Wealth Cast Episode 27 - Brian Tierney

On episode 27 of The Wealth Cast, Chas talks to Brian Tierney, CEO of Brian Communications, about the successes and setbacks he’s faced in a long entrepreneurial career. He shares his deep marketing insights, what to do just as one’s career is starting, stressing the importance of just jumping in feet first, and offers advice for people at any stage in their professional development.

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The summary below has been created by a professional transcription vendor upon review of the recorded presentation. Please excuse any typos as well as portions noted to be inaudible.

Hello, and welcome to The Wealth Cast. I’m your host, Charles Boinske. On this podcast we bring you the information that you need to know in order to be a good steward of your wealth, reach your goals, and improve society.

On this episode, I’m very pleased to welcome Brian Tierney. Brian is the CEO of strategic communications firm Brian Communications. He is a serial entrepreneur who has launched and sold three businesses to publicly traded companies, and he embodies the philosophy that anything is possible. Over his career, Brian has built some of the largest and fastest growing marketing firms in the country; led a group of local executives to purchase the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, where they won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism; was a catalyst for the move of Episcopal Academy to its 130 acre campus in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania; and was instrumental in the success of Pope Francis’s visit to Philadelphia in 2015, and Ireland in 2018. In this episode, Brian and I discuss his career, the influence of his parents, and his general philosophy that anything is possible. I hope you enjoy the show.

Brian, welcome to The Wealth Cast. I’m so glad to have you here. And I really appreciate you joining me today.

Glad to be here, Chas. A lot of fun. Appreciate it.

Great. Well, I’m excited to talk about “the big idea” and your philosophy of “anything is possible.” And before we get into your career, can you share what the original sort of instance of that was for you? Perhaps when you were younger?

Yeah, I guess when I go back, you know, I grew up in a pretty average kind of a household—mom worked, dad worked, you know, 1960s kind of. I’m 64 now. When I think back on my life, and a key moment, which I kind of, at the time, didn’t think much of it is when I ran for class president in first grade. And I came home that day, and I told my parents that I was going to do what I was going to a school called Waldron Academy. And I came back and I had lost, and my mom said, “How did the election go?” And I said, “Oh, Michael Broderick won.” And she said, “Oh, that’s too bad for you. But he seems like a nice boy.” “Yeah.”

And then a couple minutes later, she came back to me and said, “Brian, who did you vote for?” And I just said, “Well, I felt funny voting for myself. I voted for Michael too.” And my mom said, “Brian, if you’re not going to vote for yourself, why would somebody else vote for you?” And I think in many ways that kind of, in ways that I didn’t see at the time and years later, reflecting back, was kind of a key moment for me—that thought that if you’re not going to vote for yourself, why should somebody else? If you’re not going to have confidence in yourself, why should somebody else? Et cetera. If you’re not going to believe.

And that, tempered by my Irish father—that was my Italian mother—my Irish father’s advice in life, which was, “You know, Brian, work hard, but don’t get yourself all shook up.” So, in other words, don’t, you know, don’t be paralyzed by fear of things. Don’t overthink things. Just give it a shot.

And I think that’s kind of what I’ve done throughout my life. There were times in high school, and even in college, where friends seemed to have a clear idea exactly what they were going to do. And I didn’t. I just thought, “Well, I guess I’ll be a lawyer. And I’m not really sure what that is.” And yet, I was open to whatever, wherever life would take me, and it’s taken me some incredible spots.

It sounds like the basic philosophy was, you know, have confidence in yourself and don’t fear failure.

Yeah.

Get up and dust yourself off and try again.

And keep moving along.

And keep moving along, yeah.

And that’s the key. So many people count themselves out in the locker room. I’ve seen this so many times. They were afraid to give it a shot. Now, you know, other than, you know, tattoos, and I guess having children, there’s few things that are permanent, but other than that. Give it a shot. You never know.

Yeah, that’s great advice from your parents. How did you, you know, as you started your career, how did that advice sort of inform your decisions that you made or give you encouragement as you got started?

I just—when I was in college, I was a nominally a Democrat. But I admired Gerald Ford, and so the Penn students or the Penn Republicans, I’d heard, weren’t going to endorse Ford. So I created “Penn Students for Ford,” and two weeks later, I was introducing Gerald Ford on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. And there we go, Penn Students for the President. 

