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President's Message: How to Cope with Living in a Virtual Reality

The internet has no shortage of memes for 2020, but I think the one I have included in this post resonates with many of us. What do you do when faced with a challenge that is beyond your control? I can assure you that when I signed on to be President of the Arizona Chapter last year I had COMPLETELY different expectations as to what I would experience this year. I thought I would continue to move the Chapter forward by managing the same things that had become refined processes and proven to be successful for previous years.

I anxiously awaited the Chapter Leadership Symposium (CLS) which was to take place in Washington D.C. and provide several days of learning sessions and networking events to ensure that I would be well equipped to lead the Arizona Chapter when September rolled around. But as with many other things, COVID-19 altered my plans and the in-person CLS event was canceled. For someone who places an extremely high value on being prepared before going into anything I began to ask myself, “What are we supposed to do now?”

Luckily, CLS was still able to happen in a virtual capacity, but I’d be lying if I said it was the same as what I had hoped to experience in person. However, as I started to talk to others within the Arizona Chapter, I was blown away by the outpouring of support I received from my SMPS friends (many of which happened to be past presidents)!

It was during that time that I started to realize that this is EXACTLY why SMPS is so valuable. While I may not have had the opportunity to make the same connections to other chapters as presidents before me, I was able to tap into the wealth of knowledge right here in our own chapter through the friendships I have made while serving as a volunteer over the past seven years.

This year, SMPS AZ will continue to ADAPT to whatever challenges may be thrown our way. We will create new and innovative ways to provide personal and professional growth for our membership. This year is an opportunity to be creative and forward-thinking, which will make the Chapter stronger overall. But most importantly, this year is about you. That’s what makes SMPS great - we all face the same challenges and are here to support each other as well. Don’t be afraid to reach out to me or any of your other SMPS colleagues, even if you just need a sounding board, we’re happy to help.

I’m looking forward to an incredible year where we ADAPT and grow, and I’m glad to have every one of you as part of the SMPS AZ Chapter!

P.S. Feel free to share a link to your favorite 2020 memes in the comments as well!

Brad Thompson is the current President of SMPS Arizona and the Business Solutions Director for SDB Contracting Services where he oversees the firm’s Marketing and Business Development efforts. While his experience in Marketing spans more than 18 years, he has worked specifically in the AEC industry for 8 years and been involved with SMPS for the past seven years. When not pushing the limits of technology, you can find him spending time with his family or in the garage with his newest hobby of woodworking.

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President's Message: Let's Say What We Want and Go After It

When I left New York and my dreams of being the real-life version of Carrie Bradshaw in 2012, I had no idea what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, or even who I was at that point in life. Everything I thought I wanted or the person I thought I’d be when I was in the Big Apple didn’t align with how I felt. Fast forward seven years, here I am embarking on a journey as the President of SMPS Arizona – something I never imagined, let alone knew existed. But atlas, the time has come.

As we step into this new year let us not forget a few of the top things we accomplished last year:

  1. Identified our strategic plan for 2018-2021.
    • Be the go-to resource in education, creating connections, and developing leaders in the industry
    • Leadership development for you within your firm and our SMPS chapter
    • Elevate the SMPS experience
  2. Membership Retention and Recruitment. At the start of the SMPS Year (August 8, 2018) we were hovering around 150. A year later, we are at 170+ members!
  3. Had 2 new Community Outreach Projects!
  4. Updated our Chapter Bylaws.
  5. Implemented the new SMPS branding.

The reason I chose to highlight those five accomplishments out of 20+ is because those achievements reflect the actions of you. Our now Past President, Brandi Barr, set the barr (lol 😉) high as she went into her year as President with fresh, fun, and strategic eyes to make sure we all rose up to make sure we did what was best for our Chapter/membership. From our elevated programming featuring national speakers, dedicated community outreach efforts, to our new branding, we were able to appeal to our members and non-members as a “new” SMPS.

So, what’s happening this year? We’re going to continue to bring you premium program and education events and ways you can give back to our community through volunteering. We’re also going to have a:

  • New training program for marketing and technical staff
  • New CPSM bootcamp
  • Members only Thank You event
  • New E-blast template for our Chapter’s communications
  • Joint event collaborations with other local organizations
  • Increased volunteer member (and firm) recognition
  • Present on marketing and business development topics at local professional organizations

While that list is no small feat, I am confident the work we have all done up until this moment will be the reason we accomplish those goals. We have a Chapter full of dedicated individuals (and firms who support them) who I am so excited to see flourish as we charge forward together.

