TOP Talk

15 Lessons From 15 Years of Tier One Partners


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This year’s celebration of our 15th anniversary is an exciting milestone for Tier One Partners that we’ve been commemorating all year long. This month has particular significance as we observe our agency’s actual “birthday.”

Don’t worry, we won’t drag things out too much with an extended walk down memory lane (and potentially bore you with our tales of launches, repositionings, and total brand reboots). However, we couldn’t help but reflect on some of the lessons we’ve learned during the past decade and a half since founding our agency.

While this list in no way sums up all the learnings we’ve gained through the years (that would be a hefty blog post or even a novel!), we find these are trusted words to live by, and hope they can help you, too.

  1. The loudest voice doesn't always offer the best ideas. Make it easy for everyone, even the most soft-spoken person in the room, to feel comfortable contributing.

  2. Surround yourself with positive, open-minded people as much as possible. They make your work — and your life — better.

  3. Be comfortable with people challenging your ideas and approaches. The best work comes from collaboration and a slice of humble pie.

  4. Always have a backup plan (or two). Things almost never go according to plan, so make sure you can adjust quickly, but in a thoughtful way.

  5. Never forget your #1 job is to help clients stay true to their brand promise.

  6. Don’t shy away from asking the tough questions. They can often mean the difference between success and failure.

  7. Remember, “the truth will set you free.” When something has gone wrong or not as expected, just admit it and turn immediately to how your company or organization is going to fix it.

  8. Just because a brand isn’t the biggest in its market doesn't mean it can't be a leader.

  9. There's no such thing as spin — only truth and non-truth.

  10. Pick up the phone. One live conversation is worth a hundred emails.

  11. Experiment regularly. You never know what works best unless you try it.

  12. Embrace alternative, even contrarian, thinking. It leads to brilliant campaigns.

  13. Persistence is a powerful differentiator.

  14. Always go with your gut. If it doesn't feel right, say so and push for change.

  15. Finish strong. The impression you leave on the way out is more important than the one you make on the way in.

Fifteen years down, and many more to go. Here’s to learning more every day along the way!

- Marian Hughes, Sue Parente, and Kathy Wilson, Managing Partners

Tier One Team

About Tier One Team

We help innovators in technology, digital health, financial services, and energy technology promote new ideas and solutions for a better future.