And when I got out of college, I was you know, going to law school had, it was all set up, had been accepted at University of Pittsburgh as well as Villanova. But at the last minute, I just felt like I kept looking for a job, looking for a job—I was interested in Washington. And finally, my dad said, “You don’t have a job when it starts in a week, Brian, you got to start law school. You’ve been at this for four months.” And I just started cold calling, and wound up in the most amazing spot through a friend of a friend of a friend, at the Republican National Committee learning campaigns from the grassroots level, state house, non-incumbent races, where they had $10,000 total budgets, and you had to go in there and help them win.

So that same approach of Election Day is November 4, we can’t move it, we have very limited resources, we have to think creatively and strategically, which is key. We have to do a lot of you know, research and surveys and stuff—that’s kind of guided everything about my advice to clients too, as well as that sense of, we can’t move, you know, Election Day, if you will, the day that your product launches—we have to win, we have to get a good amount of the audience and let’s get moving, and have that kind of intensity about things.

Well, it sounds like marketing the election campaigns, or marketing an election campaign was really a great bootcamp to marketing in general.

it really was, because you’re dealing with—in fact, I was five years into my career. And then I started law school at night, and I had never seen a press release. And later on, I wound up starting a public relations firm, because everything I was doing was direct mail, a little bit of radio, etc, etc. But all based on a survey that we would do, of the district, and helping somebody understand who thought that they could win, but didn’t really have an idea why they would win. You know, “If you identify this issue with these voters, this seemed to really have traction. And if you talk about this, and only this, that will really help you win the election and being able to do it.” And seeing some of those people go on to become you know, state reps, and then congressmen and things like that was kind of fun throughout my life.

And so, can you talk a little bit about how that informed the marketing advice you give corporations, and how that translates into, you know, from the sort of one-off event of Election Day to an ongoing marketing campaign? I’m just curious.

Yeah, it’s—a key part of it is basic wherever you can on real facts and real research, not just, you know, your general gut. You know, lots of times early on, I’d have state house candidates in Livonia, Michigan agonizing, “Should my bumper strip be red or blue?” And that really wasn’t important. The important thing was “What our research is showing, if you talk about these issues, until the point that you’re so sick of talking about them, when that happens, you’re just starting to get your message through.” And that’s what we tell—it’s repetition. It’s a message that really breaks through in an ad campaign or in any other social media campaign. So it’s that discipline that’s key. Sometimes people just want to, “Gee, that sounds good.”

But you know, in fact, I remember. For one, we did all the advertising for Verizon back in the 90s. In my old agency, James Earl Jones, we created that as a character for them, a spokesperson, is, you know, I used to tell clients, “If what I show you next, you immediately love, it’s probably because it’s reminding you of something else that you’ve seen, and it may not be as effective as something. Now, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t like what we present, mut it should intrigue you—it should kind of not be something you’ve seen before.” And clients, when you build that trust with them, they are willing to take that, you know, “a bit of a risk,” if you will. Put that in quotes, because it really isn’t. When you achieve success for them, then they know that you know, you’re the one that they want to talk to. And they appreciate your advice.

That’s that’s key to me as well—all my success in business has been about surrounding myself with smart people, and having the discipline, and it’s horrible sometimes when you have to change people, but you just knowing, I got to do what’s right for the team. So surround yourself with smart people who work hard, and have empathy for each other and for our clients. That’s what I talk about those three mantras, if you will, inside my companies over the years.

Well, that’s clear, based on my experience with you. I think what’s also interesting is your message that you just offered about communication, because communication and repeating the message is important, not only for a marketing campaign, but when you’re running a company. And you’ve had experience doing both—lots of experience doing both. And I just think that’s interesting. It’s making sure everybody’s on the same page, following the same message, internalizing the same mission, you know, at the corporate level as well.

