In her late 20s, Teri Hansen was pregnant and working up to 14-hour days as a marketing director for a developer.
How could she balance a family life with that schedule?
She couldn’t, she determined. A month before her due date, she told the company she’d be resigning from her post.
“I didn’t do it with the thought I would start a business. I did it because it was right for my family,” Hansen says.
But after her daughter was born, Hansen realized she could work from home. Within months, her former employer became her first client.
So began her firm 25 years ago, a venture she began with three priorities in mind, in the following order of importance: faith, family, and business. It’s why she named her small company Priority Marketing.
“That little business has turned into a big business over time,” Hansen says.
Her firm, which bills itself as the region’s largest full-service marketing, advertising and public relations firm, boasts 31 employees, including Hansen. Over the years, Hansen, now 54, has picked up numerous honors. Her firm has donated nearly $2 million in services to nonprofit organizations. In May, Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida will induct Hansen into the Lee County Business Hall of Fame.
Early on, Hansen exhibited the kind of demeanor needed for her future career. Her elementary school report card came home with comments like, “Teri is such a sweet and kind child however she likes to visit too much in class.”
In her mother and father, Elaine and Duane Mansell, Hansen saw how to be hardworking employees and devoted parents. “They really showed us that you could do both. You can balance business and career and not neglect your family.”
Her father, a custom-home builder, had to be at job sites near dawn.
Her mother had a long career in banking, starting as a teller and working her way up to a senior executive.
“She would get up early to get us to school but she was always one of the first persons in the office every day and one of the last people to leave every day.”
During off hours, her parents poured their time into family. They attended church and spent weekends boating or camping in a pop-up in Florida state parks. “My husband and I still go camping but it’s glamping,” Hansen says with a laugh.
Her parents’ hard work and devotion to family continues.
Hansen’s mother, now in her mid- 70s, fills in as a receptionist at Priority Marketing. About five years ago, when the company switched locations, her parents packed up the offices. Her father was 81 at the time.
Her parents raised her to be Christian. Hansen’s faith remains central to her life. She saw her parents act out honesty and integrity, principles that Hansen uses to guide how she runs her business.
In the workplace, those qualities translate to honoring deadlines, respecting people’s time, and doing the right thing for clients, even when it’s hard, even when it’s not profitable for Priority Marketing.
“We’ve had many times that a customer will come in and say, ‘I want a new logo.’ We could say, ‘OK, we’ll take your money and design you a logo.’ But it’s really asking more questions. It’s really saying, ‘What do you need?’”
If she thinks her firm is not right for the need, she’ll tell the client that. She seeks to model integrity to her employees.
“It’s not what you say. It’s what you do. This is what my parents taught me and this is what I taught my own child. If you make a mistake, take responsibility for it, own up to it,” Hansen says. “If you make a mistake with a client, own up to it. That’s really living authentically and living with integrity.”