Five in Five* with Brian Dean, Director of Digital Strategy

During his 9 to 5, Brian Dean is making sure our clients are killing it on The Internet. In his off time, he’s a self-described lifelong Cleveland Browns fan “finally reveling in their newfound success.” (In fact, he still calls Believeland home.) We took him aside to ask him about his past life as a marketing pro for giant names in hospitality, his hidden talents, and his favorite vacation spot.

Who were you in college?

I was your quintessential hippie. I wore Birkenstocks and let my hair flow down to the middle of my back. Funny story, I never graduated college. I went to school, studied education and the liberal arts, but eventually I had an honest conversation with my folks. It wasn’t where I was focused. I really liked working, and I ended up growing more through the experiences I got at work.

So you skipped the formalities and went straight to learning on the job. What were some of the pivotal lessons?

There’s probably been a few inflection points in my career. But I think the most important lesson was that relationships are everything. In my old life, Marriot was one of my largest clients, and there were a lot of times we managed over 150 properties. That was a pivotal point in my career that I realized having those connections gets you through a difficult time. If you can create the connection and the rapport with someone and let them know when they are not even expecting it that you are thinking about their business, that’s important.

What are the keys to a good working relationship?

Transparency—being honest and open. And having the grace to not take things personally doesn’t hurt.

Okay, let’s switch gears to some non-work fun. What are some of the favorite places you’ve traveled to?

I just got back from a trip to Maine and it was amazing. A-Maine-zing, if you will. We went from the North Woods, where we did white water rafting and canoeing, then down to Bar Harbour to experience the coast. It was beautiful. I’ve also been to Dubai, where we went skiing inside the mall. Super cool.

Do you have any secret talents?

I used to play the tuba. I was in middle school and it was so big my dad had to carry it for me. My parents were shocked and upset when I told them I wanted to play the tuba, because you had to practice at home and that never went well with the fam.

*Five in Five is where we catch up with an Interrupter to ask five questions in five minutes. It may have taken us (way) longer than five minutes to have this conversation. But it shouldn’t take you longer than five minutes to read them. So we’re counting it.