Yeah. And it’s, you know, it’s critical—and I just mentioned, kind of touched on it briefly a few moments ago—those personnel decisions are really tough too, you know. But you have to say, I remember one time, you know, buying an agency that was struggling, and the creative director had had some successes before. He was from New York, he’s now working in Philadelphia. And I tried for six months to work with him. And finally I said, “I’m gonna have to make a change.” And he said, “You can’t do that. Do you know who I am?” And I said, “I don’t know why we haven’t connected, but I do know you are and you have to know who I am. I’m the CEO and I own—I’m buying the company. So my choice is to make you happy, and you don’t seem like you’re ever going to be happy.” I just joked to him at that time. But I said, “Or I can educate my children. And I’m going to go with that. So I’m going to make a change here. You know what I mean? And the only way I can educate my children is if this company is successful, and I don’t think we’re going to be successful, the way this is going.” And then I made that tough, take good care of people on the way out the door. But it’s not easy making those personnel decisions. But you have to have the courage to do it because it’s what’s fair for the team. And I see that lots of times, people agonize over this stuff. And I do too.

But you know, and then the other part of it is, if you’re more thorough on the front end, you don’t have those kinds of problems on the back end, because you’re hiring the right people, and building the right team.

That makes total sense. When you’re sitting there, just out of curiosity, when you’re sitting and watching other people’s marketing work, what big mistakes do you see? What do you see on the television? Or what do you see in print or in messaging that most often gives you pause? Or where you say to yourself, “Hmm, you know, that’s probably not the right angle?” Is there a theme?

Well, there’s not so much that. It’s sometimes you’ll see stuff that you’ll look at it, and you’ll think, “Somebody is just trying to follow a trend because it doesn’t seem strategic, what they’re doing, they look like they’re just trying to be cool without thinking through what the implications are for their brand.” The other part of it is, and it is really true in so many things—I’ve just touched on it just briefly is repetition, repetition, repetition. When you have a message, you have to keep hitting it, hitting it hitting it. And again, I always tell clients, when you’re getting tired of it, it’s when it’s just getting through. People are looking at information everywhere on their phones, their short form videos, social media, etc., we’re deluged. With one of the rises of outdoor advertising now is it’s the one area that you’re traveling in that, you know, you can’t escape an ad on a billboard, you know, the tired old way of doing it. Now, it’s not.

So those are those sorts of things. And, you know, having that idea that you just that kind of breaks through that’s, you know, I remember, you know, having James Earl Jones be the spokesperson for Bell Atlantic when they were competing against a lot of other people—he was a trusted brand. They were a trusted name. But how can we put these things together. Or when we launched Deloitte Consulting on a global basis, their ad campaign, and everybody was doing the same kind of things with a bunch of words on a page. And you know, frankly, nobody reads it. So we said, like, “Let’s just go with a simple image, a photo that would be kind of provocative,” and one was, you know, we wanted to say “Deloitte Consulting was different than Accenture, that was different than McKinsey,” that they put together certain things in certain different ways.

So, you know, one ad, I remember, was a black and white photograph that we took of a woman in her 40s, maybe early 50s, on a motorcycle on a back street of Paris. And there was a few words underneath it, but you couldn’t escape that ad if you were turning the pages of the Wall Street Journal, and it wasn’t what you expected. And you read the copy, it really had the key message in there. And that’s it, too. It has to be slightly different. It has to break through.

And that’s something—is that skill of that something that you develop over time, is it something—that talent to be able to create that messaging. I’ve always been amazed that the, you know, what seems to be really effective marketing—that’s sometimes really simple.

Yeah.

Is that a skill? Or how does that how does someone develop that, or how does an organization develop it?

It is. In one part, it’s, you know, consuming things constantly, like I love and I encourage people with me, read new things, look at sites that you don’t look at, you know, read publications that you don’t normally read, if you’re getting on an airplane, don’t read the same things, try to get something new from the newsstand before you go. That sort of thing is a key part of it.

And you know, but the other part of it is just, I’ve been in situations before where, you know, somebody says, “You know, we’ve got this thing, and we’ve got to hire, you know, these key people, and it’s so challenging.” And I say, “You know, we just need one creative director, we just need one person to lead social media here. The real challenge would be if I was at Microsoft, and I needed to fill 700 jobs.” So our job is really, we just have, and talent is key. I mean, it’s kind of, I have a good friend who’s very, very, very successful. And, you know, he said to me, you know, “The brains, Brian,” we were talking about something, he said, “it’s kind of like height in basketball, it really does help. I mean, it doesn’t mean that you know, and if you’re a little on the short side, but it really does help if you’re, if you’re tall, and it really does help if you surround yourself with a handful of really”—and not just smart but smart people, again, who have a work ethic, in a nice way and have empathy for each other.

