuals, we were a team. While the break ins were a great tragedy, the rising above and the team work shows what I’m proud of about Surrey. We care about each other. This is just one of the reasons that I am so proud to be here in Surrey. The future really does live here.
Our community is amazing, and is strong because of the individuals who work so hard to support it. While I may not have won this year’s “Business Person of the Year” I certainly have no regrets. It is an honour to have been nominated, but a bigger honour to have been involved in so many great projects and causes, and to have worked with so many great individuals. I’d like to extend my congratulations to my fellow nominee, Peggy Howard from Guildford Town Centre and the winner Vikram Vij from My Shanti.