Paula Tompkins

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Leader & Innovator
CEO and founder of ChannelNet in Dearborn. ChannelNet is a leading provider of web technology designed to bridge the multichannel customer gaps in marketing and sales. ChannelNet specializes in customer self–service microsites and lead–generation solutions for the automotive, finance, and home improvement industries. A pioneer in the online sales industry, Tompkins started ChannelNet, then called The SoftAd Group, in 1985 to use technology to help companies interact more effectively with their customers and sales channels in sales, marketing, and service activities. Tompkins’ leadership and vision has evolved ChannelNet into a full–service company that creates cross channel solutions for global brands that bridge the gap between online and traditional “brick and mortar” sales channels. ChannelNet also has a location in Sausalito, Calif., and has consistently operated successfully without venture capital funding and is experiencing 25 percent growth in 2013. Clients include BMW, Benjamin Moore Paints, Ford, Southeast Toyota, College Pro, General Motors, Hunter Douglas, IBM, SAS, and American Express. Tompkins began her career working in sales and marketing positions at 3M and General Electric, as well as with several high–tech start–ups in the early 1980s. She was instrumental in the design and marketing of several early personal computers, including the Actrix and the Grid – the world’s first true portable computers. During her tenure with Altus Corp., Tompkins invented Skytray, an interactive electronic advertising medium targeted to airline passengers. The San Francisco Business Times recognized Tompkins as one of the most influential women in business and The North Bay Business Journal selected her as the most outstanding female leader, innovator, and visionary in the field of technology. She is a member of the advisory board for the Academy of Art College Graduate School in San Francisco; the president’s advisory board of Cogswell (Calif.) Polytechnical College; and the Marshall (WV) University Foundation board, where she received her bachelor’s degree in business administration.

WHERE BORN: “Huntington, WV.”

MOST INFLUENTIAL PERSONS: “My board – they have been with me for years, know me and the company intimately, and provide solid leadership and guidance. We meet three times a year formally and talk by email and phone consistently. They have extensive business experience across multiple disciplines – finance, legal, and more – so they’re very instrumental in the longevity of the company and its continued success. My hero is Chuck Yeager, the greatest test pilot who ever lived. He was born 20 miles from me in West Virginia, and I’ve met him.”

LAST BOOK READ:Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg.”

WORDS THAT DESCRIBE ME: “Driven, smart, decisive, persistent, fair but tough.”

WHERE MY FIELD/INDUSTRY IS HEADED: “I’ve been involved in bringing consumer–facing digital technology to customers for 28 years. I see it merging even more into our personal lives and the way we manage our homes. As consumers, we’re stretched for time. We’re seeing strong demand to leverage technology to gain more time personally. In the not–too–distant future, for example, we’ll have our personal digital assistant to coordinate meetings with the home decorator and painter, you’ll be able to view the room and colors online, look at samples without leaving work, and schedule meetings instead of waiting for them to show up.”

FAVORITE TECHNOLOGICAL GADGET: “I use technology to be more efficient and responsive in my business. My main ones are my smartphone used in conjunction with my laptop. My iPad is pure pleasure and convenience.”

FAVORITE PLACE: “Sausalito, Calif., and I love the Detroit area and being in the Midwest. I have the Midwest work ethic. You don’t get that on the coast.”

FAVORITE HOBBIES: “Gardening; I love to make things grow and flourish.”

FAVORITE FOOD: “Middle Eastern – my grandmother was Lebanese and made it for us growing up.”

MY HIDDEN TALENT: “I’m really good at getting orchids to bloom over and over.”

HOW I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED: “That my company had an impact on the way products and services are sold through new technologies and being a pioneer in that regard.”