Because I tell you one of the things that you’ve seen it, and I’m sure I know, you’ve seen it, because you’ve seen it up close dealing with some incredibly successful people. We know on the one hand, you mention CEO, XYZ of the hugest company, biggest company in the world. You think of that person one way. When he or she leaves the stage, though, they’re still, they turn to you and say, “You know, how did I do? Was that okay?” They’re worried about their children, their grandson, they’re worried about this, they’re worried about that. There’s the human side of it that you can never kind of forget. And that’s a key part of it too.

And authenticity, right?

Yeah.

I mean, just being able to have a normal conversation about normal things and share your feelings and your disappointments, and your victories in a straightforward, open way.

Yeah, in a way that it’s trusting, but it’s, you know, your hopes and dreams and where you want to be. And one of the things that I think I’ve been able to, and I’m very fortunate over the years, build relationships with clients. And I have built relationships with others like yourself too, that you do have that trusting part of it. That you feel like, it’s key, it’s key to success in life and in business, and in everything else.

Yeah, I always thought if you don’t wake up at three o’clock in the morning on occasion, you know, thinking about something or thinking about, “Could I have done that better?” Or, you know, “How can I improve?” or whatever the case may be, I think you’re probably missing an opportunity. or at least, just being reflective and thinking about these things and trying to always improve.

I think, too, it’s just it’s a key part of it. There’s people who get complacent and say, “Well, you know, that’s working out pretty well.” Well, you know, that’s when you really want to lean in and say, How can I do it a little bit better? How do I refresh this? How do I, you know—

—we’re talking about sort of humble confidence and being reflective and thinking about, you know, continuously improving?

Yeah, I think it’s probably why at certain points in my career, I’ve gotten frustrated—and not to sound sexist, but sometimes guys at a certain part of their career, have more like their feet up on the desk, kind of like, “Well, well,” I think whereas women are more—so I mean, there was, there have been times when I remember, at one point it with one agency, my CFO, my chief creative officer, my head of account management, my head of publicly, every person who reported to me—was a woman. And they were just more intense. And you know, and they shared my sense of, we gotta get it done.

Having a sense of urgency is a really important aspect of an entrepreneur’s DNA, right? If you’re not running a little bit scared, and constantly worried about doing a better job for your client, or your constituency, or wherever it is that you report to, you’re probably falling behind.

Yeah.

Right?

It is. And it’s that sense of, you know, how do I, you know, be happy about yesterday, that’s wonderful. Let’s also, there’s times, you know, in my own life, where I’ll be in meetings, and you know, sometimes, you know, we’ll leave a meeting and you know, I’ll ask somebody, “How do you think that went?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, went really well,” and I’ll point out to them, because it’s a teaching moment hopefully, of kind of, “I think so too. But did you notice when such and such was said by so and so, the way that so and so’s face kind of looked? I think there might be an issue there.”

But a lot of it just comes from another great quote from my mom, when I was a little boy, which is, again, she was a very loving—and it was just such a warm kind of thing—but she would lay things out for you too. And, you know, I remember one time, her saying, she had an expression probably heard it more than one time was, “If you’re going to be lazy in life, you might as well tie a millstone around your neck, and throw yourself off a bridge.” Now, I didn’t know what a millstone was when I was seven or eight. I knew it wasn’t a good thing later on in life. But really that does sum it up, you know? And I have found that throughout my life, that sense of, you know, just going after it, going after it, going after it, and balancing that with being prudent on the downside, and, you know, it’s not like everything I’ve done has been, you know, success after success after success. But measuring that, if it doesn’t work out, I’m okay. And, you know, luckily, so many things that worked out really well.

Since we’re talking about the positives and negatives, can you share an instance where something didn’t work out that you had to recover from and, and move on and, and go on to the next big thing?

Yeah. I mean, from a business standpoint, I think it was, you know—in 2005, I put together a group of folks to buy the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and inquirer.com. Back then it was owned by Knight Ridder, and they were being sold off. And I had sold my third agency, and I knew we could improve the advertising performance of the Inquirer. And I knew that I felt like they were kind of adrift, so put together a group of folks as diverse as the region: Black and white, men and women, the carpenters union pension fund, and Bruce Toll of Toll Brothers and non-union builder kind of, you know, on both ends of it. Everybody signed a pledge, they wouldn’t interfere with the editorial.

