Instilling the virtues of giving in Crown’s people - An interview with Jim Thompson

It’s almost 60 years since Jim Thompson arranged a shipment from Japan to the USA, marking the birth of Crown as a business.

Since then, the company has grown into a family of eight brands, spanning more than 45 countries and employing some 3,000 people. It had the privilege of helping millions of families to relocate around the globe, of safely managing billions of records, and of moving countless precious artworks. 

In a world that has become increasingly complex over the last six decades, the business continues to work with customers and clients to make things simpler.

But the evolution of Crown has been built on more than just a desire to simplify the complex, to provide a great service and to help clients tackle logistical challenges.

Giving back is a critical thread in the fabric of the company, perhaps best articulated by Jim in an interview several years ago, when he said: “When good fortune does you a favor, you owe it to the world around you to repay that debt”. 

Championed by Jim since Crown’s inception, the notion of giving back is now a central philosophy of the business and its diverse team. But it’s something that has always lived within Jim, even before Crown came to exist. He explains: “The way that I got into the whole concept of charity goes back to my youth. My parents came from a simple family, they didn’t have much money but they made a life for my sister and I. Yet they were always giving back in some way; if it wasn’t money, it was time. 

“And that rubbed off on us as a way of life; if you have a decent house, meals and clothes, you should help those who don’t. It became second nature. 

 “When Crown began in the 1960s, we didn’t have much money, we were scraping to make ends meet but we were still able to support, an orphanage in Japan, that my father had supported. We hosted parties for these young Japanese children – something that didn’t cost much money – but that were hugely appreciated by the children. 

“As the company grew and – to some extent – prospered, we felt ‘we’re really lucky, this is going well’ and we should be able to reward our communities. It became second nature to me and to those working within the company to do that.”

Over the years, Jim along with his wife Sally have provided consistent support to the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care in Hong Kong, inspired by the time his own parents spent under hospice care before they passed away. The annual Hike For Hospice, organized by Jim, and the Christmas Carol Concert by Sally raise thousands of dollars for that cause.

In Cambodia, Jim and Sally have worked to build schools and libraries. And the company has also lent its logistical expertise to supporting the Salvation Army, for which Jim was a director in Hong Kong. 

More recently, Jim has focused his own efforts around supporting the Asian Youth Orchestra, a musical ensemble of young people, brought together from countries across the region, which transcends political conflicts at a national level. Jim describes the work AYO does as “heartening, and something the future will benefit from”.

But Jim has been keen to reflect his own passion for giving back onto Crown and its staff. 

He adds: “When you give, you get a certain joy or pleasure – a feeling that you’ve contributed something. I’ve tried to have other people relate to this. Receiving a gift at Christmas is nice, but watching other people receive your gift is even nicer.

 “And being able to instill that in the people of Crown, and make it part of our company beliefs has been one of the joys of my entire life.”
Crown – with this philosophy of giving back embedded throughout – has empowered country managers to support myriad local causes, ensuring that the business truly benefits the communities in which it operates.

 “Giving, charity and being a part of the community go right back to the beginning of the company,” says Jim. “Over the years we have been able to support many projects around the world, and that has been a really rewarding thing for me and everyone who has taken part.

“Part of the whole philosophy of Crown is to give back. We want to be a company with a heart, and not just one that makes money. It’s been very rewarding to see just how successful we’ve been in doing that.”

Jim also believes that company culture can be substantially enhanced by encouraging staff to give back. Crown currently offers volunteering days to staff, enabling them to give back to their communities in whichever way they choose. 

“One thing I’ve noticed, that I didn’t expect,” concluded Jim, “is that when we empowered our offices to do something locally, we saw that people were having a really good time doing it. At a macro level, it’s great to give back, but at an individual level, you find that same feeling pervades in that people going after a goal together – raising money, cleaning a beach, whatever it may be – find a bond together that didn’t exist beforehand. It’s been a wonderful addition to what we’re trying to do.”