I had a conversation with someone recently about what it will mean to me to be the President of the SMPS Arizona chapter, what did I want my legacy to be? I didn’t have an answer for them at that moment, but it did make me realize, this year as your President is a part of my life legacy. But this year isn’t just about me, it’s about you. I want each and everyone one of you to go after something you want. I want you to imagine yourself as the President of SMPS, or the Director of Marketing or Chief Marketing Officer at your firm. Whatever you desire, go for it!

A dear friend of mine shared this Epictetus quote with me, “First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

When I joined this industry almost five years ago, I was just like you when you landed your first job in this industry. As eager as I was for my new role, I was equally as confused as to how I got here and how I could be the best marketer for my firm. I took on my new role with a supportive boss and a co-worker turned mentor who showed me the way and encouraged me to join SMPS. I knew that everything I did for this Chapter was for the greater good and I was going to give it my all. So, whatever your role is in or organization, give it all you got.

Hear me clearly: Do not edit your desires. You are here in this space, you are entering this world to want what you want, regardless of how big the dream. You may have to get there in stages, you may stumble along the way, but the journey is worth the work. And do not allow logic to be an excuse for setting low expectations.”  Stacey Abrams

Let’s all move forward into this year, saying what we want and going after it. One of my desires for the next year is to make sure our members feel seen and heard. I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions, comments, or ideas you have. Take a moment and leave a comment below to tell me something you desire and one way you can turn it into a reality.

Tiffany Johnson
2019-2020 SMPS Arizona President

Tiffany Johnson is a current SMPS President; she has served on various committees throughout the years and is excited for this new role. She has worked for architecture and engineering firms leading all marketing and business development efforts for the last four and half years. In her free time, she enjoys brunching with her friends, plotting on how to become the next Martha Stewart (cooking, home design, lifestyle hacks), writing and beating everyone she knows at Jenga!

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Small Changes Lead to Big Success for SMPS Arizona

SMPS Arizona…. I honestly don’t know what to say (imagine that, I know). This year has gone by as if I was Barry Allen and my secret identity is the Flash.

When I think about this past year, I remember the advice that Society President, Chris Rickman, FSMPS, CPSM, gave me. “You don’t have to make huge changes. If you make enough small changes in the end, you’ll see a big impact.” He couldn’t have been more right!

Some of the progress made during 2018-2019 includes:

  1. Update all Chapter media and information to new SMPS Branding.
  2. Modifying our Chapter Leadership Organizational Chart to also show Functional Responsibilities. This was to continue our push as a business, where we could provide opportunities for growth to the chapter volunteers.
  3. Programs are focused on bringing out-of-town, or non-AEC speakers or clients to the lunch programs.
  4. Diligently working to find a new Program location home (to be unveiled soon!).
  5. Transparency – Chapter Goals are posted and updated on the website monthly to keep the membership aware of what your Board and Leadership team are doing for you.
  6. Drastically increased the number of Program Sponsors to support the goal of out of town speakers.
  7. Membership Retention and Recruitment. At the start of the SMPS Year (August 8, 2018) we were hovering around 150. A year later, we are at 170+ members!
  8. Had 2 new Community Outreach Projects!

These are just a snippet of the things we have accomplished! To see all of our goals and accomplishments please checkout 2018-19_Chapter_Goals on the website.

To the Board: It has truly been an honor working with all of you! Your companies don’t know how lucky they are to have you. I know you were pushed and challenged at times this past year, you have done an excellent job! For those continuing on, keep it up, there’s still so much to do. For the others, the Chapter and myself appreciate all that you have done for us!

To the Leadership Team: Thank you for all of your hard work! It is because of you that we succeed! I can’t thank you enough for all of the time you have devoted to our Chapter. Keep exploring improvements and learning new things.

To our Membership: It is because of you, I took on this role. I hope you feel as though the Chapter is working hard to keep pushing our profession. This truly is a place to find your life long compadres no matter what company they work for. We are all here for each other! Don’t hesitate to GET INVOLVED!