And we took it over, and it was amazing: We were able to improve the performance of the paper of the organization. Ttop 25 papers all share their advertising information with a third party, you get a report back about how you’re doing, ranked. I don’t see the actual numbers, but you see the ranking. And we went from 23 to 25 to two and three out of 25 within six months. Unfortunately, this thing called Facebook was started in 2006 as well, so ad rates on, just to give you a sense on the website, our traffic went from 16 million pageviews to 100 million pageviews a month. We were the fastest growing news site in the world. My last 12 months I’d hired a brilliant guy from McKinsey to run it. But ad rates had gone from $18 per 1000 to $1.

Wow.

Yeah. Inthe the collapse of things in ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, during that period of time. So we went through a bankruptcy. And, you know, we fought with the hedge funds who had bought our debt. And it was a 27 hour auction, and my investors had complete confidence in me—which was wonderful to do it, because, and I was also an investor, I wasn’t just a, I didn’t just put the deal together, I put in a significant amount of money too, as well.

But when that was over, that sense of just defeat, and also a very public kind of a defeat, was really, you know—I remember coming back from the train, this is on YouTube, and I got off the train at the Amtrak train here in Philadelphia, and the news media, were there. “27 hour auction, how did you—?” and that sense of walking to your car and just feeling, “What do I do now?”

So I gave myself about a day or two or three to step back. And I went through a process of reaching out to the largest ad agencies in the world and I met all four CEOs who were willing to meet. I flew to Paris, I went to various other parts of the country, and had a great opportunity there. But that summer, when I had to kind of wait, before I did anything till the deal closed, I got calls from three separate people who called me up who I’d known, and been clients before: Dan Hilferty, of independence Blue Cross; Joe Neubauer, who was the CEO of Aramark and Vernon Hill at Commerce Bank, now Republic Bank, which he leads very successful guy [All three] of them independently reached me over the course of the summer months and said, “Hey, what’s going on? And if you start an agency, Brian, I want to be your first client, I want to be your first client, I want to be your first client.”

So with that, I bought a company that’s in the contest and promotions business called Real Time Media, which was a, you know, we’ve been able to grow that 700% since we bought it with my partner, Bob Bernstock on that one. And through the agency, Brian Communications, we started with just a few things. And now, as you know, we’ve had tremendous success. But it started with that sense of when you’re feeling nervous, and you’re feeling like a failure, and you’re kind of worried about those things to step back and say, “You’re not. People have confidence in you. Let’s get going.” You know, “We can’t hang around in the locker room, guys, let’s get moving.”

Yeah, the ability to to dust yourself off and go back in is not that common. I mean, or it’s, you don’t see it that often. That’s a really big challenge, when you have a personal, you know, defeat like that. And, you know, really quickly you hop back in the game and figure out the next play. And, you know, congratulations. That’s quite an accomplishment.

It’s very, what was also great as a small part of my life after that is a dear friend and former client named Gerry Lenfest, later on bought the Inquirer, Daily News and inquirer.com from the hedge funds, and then called me, and I advised him during that process, I had already started my new business, we were three or four years into it. And then he asked me to help him out. And then he asked me to serve on his board, which I do to this day. So it gives me a connection to it, but I’m able to also focus on my client needs and grow my business.

Well, that’s fantastic. You know, with all the successes you’ve had, Brian, how do you sort of look at giving back? I know, you’re civic minded. And how do you take time, or how, find time, to actually give back to the community? And what projects are you really proud of?

You know, I find that life is more interesting, and it’s more rewarding when you step into the arena and stay active and get involved. So I’ve been in, you know, it’s also good, you meet people, good things come out of it.

If I had to say one of the things that I’m particularly honored to have been a part of, it’s tied to a small little school in Philadelphia called St. Martin de Porres. And in the late 90s, I was shopping at Christmastime, and I stopped at a McDonald’s. And then I hate to just go in there and just sit and look out the window—it was before you have your iPhone with all your mail and stuff like that. So I went in my trunk and I found about a two month old—my trunk is a mess, New York Times, so I figured I’d have something to read.

