A knock on the door: Reflecting on Piper Communications in 2021

By Cortney Piper, President 

I’m so glad to be back in the office again.

The Piper Communications team returned to the office this summer, and I could not be happier. We still work from home and enjoy flexible work schedules, but overall, it’s so easy to foster an engaging atmosphere and collaborate when we’re all in the same space.

The pandemic has taught me that the future of work will look quite different and that hybrid environments and approaches should be welcome. But I also learned a new appreciation for a simple knock on the door. 

Some of the best ideas and innovative ways of thinking don’t result from scheduled meetings or lengthy discussions – they can happen when you allow yourself to be open or spontaneous. Sometimes, they start with a knock at the door from someone with a comment or question that turns into something truly wonderful. 

From reimagining the way our team approaches content development to solving intricate client puzzles, Piper Communications has thrived this year not only because of our subject-matter expertise, results-driven work ethic and problem-solving skills, but because we allow for adaptability so we can take those comments, questions and ideas – big or small – and transform them into something truly meaningful for our clients.

From a client perspective, there have been so many exciting developments and wins over that past year that I cannot possibly cover them all. But we are thankful for each client and every chance to help them succeed. For instance, it has been so gratifying to watch the Innov865 Alliance welcome the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator and come together to address the gaps identified by Techstars that were keeping Knoxville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem from accelerating forward at a more rapid pace. As a small business owner, I believe that Knoxville IS a wonderful place to start and grow a business and enjoy watching the Innov865 Alliance advance this mission.

Three Roots Capital celebrated five years of providing access to capital and business coaching for underserved and underrepresented communities, helping them grow and flourish. They continue to prove that while access to capital is vital, it’s the support, guidance and coaching that helps organizations maximize those funds and make the biggest impact.

Meanwhile, as the global pandemic prompted society to rethink the way we work, live and play, the University of Tennessee Research Foundation and its inventors were recognized for outstanding contributions in the continued fight against COVID-19 by AUTM. As a UT graduate, it’s an honor to witness University of Tennessee innovators across the state develop and deploy technology that solves problems and makes our lives better.

With Wärtsilä and the Path to 100% initiative, it has been a privilege to watch a company that began in a traditional industry become so innovative and forward-thinking about how to adapt business practices in a new-energy marketplace. The Path to 100% community is working hard to find a practical, affordable and fast way to get to 100% renewable energy – it’s a privilege to support them in this endeavor.

Then we have our newer clients, Atom Power and SkyNano Technologies, who have technologies and products that will accelerate the transition into a new energy economy. We are not only helping them show potential consumers how radical their technology or product may be, but we are helping them find the best way to tell their audience how the market is shifting dramatically and how their innovations will make that shift easier or better. I love working with clients who have or will have a lasting impact on their community, whether that be on a local, state, national or global scale.

With this orientation toward impact in mind, I must mention the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and its 2021 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, which validates the very reason Piper Communications exists. I launched Piper Communications because I was passionate about clean energy and technology communication and wanted to help these industries succeed in our state. 

Like our work with TAEBC’s report, Piper Communications was also proud to support the release of the Department of Energy’s FY2020 economic impact report. The report emphasized how DOE missions in Oak Ridge directly benefit Tennessee’s  economy and drive innovations in the global advanced energy economy, resulting in over $7 billion in economic benefits and nearly 43,000 full-time jobs.

Nearly everything we have done at Piper Communications – from the clients we serve to our unique approach to communications – has been to increase the profile of clean energy and advanced technologies and demonstrate how they can positively impact our lives and futures. Both TAEBC and DOE’s reports indicate that Tennessee’s advanced energy economy is growing dramatically, and I’m proud to say we are helping play a role in this expansion. 

Like the advanced energy economy, Piper Communications has also been growing and scaling up. We have added several new team members this year and have expanded our client portfolio. But as we have grown, I have challenged myself to create and maintain a work environment where people want to come to work. One thing the past two years has made immensely clear is that people don’t want to just be an employee. They want to work toward something bigger than themselves and still have time for passions, pursuits and everyday life outside of the office.

As an NCAA Division I athlete, I am results-driven and have high expectations of myself and those around me – this will never change. But I believe it’s essential to marry excellence with a flexible and supportive work environment. People will be their best if they are part of a culture and in an atmosphere where they can thrive.

Looking ahead into 2022, I am excited about continuing the great work we have been doing this year. I am also ready for whatever new ideas and strategies may come from future knocks at my door.

Find out more about Cortney Piper, Piper Communications’ President, here.