This is not good-bye, I will still be involved in the Chapter 😊 You all will have to kick me out!

In true tradition to the inaugural post, I leave you with another playlist.

Eminem - Not Afraid

Marvin Gaye | Aint No Mountain High EnoughDestiny's Child | Survivor

Christina Aguilera | Fighter

Journey | Don't Stop Believin

Kelly Clarkson | Stronger

Queen | We are the Champions

Your Gladiator,

Brandi Barr
2018-2019 SMPS Arizona Chapter President

Brandi holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University and has nearly 20 years of AEC marketing professional services experience. For the past 10 years, she has worked for T.Y. Lin International. She has also been recognized by the SMPS, Arizona Chapter as the recipient of 3 Marketing Communications Awards - Best Proposal (2014), Marketer of the Year (2015) and most recently Best Project Pursuit (2016). Her favorite thing to do is hang out with her husband, three kiddos and French bulldog. To find her outside of work, check her daughter’s dance studio, son’s soccer or baseball/basketball/swimming practices or watching sports (probably checking on her fantasy football teams).

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Increase Your Confidence in 5 Areas of Negotiating

One of my favorite Will Smith movies is Hitch. It’s a romantic comedy about a professional "date doctor" who helps a client impress the woman of his dreams. And, in the process, falls in love with a gossip columnist named Sara Melas.

From the very beginning Hitch puts a lot of planning into his first date with Sara. They start with offshore jet skiing and end with a private tour of Ellis Island. Thinking Sara will be impressed by his effort, Hitch arranges to display her great grandfather’s signature on a historical document. However, Sara’s reaction is...unexpected. She runs off in tears and Smith delivers one of the most-memorable one-liners from the movie. “I saw that going differently in my mind.”

Have you ever had a meeting with your manager that left you feeling the same way as Hitch after that first date? Despite your planning and intention for the meeting, somehow things didn’t go the way you intended. Maybe you rambled on incoherently never getting to the “point” of what you wanted to discuss. Or maybe you were able to start the conversation, but didn’t have a confident response when you got push-back to your idea, request or pitch. Either way, you walked out of the meeting thinking, “I saw that going differently in my mind.”

As the old adage goes, “confidence is key.” Confidence starts with having a clear idea of what you want and the evidence to support its validation. Most people only think negotiating applies to a raise or promotion, but there are other requests you should know how to confidently pitch. The acronym S.T.A.M.P. will help you easily remember them.


Many firms offer professional development or on-going education as an employee benefit. Even if your firm has a formal continuing education policy, you may still need to initiate a conversation to garner your manager’s support and approval. You’re more likely to get that support if you can show how your training will benefit you in your current role or prepare you for additional responsibilities. Prior to your meeting research the program, understand the commitment and clarify the outcomes with the coach or program facilitator.


Employers are getting more flexible with non-traditional employment arrangements like remote work and flexwork. This is especially true as work-life balance is a top priority for today’s workforce. Having proof or evidence to support your request will boost your confidence as you prepare for your meeting. You may want to show evidence of your actual hours worked if you’re requesting additional PTO hours (especially if you are a salaried employee). Or, if you’re proposing a later start time or different work hours, be prepared to discuss how the change will or won’t impact your team.



Your firm gets shortlisted for a high-profile project. You weren’t on the proposal team, but you have some amazing ideas for the presentation and want to be on the creative team. You also think this is the perfect opportunity to show your leadership skills and position yourself for a raise or promotion. When you meet with your manager be clear that you view this as a leadership opportunity, then present your creative idea and get ready to show ‘em what you’ve got!


Wouldn’t it be great if you could scream “show me the money!” and get the Jerry McGuire treatment?

For a lot of people, requesting a raise is probably the most intimidating “ask” on this list. With so much secrecy and confidentiality surrounding salaries (and salary inequality) it can be difficult to quantify and qualify a pay raise. Having a baseline of data for your city, industry and title is extremely helpful. SMPS’ Marketing Compensation and Metrics Survey and Career Contessa’s Salary Project are two resources you can mine to help you determine where you pay could or should be.


Most employees don’t think about asking for a promotion until the end of the year. It's more proactive to communicate your career goals as early as possible, and to revisit your expectations throughout the year. Start by sharing your strengths and areas of work that you enjoy most. Then communicate how you plan to utilize them more in an advancing role. Ask if and how a transition is possible, then give some thought to how you can facilitate a win-win for you, your family and your firm.