So I went in there and went into the McDonald’s, ate my lunch. And in the New York Times, there was an article about this neighborhood up in North Philadelphia, very challenged area right near the old baseball stadium, Connie Mack Stadium, and they talked about this church called St. Martin de Porres, and how the community, even though most of the people living there aren’t Catholic, they really rallied in this community. This church really gave a sense of community to the neighborhood. And one of the things that really hit me was this part of the story was that neighbors would go around, and if your door light was still on the next morning, they would knock to make sure you were safe—that you didn’t fall, or you didn’t have some issue or something like that. And it really touched me.

So I called up called information, 411 back then, and then left a message for the parish priest and I said, “You know, I read this article from, you know, two months ago in the New York Times, I just read it today and I’d like to make a donation.” And I sold my company so we were able to make—and my wife and I were able to make a nice donation to it.

A few months later, I got a call, and my assistant came in, she said, you know, that priest that you spoke to four months ago, he keeps calling. So I said, “Okay, what does he—?” “He wants to come see you.” So “Sure, have him come down.” And he said to me, “Brian, here’s the situation: The school and the church need a new roof. It’s gonna cost $300,000. I’m concerned that the archdiocese, they’re aware of it, but they’re going to eventually say, ‘it costs too much to fix it, and we’re gonna have to shut the school down.’ And I was wondering if I could get your help.” So I went and visited the school—in a tough neighborhood, but again, you walked inside, you could eat off the floor, and it was so loving. And you know, 90% of the kids weren’t Catholic, but their parents were making all kinds of sacrifices, because they felt this school was safer and better in their community.

So long story short, with another fella named Jack Donnelly, we went to the archbishop and said, “If you fix the roof for 300 grand, we’ll promise we’ll raise the money somehow over the course of the next year.” And we did. And the school got saved. And now it’s called the Independence Mission Schools, and there’s about 15 schools that are part of that. But for that newspaper in my trunk that was two months old, at the McDonald’s off of 202 and 252, that may not have happened that way.

Well, that’s a fantastic story. Brian. I hadn’t heard that before. That’s great.

Yeah!

What, you know, sort of in conclusion, if you were to share with the listeners, what’s the prime lesson you learned in life? Or that there may be, top three lessons and/or advice that you would offer someone particularly starting out their career? I think that’s most helpful.

Yeah, when you’re starting your career—don’t overthink the beginning of it. Just get into the swimming pool. I’ve had the opportunity to lecture at University of Michigan, at Columbia, and at Penn I was the Wharton Entrepreneur in Residence at the Wharton School of Penn. And I talked about this a lot—people spend a lot of time effectively walking around the swimming pool saying, especially early in their career, “Should I jump in here? Or should I jump in there?” And you know, the key thing is, make sure there’s water and get in the pool. And when you’re in the pool, meet other people. So try to find the job that’s going to not necessarily be your career for life, but you’re going to learn.

And think of life, I use the analogy as a group of three to five years swinging vines, if you will. So just, “Am I going to meet people? Am I going to learn? Is this going to be a good opportunity for me for the next two or three years? And let’s see where that takes it.” Because, you know, again, a lot of people spend days and days and days just walking around the pool, trying to figure it out. Get into the pool. And that’s key. And when you’re in there, you know, meet people, ask questions, I can’t tell you how often, you know, you just, it makes life more interesting. If you’re getting a cup of coffee and saying, you know, “Bob, Mary, you know, we’ve done different things. Tell me a bit about yourself,” you know, and that’s something when I interview people, “just tell me your personal story a little bit, tell me something that you’re really proud of that you’ve been involved with either workwise or personally or whatever. Just give me a sense of that.”

Yeah.

I think, you know, that goes back to, you know, if you’re not going to vote for yourself, you know, why should somebody else vote for you? And at the same time, don’t get yourself all shook up. It all works out.

Right. And take some risk.

Yeah, take some risks too. I mean, you know, when I, you know, when I started, my first agency, it was very fortunate, and I applied for a job at Golin, which is a very well known public relations firm globally. I applied for a job in 1984 in their Philadelphia Office and my background, I was going to law school at night, my background was, quote, “too political.” So I just started my own thing on my credit card, I had a part time babysitter from Cabrini College we had, who was my assistant, and that’s how I started that company

Later on, so what was really funny is two years later, I’d met the CEO globally of Golin, and he was like, “You’re a smart young guy wants to come in and run.” So I became, the place I couldn’t get a job when I was 27, I went in as CEO in the Philadelphia Office when I was 29. But three years later, we were being sold, and I was concerned about what that would mean in terms of, you know, the debt of the acquirer, etc. So I went to my boss, instead of stay for six days or six months, I’m just not as excited. I may go practice law, I might… “No, stay, stay, stay.” So anyway, I left there for a couple of months with his agreement and started my own business.

