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Getting a Seat at the Table

Are you being left out of integral business discussions or strategic initiatives where your perspective could add great value to your organization? You are not alone and there are ways to combat that fight.

Brandi Barr, Senior Associate and Business Development Manager at T.Y. Lin International has made large strides at her firm since she started almost a decade ago.

Q: What does it mean to you to have a seat at the table?
To have a seat at the table means two things:
1) Being involved at an equal level in all marketing decisions (i.e. pursuit strategy, go/no-go, etc,). The perfect sum is – being more than a formatter.
2)Participating in the office operations meeting. Having an opinion and equal voice to the other department managers in regards to operational decisions.

This being said, it also comes with accountability. You can’t be at the table without being held accountable for the marketing budget, yearly sales plan (goal), strategic decisions, etc.

Q: What are the benefits to including marketers and or business developers in leadership decisions?
The main benefit of including marketers and/or business developers is providing a different perspective to a given topic. For example, when looking at a strategic hire, technical professionals typically look at project execution. A marketer/business developer might ask the following questions: Is the candidate a repeat work seller or can they develop new clients, or both? How do they fit into our culture? Do we see them as someone who is a good mentor?

Another example: the go/no-go decision on RFPs. Most technical professionals believe submitting proposals is the best way to get in front of a client. A marketer/business developer offers an alternate perspective. Because we are relational, we offer insight into what other options might be beneficial. In addition, we might offer perspective from what we’ve heard in the industry (i.e. who has been chasing it, relationships between firms with the client, etc.)

Q: How can someone that is an entry level marketer or business developer leverage themselves to have a future seat?
First, have patience. Typically, companies don’t know what to do with marketing professionals, they just know they need them. When that is the mindset, then you are going to have to prove yourself. Finding creative ways to contribute, being responsive and having good communication are all good ways to start. Other ways to contribute would be to conduct project research, establish relationships with sub-consultants and of course build relationships with your peers at SMPS. Lastly, find ways to improve the quality of proposals.

Another important facet is to find your champion - you need to find a person in your senior management. This will help tremendously. It’s always best when someone else is doing your promoting.

Q: How can providing data be beneficial to someone that is trying to prove their value?
If there is one thing, management understands its metrics. When reading a performance evaluation it is always a strong case to present the hit ratio if it has improved. (Granted it is not all about the marketing, as much as I would like to say it is.) However, we are a big part of the process. This is also beneficial when demonstrating the workload, especially if there is a case for additional staff or if a no-go decision needs to be evaluated.

Q: How has your career changed since you’ve gotten a seat at the table?
My career has changed through my day-to-day responsibilities. There is less heavy lifting in the proposals; however, proposal responsibilities never go away. There is more time spent on metrics and tracking (budgets, sales projections, reporting), managing staff, meetings not just on marketing – operations, business development. The thing no one tells you is that you go from the proposal deadlines swooshing by, to worrying about having won enough work to keeping all of the employees busy and worrying if are we meeting the metrics set by headquarters. How can we make sure the people not involved in pursuits aren’t worrying about what their next job is?

Q: What is your advice for a marketer or business developer fighting for a seat at the table?
My advice is probably untraditional, really evaluate the things about your job that you like and dislike. Don’t be in a hurry, if you work for a good place and have a good manager, things will happen for you. It takes time to build the trust (it took me 8 years).

If you are in the right place to be fighting for your career, don’t ask for it. Just start doing it. Again, most companies don’t know what to do with marketers. The age ole’ saying of, “They don’t know what they don’t know,” Is very prominent for this industry. You need to show them by doing what you should be doing. If then it doesn’t seem to be progressing, you will need to have the conversation about the future and/or evaluate your next steps.

In closing, I leave you with a quote from Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Be the smart person your company hired, it’s in every single one of us. Position yourself in such a way that your presence is needed at the table. 


Brandi Barr 
Senior Associate, Business Development Manager 

Brandi has been in the A/E/C industry for 18 years and an active member of SMPS for 13 years. You can typically find her and her husband at their daughter's dance recitals or watching their boys play soccer or baseball. She is very in to sports and always keeping tabs on her 5 fantasy football teams in addition to watching the SF Giants! 

 

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