Maisha Christian Hagan
Owner and Head Coach, Beauty & the Boss

Maisha is the owner and head coach at Beauty & the Boss, a professional development and career coaching service for women in male-dominated industries. Prior to starting Beauty & the Boss, Maisha's career was concentrated in the A/E/C industry as a professional services marketer, Director and member of an executive leadership team. She has a passion for people, a mind for business and a gift to teach and has leveraged those strengths into teaching, mentoring, coaching and public speaking opportunities in public, private and non-profit communities.

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Getting Them to Show Up - How to Use Internal Marketing to Drive Employee Involvement

Internal marketing is about selling the brand of the company to the employees and part of creating the culture of the firm. Internal marketing and campaigns are often overlooked or executed in a haphazard manner to where internal clients miss the message. When employee engagement is strategically planned, the overall impact is more powerful and leads to higher employee involvement and overall satisfaction in the company.

But how do we as marketers do that for our company? Well first, you need planners from different parts of the company: someone from HR, marketing, and a representative of the people makes for the best team to collaborate on events. And then you get started. Kinda.

Planning really can’t commence without having a universal message to be the driving force behind the planning. Why are you doing this? What is the take away from this engagement? If you don’t have a specific goal in mind here are some ideas:

  • Align the external with the internal: Sometimes our employees don’t always know what the message is to our external clients. So flip the script and market to your employees with the same message. By aligning the two you make that message something employees live and breathe.
  • Work Hard, Play Hard: We tell our clients and prospective recruits that we “work as hard as we play” (or some deviation of this saying). And between deadlines and new projects, we always up hold our “work hard”, but often times the “play hard” gets missed. That’s where a fun internal campaign can make up for that.
  • Target Campaign: Maybe it’s as simple as a food drive or maybe a corporate anniversary, but there are times when a targeted campaign is effective for specific events.


For anyone who has Googled how to do something, this is the part we fast-forward to – how do I do this? Sadly, there is no magic “Top Five Things to Do” bullet list because there are many avenues that can be customized depending on a variety of things such as time, intent of the message, man-power, or money. But here are some good starting points:

  • Planning: Now you have a message, let’s make a plan! If you’re planning for a year or for a short-term targeted message, planning allows you to coordinate messaging with all the tools in the marketing tool box: graphics, social media, blogging, etc. Then create a schedule to see how events and tasks work with the bigger picture. Need graphics or collateral materials designed? Need a leave behind or giveaway ordered? Did we schedule a release for the 1st of the month and that’s a Saturday? All of these things will drive the execution of your message.
  • Get ’em Outta Their Chairs: One of the biggest struggles I’ve had with internal events is getting people to participate. If we can build anticipation about an event, then we draw them into the event and honestly that’s half the struggle. Even if they don’t participate, they might have just as much fun being a spectator.
  • Mix It Up: Competition is a healthy thing, especially with highly driven people, but not every event needs to be a battle-royale of wit or brawn. On that note, not every event needs to be a potluck or catered. Social events are just as engaging as volunteer events. Providing a variety of events keeps people engaged.
  • Let the People Speak: Sometimes it’s beneficial to arrange to get feedback through a survey. You will always hear the voices of the extremes. They love or they hate, but what about the people who are meh about the event. Try using an anonymous survey service, like SurveyMonkey, to get an idea of what the people like. We are often victims of our own groupthink, so doing a little crowd-sourcing allows you to back up what you think the people want and don’t want.

Potential Pitfalls

Like many endeavors there are pitfalls. Sometime being aware of them will help you work around them, but more often than not they are unavoidable.

