From MBA candidate to business owner: Interview with Paul Thompson

Headshot of Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson, Owner and Chief Operating Officer at Eagle Restoration

Program Name: MBA
Year of Graduation: 2018
Program Schedule: Part-Time

Please briefly describe your career path and what led you to choose PSU’s Graduate School of Business. What drew you to The Portland MBA in particular?  

I graduated from Montana State in 2001 and relocated to Portland. I started as a mold remediation project coordinator. Mold remediation fit with my degree somewhat, and I knew that I didn’t want to work in a laboratory. Then the industry shifted and the insurance coverage for mold remediation changed. I was given an opportunity to be a water technician, and then a year later, form and manage the water department. After many years in this role, I was longing for a new challenge, and I found that in the MBA program. I choose The Portland MBA because of the emphasis on sustainability and the incredible follow-through of the recruiting manager, Abby Messenger. That coupled with Tichelle Sorenson’s passion and dedication for the program, and I was convinced to attend Portland State University.

You worked for the same company for 17 years. What gave you the courage to launch Eagle Restoration?

Having Andy and Kari Sherman as the most supportive and kind business partners helped me find the courage to launch a company. My incredible friends and family kept telling me, of course, you can do this. They repeatedly told me I can do anything I set my mind too, and I need to stop putting limits on myself.

The company was started with an idea to stand apart from other mitigation companies by prioritizing building meaningful relationships with our clients and vendors. We will listen and always act with kindness and compassion during all phases of the restoration project. We strive to exceed our customer’s expectations during a traumatic event and ensure a seamless, stress free transition between all phases of water damage.

Tell us about Eagle Restoration. Where did the original idea come from?

The idea for starting Eagle Restoration came from many conversations with Andy and Kari. During one specific moment, Andy had mentioned that he was considering starting a company, and I told him I would be interested in having a discussion about that possibility. That conversation spurred additional meetings with us all, and quickly with a corporate attorney, to form our operating agreement. We all wanted to start our own business to celebrate our employees and customers, and working in a culture that facilitates growth, positivity, and empowers people was a common goal for us all. We had all decided individually and together that the best way to do that was to start our own company.

The idea for the name came from a conversation in a hot tub in Montana on July 4th. Let’s just say that the universe knows exactly what you need to hear if you take the time to listen.

What skills and experiences gained at PSU did you find most valuable in the launch of Eagle Restoration?

I found many skills and experiences that I gained at PSU valuable in the launch of Eagle Restoration. The support from faculty, my cohort, my study abroad cohort, and my capstone team were integral to my success. The most important skills I learned were deeper emotional intelligence and a greater capacity for vulnerability. Being more vulnerable increased my confidence and risk tolerance, which are essential for entrepreneurship.

How did your time at The School of Business most impact your business mindset today?

Having an MBA gives me a different lens to look at the world through. Also, I cannot get SWOT analysis and business strategy out of my brain. Remembering the importance of mission and values and how to show up every day are key to my success.

What inspires you?

What doesn’t inspire me! I find inspiration in pretty much everything. My biggest sources of inspiration are currently Mary Oliver, my employees, grief, and the capacity for vulnerability and connection that we all have.

At our first payroll meeting, I read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,”

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean–
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down —
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life? (1992)

After I read the poem, I said to everyone at the payroll meeting that they have a choice on how they want to live and where they want to spend their time. It means the world to me that they have chosen to spend part of their wild and precious life working with Eagle Restoration.

What advice do you have for current or prospective business students who want to take a leap in their career?

Climb a waterfall and jump off it. I mean that literally! What is a physical activity that you think you can’t do? Make a list. Start making strides to make it happen. Put those shoes on and think about doing it. Next week maybe you go do it, maybe not, but at least you are now in motion. Then you can reflect on what you want to do, what seems important, what you can let go of, and what your soul tells you that you must do. Your body knows information immediately that it sometimes takes your brain years to learn and integrate. Listen and leap.



Categories: alumni

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s