Co-founder and Principal, Thompson Dorfman Partners LLC

Background: Thompson joined Trammell Crow Residential as a partner overseeing Northern California. He founded his own firm, Thompson Residential Company, in 1996 and then sold the company to Irvine Apartment Communities, which hired him to direct its California division from 1997 to 1999. After leaving Irvine, he co-founded Thompson Dorfman in 2000. The Mill Valley firm has built around 1,200 units in 10 properties during the last nine years.


William Thompson

First job: I was a stock boy at the corner grocery store when I was 12 or 13.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in government and economics from Claremont McKenna College and MBA from Harvard Business School.

Residence: Mill Valley.

Business philosophy

Best way to keep competitive edge: It’s important to network. It’s important to recognize that you can’t stand still in a changing environment and you have to always keep learning.

Guiding principle: The most important thing is to protect your reputation for honesty and integrity.

Yardstick of success: Spending as much time with Lulu, my 10-month-old granddaughter, as I can. If things are going well, I have more time to devote to my family.

Goal yet to be achieved: The sellout of our most recent property, 555 YVR in Walnut Creek. It is in a challenging marketing environment.

Judgment calls

Best business decision: Bringing my business partner, Bruce Dorfman, on board in 1992.

Worst business decision: I made some bad personal investments in businesses I didn’t know anything about, like the oil business.

Toughest business decision: There are no easy decisions today in a market like this with limited pricing power. Almost every decision today is a tough decision.

Biggest missed opportunity: Losing valuable young employees who went on to become competitors.

Mentor: Trammell Crow of Trammell Crow Residential and Don Bren of Irvine Apartment Communities.

Word that best describes you: Thoughtful.

True confessions

Like best about job: The people that I work with both here in our partnership and the people we work with: designers, consultants, financial people and the people who sell our properties.

Like least about job: The never-ending attention to details that this business requires. It just doesn’t go away.

Pet peeve: Economic downturns.

Most important lesson learned: Always manage risks. We manage risks in our business with multiple business platforms, strategic business investments and by reducing guarantees.

Most respected competitor: Dean Henry at Legacy Partners and Rob Wagner at Sares Regis.

Three greatest passions: Current passion is 555 YVR, wine and my daily 6 a.m. workout at the gym.

First choice for a new career: Work at a nonprofit organization.


Favorite quote: “Don’t look back: Something may be gaining on you,” — Satchel Paige, former professional baseball player.

Most influential book: “Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water,” by Marc Reisner.

Favorite cause: Affordable housing. I serve on the board of EAH Housing.

Favorite status symbol: Great skis and great bikes.

Favorite movie: “The Magnificent Seven.”

Favorite restaurant: Avatar’s in Sausalito.

Favorite vacation spot: Vail, Colo.

Favorite way to spend free time: With my family. I’m married and have a daughter and one granddaughter — the three women in my life.

What do you drive: 2004 BMW 540.

—Blanca Torres