  • Beware of Overkill: Even in internal marketing there is “too much of a good thing.” If we overindulge on message or concept, there is a chance of burnout from your audience. Your funny, company battle-cry can quickly be accompanied by eye rolls and groans because it’s been used too much.
  • Lack of Turnout: Like I mentioned above, turnout is always a problem. It’s not just the technical staff who are busy. Everyone has deadlines and tasks and goals to meet, and that might not include playing games at the Halloween carnival. Don’t be discouraged. A little FOMO generated by post-event hype can drive participation in your next event.
  • Criticism: There will always be criticism. They didn’t like the food vendor. The room was cold. It was too hot. The trivia questions where too hard or too easy. We know that everyone has an opinion and we should turn our cheek to criticism, but there are times when criticism is actually just someone wanting to be a part of something. Recently my firm celebrated Pi Day with a selection of pies from a local bakery. The day before someone asked if there would a gluten-free option. I had completely overlooked this part of the planning. I ran, well it felt like, all over the Valley to no avail and ended up making a gluten-free pie that night. I did this because this was a person wanted to be a part of an event, but through my poor planning, was not able. I was able to see past this criticism of my planning to an opportunity to include someone.


While we know that more goes into the culture of a firm than pot lucks and parties, a well –structured internal campaign can help drive the message.

Sara Reynolds
Marketing Coordinator, Wood, Patel & Associates, Inc.

Sara has been in the A/E/C industry for more than a decade and has been a SMPS member for the three years - ever since joining Wood, Patel & Associates. She is a mother to two boys (ages 9 and 5) and her free time is consumed by lacrosse, Cub Scouts, Legos, and sharing the refereeing duties with her husband. She enjoys good whiskey, a good book, and good conversation. 


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From Marketer to CEO – Focus on the Big Picture for a Big Career

A lot of people think I had a well-executed plan to get to the CEO position, but the truth is, I didn’t really. Don’t get me wrong, I knew where I wanted to go in my career, but if I had to map out an actual plan, well, I probably would have failed harder than I actually have in the past. Here is the reality – I love my job, I love every part of it, the good and the bad, the fun and the boring. When I’m working, I’m not really working. When someone tells me to shut off and go on vacation, I really just go to a different place and have fun, while working along the way. I’m not saying you have to constantly be working to get to CEO, but in my personal experience, you always need to be thinking about what is next and act on those thoughts. I have always had well thought out goals to get to where I wanted to go. I’ve been learning as I go but thinking back, there are a few big picture items that have helped get me to where I am today.

7 Actionable Ideas for Thinking Big

1. You don’t know what you don’t know – learn what you don’t know.
Every single person knows something you don’t know and the only way you will learn what you don’t know is to listen, listen more, and listen often. You will never know everything.

2. Embrace your weaknesses, emphasize your strengths.
Sometimes I think I know my weaknesses better than my strengths. I know when I’m not suited to a specific task and will surround myself with people that will do said task much better. On the flip side, I know what I’m good at and will insert myself where I think my ideas will be well-received.

3. Set time aside to sit and think.
The general rule of thumb is you have to be “producing” if you want to be a leader, but in fact the opposite is true. Think about the challenges facing your firm, the big picture, making your leadership team stronger, etc. The key to thinking is that you have you do it uninterrupted – so walk your dog, sit on your patio, or find a park bench and start the wheels turning.

4. Say you’re going to do something and then do it.
Novel concept; but it turns out that following through is one of the simplest ways to be a leader. Say what you are going to do. Do it. Follow-up. Simple. The amount of credibility you gain by following through is huge, as is the amount you lose when you don’t do what you say you will do.

5. Have a plan, not excuses.
I fully admit I stole this line from a billboard, but it’s so true in this thing we call our careers. I’ve created plenty of plans only to have them fail, then I would make an excuse. About five years ago, I stopped making excuses and instead started adjusting and continuing to move forward. Turns out if you don’t throw your hands in the air and admit defeat, people accept changes to a plan to get back on track.

6. Take care of yourself.
If you would have told me five years ago that I would be waking up to go to a 5:00 AM workout, I would have laughed and called you crazy. Yet, here I am, waking up in the early morning hours to get a workout in, knowing that if I wait until the afternoon I would slowly lose control of my day and miss boxing or yoga. Exercise gives me energy and an hour to myself where I am completely disconnected. I plan every day around my workout.

7. Be present.
It took me six years of lying on a yoga mat to grasp this concept. Our jobs can get overwhelming at times. As my firm goes through this Leadership transition, I’m often finding myself taking part in leadership decisions for the firm, having lunch with a client, and reviewing a proposal all in one day. It got overwhelming at one point, until I took a tip from my yoga instructor and just focused on the task at hand, took a deep breath, and moved onto the next moment.

