• Michelle Ashby-CEO
  • Barbara Pierce-President
  • Owners
  • Staff Photo - September 2017
  • Tipping Point Office

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    • Website: tippingpointcomm.com
    • Top Executive: Michelle Ashby, Chief Executive Officer
    • Local Employees: 16
    • Headquarters: Rochester, NY
    • Founded: 2005
    • Total Employees: 20
    • Years on List:
    • Last Years Rank:

Their tipping point came in 2011. Michelle Ashby, founder of Tipping Point Media, wanted to expand her company’s services to include public relations. Barbara Pierce, a public relations professional, was looking to fulfill a long-held dream of owning an agency.

A mutual friend provided the introduction and four months later, Ashby and Pierce formed Tipping Point Public Relations as a sister agency to Tipping Point Media.

“Immediately, our clients responded very favorably to this new offering and this new partnership,” says Ashby, founder and CEO of what is now Tipping Point Communications.

“The leadership and vision that we have complements each other in a way that has driven this business overall to grow and explode,” says Ashby.

In its first three years, Tipping Point nearly doubled its annual revenue — growth that landed it on the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce’s Top 100 list. The firm is on track to increase revenues this year. It also plans to add up to three employees to its current team of 24 within the next year.

The two businesses merged in 2014 to form Tipping Point Communications, which offers research, public relations, social media, digital marketing and media strategies to help organizations grow.

“Clients were beginning to treat us interchangeably,” says Pierce, the agency’s president. “We were so interconnected and interwoven that it made sense for us to merge under the Tipping Point Communications name.”

The company specializes in higher education, health care and tourism, with clients that include YourCare Health Plan, Rochester Regional Health System, Connors & Ferris, Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park and many others.

After the merger, the agency moved into larger space on University Avenue and tore down the walls between departments, opting for an open floor plan. It changed the firm’s culture.

“It took down not just the physical wall but the psychological wall of these different positions within an organization,” says Ashby. “Not only did we merge the teams together, but we changed how all of us communicate with each other … We wanted everybody to embrace the core value of teamwork.”

The firm also changed its compensation model, increased its transparency with employees and introduced a bonus program.

Tipping Point now shares details of its financials with staff so everyone understands how the company is performing, and as a result, the size of their bonus pool. Bonuses are split equally among employees to further underscore the importance of teamwork.

It has helped the agency push into new markets, and grow its client base in Rochester and Buffalo. Tipping Point opened its Buffalo office two years ago.

This year the agency launched a content marketing department and hired a social media expert with video experience to reflect new industry trends while meeting client demands.

“Content marketing is an intersection of all the areas of specialization that Tipping Point brings that makes us different than any other agency in western New York,” says Pierce. “It’s PR, digital, CRM and one-to-one marketing. We’re making investments in that area so we can help our clients drive sales leads and be able to measure to those leads.”

Tipping Point also focused on other ways to boost its business. It was recently selected to participate in the state’s minority and women-owned business enterprise mentor program.

“We’ll team up with legacy advertising agencies in New York City who will train our staff and make sure that how we’re offering our services is efficient, progressive and effective,” says Ashby. “That will keep us at the top of our game and highly competitive and also leaders in our field of expertise.”

The agency also plans to launch proprietary software next year designed to better track and measure a campaign’s performance. It’ll be marketed to partner agencies and companies whose work demands insight and accountability.

Ashby and Piece said it will enable Tipping Point’s team to focus more on strategic work and less on administrative tasks.

Together, they have built a productive partnership and a thriving company in a community that backs ingenuity.

“The business environment in Rochester is supportive and smart,” says Pierce. “The level of support from the city, the county, the chamber … it breeds success.”

Ashby adds that it’s not just smarts but guts that makes a difference.

“Having clients and people in this business community who are willing to take a calculated risk to try new things is what drives this whole economy forward,” says Ashby. “If you look at all the Rochester Top 100 companies, I think that’s probably something in common among all of us.”