It’s been 20 years since CIC opened its doors as a home for innovative entrepreneurs. To commemorate the time we decided to do a 20 questions style interview with one of CIC St. Louis’ longest standing members — Ralph Thompson.
Ralph is the cofounder and CEO of Mind Safety Management. MSM is a business consulting firm specializing in information technology. For about 30 years MSM has been providing quality analysis and evaluation of enterprise level applications and improving the overall flow of these systems. Ralph has been one of our favorite clients to interact with at CIC because he’s very focused but has a ridiculous sense of humor, exemplified when he started his interview recording with his best 1985 Quiet Storm radio impersonation. From this interview, we not only received insight into who Ralph is as a person, but also what CIC does for him and the many other entrepreneurs who have made CIC into what it is today.
1. How long have you been at CIC St. Louis?
It’s been a great working environment for four years now, so since 2015.
2. What does your CIC morning routine look like?
I stop by the kitchen for a little breakfast. I’m really serious about the oatmeal. Oatmeal, peanut butter, and bananas every morning.
3. CIC St. Louis has 3 different buildings (CET, 4240, and 4220) that all have their own vibe and energy. Which one is your favorite?
4240. There’s no place like home.
4. What’s your favorite area to work in CIC?
I like working in the kitchen at 4240.
5. What’s your favorite piece of furniture or art in your office?
I have a nice Miles Davis poster that I love.
6. We have two different types of coffee in our coffee machines at 4240. Which one do you like better — Kaldi’s or Northwest?
7. Do you have a favorite snack?
Yes. It’s not good for me, but I like the new scotch oatmeal cookies you all have. Those are delicious. [Dad’s Cookies, a St. Louis favorite, is what he is referring to. If you have a sweet tooth, check ‘em out!]
8. Do you have a best work story?
Yes, I met this young man named Kevin that works at CIC. He’s always so nice so one I told him we need some new cookie snacks, he said “I’m going to work on that”. The very next day he had fresh new cookies.
9. That leads me to my next question. Who’s your favorite CIC employee?
Too many to name. I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad experience with anyone who works at CIC.
10. What’s the most dramatic change since you’ve been at CIC?
The most exciting change would have to be having fresh bagels available at 4240.
11. What made you want to have an office at CIC?
I truly believe in the mission of an innovative community in the heart of St. Louis.
12. What does innovation mean to you?
Innovation means always evolving, always looking for the next step or the next answer in every process.
13. What role does entrepreneurship play in St. Louis?
It’s very vital. The same way Anheuser-Busch started way long ago, we need another generation of civic-minded business leaders to be the next wave of entrepreneurs that start their businesses from ground zero all the way up to multi-million-dollar organizations.
14. What role do you think CIC plays in St. Louis?
I think CIC is also vital. I think it’s vital to the community as a whole. I think it shows progress as well as forward thinking. It puts a fresh look on the entrepreneur community.
15. What’s your biggest inspiration in business? Why?
Probably my parents and grandfather. They always encouraged me to be an independent thinking individual, to have financial flexibility, and to own my own business since I was a kid.
16. What makes a good work environment for you?
A space where I don’t feel confined. Pretty much a space the way CIC is laid out and designed with multiple different areas to work in and multiple different themes throughout the work environment. When the weather is nice, I most definitely like the outside patio. That might be my favorite place to work when it’s nice out.
17. Where do you go to relax in CIC?
The meditation room is great!
18. What annoys you about CIC?
When I’m too late to get a pizza at Fridays at Four [our weekly Friday happy hour with pizza and beer].
19. Why do you stay at CIC?
It’s affordable and has a very flexible leasing agreement. You can scale up or scale down because it’s month to month. In the past, being an entrepreneur for 15 years, there’s been times in the business cycle where someone would sign a five year lease but might only have work for two of those five years. Then, subleasing your space would be the only option. So I love the flexibility of the office space that CIC provides.
20. So you’re DJing at the CIC Anniversary Party. What song do you play first?
Frankie Beverly and Maze, “We Are One.”
To celebrate 20 years of great employees, snacks, community, design, and most importantly, innovation, Ralph concluded his interview with the sweet sounds of Luther Vandross' “If this World Were Mine.” Thanks, Ralph, and here's to another 20 years, CIC.