Team Talks: Tessa Chirnside

A chat with Tess about start-up pressures, how Rhodian approaches the agency branding journey .... and the one policy that makes all the difference.

What's your role at Rhodian?

As one of three founders of Rhodian & Chief Operating Officer, my role is to ensure that the operational elements of the business are aligned to our strategic goals, are highly focused and are progressed daily. My background is in marketing and brand, so I drive these areas, alongside the human resources function and our CSR vision.

What motivates you professionally?

I am really motivated by challenge. The bigger the challenge, the more engaged I am. Rhodian is the perfect space for me, because the challenges only get bigger as the network grows. I really respect people who choose to put themselves out there and take a risk. If I believe in someone and their vision, and we’re building that vision together, I’m in my happy place.

What has been the most challenging part of your Rhodian journey?

I love business strategy and planning, so I really enjoyed Rhodian’s start-up journey. The most challenging part has been having no one (other than each other) to say something is right, or has an ETA of ‘X’. So much of the journey is about having faith in your own skills and trusting that your partners will challenge you when you need it and support you at critical junctures. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re in small business, but if you have people around you that share your vision and that you trust, the journey can be extremely rewarding.

What’s exciting about leading the Rhodian brand department?

I think one of the great things here at Rhodian, is that our agency leaders aren’t just product owners, they are building their own brand and business from day one. When they sit down with me and the design team, we discuss their vision, their ideas, how they want to be represented in the market. It’s exciting to be part of this process of discovery and articulation. Having a strong brand is an area that can really set an agency apart. Understanding the importance of differentiators and authenticity is vital. We have some great creative brains working with us at Rhodian, so there’s lots of positive energy and a genuine desire to make beautiful brands that resonate with each audience. The exciting part – we don’t cut corners and we’re invested in the long-term success of each individual agency. For agency leaders, there’s a huge amount of support from us, helping to bring their vision to life and accelerate their development.

How are you working to develop a strong culture at Rhodian?

Ultimately, Rhodian is about what we can do to help others be the best they can be. When you put this at the heart of every decision and every action, your authentic culture really starts to build itself.

We want Rhodian to be a grown-up place to work. We are keeping things simple and agile because we believe this is the best way to be responsive to what our people need. We respect hard work, we seek diversity of thought, we communicate openly, and we have a really strong ‘no dickheads’ policy. This, alongside strong systems and structured development pathways, is the starting line for Rhodian to develop a workplace that is focused on not just doing good business, but also supporting people to have well balanced and fulfilling lifestyles.

Importantly, we’ve all been around the block (a few times), so know that any culture starts with the founders and senior executives – walking the walk is far more important than talking the talk around here!

What excites you about the future?

One of the areas we are all excited about is technology – not just recreating what the industry already knows, but working out what's needed next and developing new ideas. Excitingly, this has allowed our focus to broaden to include areas other than just underwriting tech. One of the platforms we have invested in provides the capability to develop next-level global networks, project groups and data sets. I am super excited about where this could take us in terms of collaborating to work on industry-level projects that strive to have a long-term positive impact on our society.

What are your goals for 2023?

In all areas of my professional life, my goal is to stay creative. Whether I am working on business strategy, building a brand, or managing our people processes, I want to stay curious and keep looking for new ways to do stuff better.