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2023 Top Entrepreneur: Teri Hansen, Priority Marketing, president and chief creative officer, Fort Myers

Some shrewd and counterintuitive decision-making has led Teri Hansen to prosper in a hypercompetitive field for 30 years.

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  • | 1:30 p.m. May 4, 2023
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Teri Hansen gave up a corporate job 30 years ago to start Priority Marketing so she could spend more time with her family.
Teri Hansen gave up a corporate job 30 years ago to start Priority Marketing so she could spend more time with her family.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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A little over 30 years ago, Teri Hansen was working her life away at a corporate job. She fit in 14 hours of work each day with barely any time to spend with family. At the time, she was pregnant with her daughter, Anna Hansen-Price. 

“This is not going to be conducive to putting my family first,” she says of those days. "I can’t do it with this kind of schedule, this kind of corporate demand. I can’t work 14 hours a day, have a baby and think I’m going to be involved.” 

So she left. 

When her daughter was a month old, Hansen got back in the business world, with Priority Marketing. 

“Family is most important to me,” she says. “That’s literally why my company is called Priority Marketing. I chose priority because that is my priority.” 

The Fort Myers marketing firm takes care of everything in house, including web development, video services, digital marketing, social media, graphic design, public relations and event management. While she declined to provide specific financial figures, Hansen says the firm has increased revenue by 67% over the past five years, with its employee base growing 44% during that time.

Significantly, Hansen says that over 30% of Priority Marketing’s client base are nonprofits. “I’m so proud of that,” she says. 

In addition to helping local nonprofits raise over $100 million throughout the last 30 years, she says, the firm has also donated nearly $5 million in pro bono services.

That’s not the only thing to be proud of, though. 

Hansen, 60, is a 22-year stage 3 breast cancer survivor. When she was diagnosed with it in 2001, she says doctors didn’t think she even had a 40% chance of living. 

“I celebrate every single day,” she says. "I’m proud of my age. I’m thankful to be here.”

Biggest lesson learned

When Hansen was trying to grow Priority Marketing early on, she struggled to build a team. “I was having a level of success based on me solo,” she says.  

“I came home one day and told my husband, ‘I’m so frustrated. I can’t find another Teri,’” she remembers. “He looks at me and says, ‘Teri, the worst thing you can do is hire another Teri.’” 

That led Hansen to an epiphany. 

“In business, it’s not about duplicating yourself,” she says. “If you really want to build a team, it’s about assessing the needs and evaluating your own strengths, weaknesses, talents and skill sets. And then staffing to fill in the other gaps.” 

“Because only then do you have the strongest team.” 

Best advice

When Hansen was about a year into hiring a team, she received a piece of advice that stuck with her.  

“I didn’t feel like I was assembling the team I was desiring,” she says. 

A friend, also a client, encouraged her to have patience. 

“‘Teri, you need to understand it takes time to build the right team,’” Hansen remembers being told. “It was like a lightbulb going off. It just gave me peace because he was a president and CEO of a company. He had a very respected team.” 

She was trying to build the right culture — but trying to do it too fast. 

“I see now the diligence in that approach and how it's paid off,” Hansen says. “But in the early days, it’s not a quick fix. That’s not how it works so be patient in the process of building your company and building the right people on the team.” 

Tipping point

In 2002, Hansen had an overwhelming sense to diversify her clients. At the time, about 90% of Priority Marketing’s business was real estate related. So she looked to add clients across various industries, avoiding the trend of the time to pile on in real estate. “It was contrary to what was happening,” she says. “I just had a sense of ‘don’t get sucked into this and put all your eggs in one basket.’” 

And when the market crashed in 2008, she didn’t lay off a single person. “We had clients that continued to prosper,” she says. “Those that had spent all their focus on real estate clients aren’t in business today.”

Had she not diversified, Hansen believes she would have laid off employees and struggled to keep the doors open. 

“I’m grateful for the level of wisdom I had as a young professional,” she says. 

Where will Priority Marketing be three years from now?

With previous unpredictable happenings, like the pandemic and a Category 5 hurricane, Hansen says it’s hard to predict what the next three years will hold. 

“If you had asked me three years ago, I didn’t think it would look like it does today,” she says, before adding, “A lot will depend on the state of our economy.” 

The good news is she says being in Florida provides a unique advantage. “We’re in a great state for business,” she says.  

Hansen thinks the company will continue to grow and expand with new services over the next few years as new technology and needs arise. 

“We’ve grown and added services based on serving the market and the needs of our clients,” she says. “So as those continue to evolve, the company will continue to evolve, develop and expand to serve.” 

What would you do if you weren’t an entrepreneur?

While in college, at the University of South Florida, Hansen got a minor degree in criminal justice. “I really thought about going the law route,” she says.

She would have been a prosecutor or investigative detective, Hansen adds. From arguing a case to ensuring justice is served, Hansen says the attorney life is appealing. And when her job doesn’t provide the crime or law edge she enjoys, Hansen turns to her favorite TV show, Law & Order, or a true crime podcast to fill that need. 


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