So I mean, I took a risk. That was the one that I actually put a mortgage on my house, etc, etc. But that’s where I met Vernon Hill, and who was at Commerce Bank. And, you know, I said, “You know, I’ve got these clients, Mr. Hill, and this and that. And, you know, I said, I need a line of credit for $300,000,” which, you know, again, was a huge amount of money to me, my net worth was about 20,000, because we purchased the house for 200. And that I put 10% down. But anyway, he looked at my numbers, and after about a minute and a half, he said “You’re going to need 350.” Well, the low point on cash was 348. I paid it back within two years. But that was a real risk now. But I had, you know, it wasn’t reckless in that I did think through, “Okay, if it doesn’t work out, I have these things, and I have these clients,” and you know, I kind of knew I could go practice law at that point. I think something I’ve never had a stomach for the big swing for the fences, and if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to go bankrupt kind of risk. I’ve never had any interest in any of that.

Right! But you’ve taken risk and when it hasn’t worked out, you’ve dusted yourself off, and tried something new.

Exactly. What did I learn from that? What do I do next? And I’ve certainly had investments in different things that you know. And that’s the other thing is don’t get impatient. I would say to people, too. There was a period in the ‘03, ‘05, ‘06 period where I had sold my third agency. I have been very fortunate, and I just, you know, wanted to do the next deal.

So next thing you know, I’m flying to Taiwan about an exercise equipment company that I may buy the rights to in the US. And then another time I was doing something in the retail business tied to cigars, and if we could do this, and that back then, you know. And those sorts of things where I wasn’t going to be running it either. I was just going to, you know, start it and put money into it, but do the next thing? Those were the big mistakes, not the newspaper.

Yeah, yep.

You know, so it’s, just don’t get impatient. Take your time. And when it does happen, make sure you’ve done your homework and then apply yourself 100% to it.

Wow, that’s a fantastic message: Take some risk. Be patient. Get up and dust yourself off when it doesn’t work. And look to the next thing. Well, Brian, this has been a really, really inspiring conversation. I really appreciate you taking the time and I hope to have the opportunity to continue the conversation in another podcast down the road, as your ventures and adventures continue.

Thank you, Chas. It’s been fun.

Thanks a lot for joining Brian Tierney and myself today on this episode of The Wealth Cast. We’ve provided a transcript of today’s episode in the show notes as well as links to Brian’s company Brian Communications. Thanks for joining us. Until next time, stay well.

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About Brian

Brian Tierney is the CEO of Brian Communications, a world-leading communications firm which he founded in 2010. Specialists in marketing, his team is composed of former heads of communications for US presidents, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, senior executives from large international agencies, Chiefs of Staff for US Senators and heads of corporate communications for Fortune 100 companies.

Brian Communications was agency of record for the 2015 US Papal visit to Philadelphia as part of the World Meeting of Families and assisted with the 2018 World Meeting of Families in Ireland.

Brian previously led an investor group which purchased the Philadelphia InquirerDaily News, and inquirer.com, in 2005. His team’s efforts resulted in a Pulitzer Prize.

Brian serves as Chairman for Realtime Media, Chairman of the Board for the Poynter Institute, and is a board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer. His philanthropic works include helping St. Martin de Porres School of Philadelphia expand into the Independence Mission Schools, which now include a total of fifteen educational institutions. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Penn in 1979, and his Doctorate of Law from Widener University in 1987. He has received two papal honors, one bestowed by Pope John Paul II, and one by Pope Francis.

Disclosure

Modera is an SEC registered investment adviser which does not imply any level of skill or training. For additional information see our Form ADV available at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov which contains a full description of our business, operations and service offerings including fees. Statements made in the podcast are not to be construed as personalized investment or financial planning advice, may not be suitable for everyone and should not be considered a solicitation to engage in any particular investment or planning strategy. Statements made are subject to change without notice.