Grenee Celuch
Vice President, Concord General Contracting
Grenee is currently Vice President of Concord General Contracting and will be transitioning to CEO January 2020.  She has been with Concord for 12 years and part of the AEC industry for 15. Grenee is obsessed with the podcast “How I Built This” and listens whenever she is in her car. She finds the stories of people who built wildly successful companies from nothing fascinating!  When not car bound, she loves to travel anywhere and everywhere.

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Rise Up!

Welcome to the 2018-2019 SMPS Year Arizona! Here we are at the start of the New Year. Over the past three years, our Chapter has been working to find the right balance of events, and created the foundation for continued advancement, growth and opportunities to our profession, our firms and our industry. Today is an exciting time for SMPS; we have a new society brand with a belief in Business Transformed through Marketing Leadership. Similar to headquarters, it is time for our Chapter to “flip the script”. (cue Taylor Swift - …Ready For It?)

We are at a turning point of settling on complacency or digging deep and rising up. I don’t know about you, but I choose the rising up. So what, what does this mean?

A combination of last and this year’s boards have been going through strategic planning and we have some aggressive overarching goals:

  • Be the Go-To Resource in Education, Creating Connections, and Developing Leaders in the Industry
  • Leadership Development for you within your firm and our SMPS Chapter
  • Elevate the SMPS Experience

One of our commitments is to transparency. We will be adding a page on our website laying out our goals and highlighting accomplishments and completions. Stay tuned for more details as we are finalizing our 3 Year Strategic Plan over the next 2 weeks.

We have some new and fresh Programs and Education opportunities  in the works that we are excited to share with you. Then there is Leverage your Beverage; our membership team is hard at work. We also have the Phelix Awards, CPSM, Mentoring, and a couple special events in development. Of course, do not forget the Secretary and Publicity branches will be implementing the new society brand to our chapter oh-my!

To be honest, I know what you are thinking….this sounds like a lot. It is scary. I don’t disagree. So to take a scene from one of my favorite shows Scandal (Gladiator in a Suit):

“You really want to ask me who I work for? Ok, so who do you work for? The SMPS Arizona Chapter. The SMPS Arizona Chapter? You did apply for a job. How do I know? I have your resume on my iPad, the way I know you’d kill puppies to have this job because you stopped breathing when I said SMPS Arizona Chapter. I’m gonna offer you a crap salary, but we all get crap salaries. But don’t feel bad. We’re the good guys, I’m a good guy. Best job you’ll ever have. You’ll change lives, slay dragons, because the SMPS Arizona Chapter is as amazing as they say.”

So much will be taking shape over the year, it is a marketer’s Disneyland (can you sense my excitement). When you find yourself in that place that all marketers do…overwhelmed, proposal deadlines swooshing by, amongst many other things - just know, the Chapter is here for you. We are each other’s greatest strengths, rocks and resources in this crazy world of A/E/C marketing. However, if you need a further push, take a cue from:

Eminem - Lose Yourself

The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar - Pray For Me

Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do

Beyoncé - Run the World

Black Eyed Peas - I Gotta Feeling

Hamilton: My Shot

Christina Aguilera – Fighter

DJ Kahlid – All I do is Win

Imagine Dragons - Believer

Kendrick Lamar, SZA - All The Stars

Queen - We Are the Champions

What are you looking forward to for the upcoming SMPS year? Or what is your secret motivator? Leave a comment below!

Brandi Barr
SMPS Arizona Chapter President
Associate Vice President, West Region Manager for T.Y. Lin International

Brandi holds a BA in Communication from Arizona State University and has nearly 20 years of AEC marketing professional services experience. For the past 10 years, she has worked for T.Y. Lin International. She has also been recognized by the SMPS, Arizona Chapter as the recipient of 3 Marketing Communications Awards - Best Proposal (2014), Marketer of the Year (2015) and most recently Best Project Pursuit (2016). Her favorite thing to do hang out with her husband, three kiddos and French bulldog. To find her outside of work, check her daughter’s dance studio, son’s soccer or baseball practices or watching sports (probably checking on her fantasy football teams this time of year).


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The Recipe for Leadership – Recapping Tom Zender’s Leadership Workshop

What does leadership mean to you? Who do you consider a leader in your firm? So often we base leadership off of titles and or accolades. It is time to shift the focus on what defines a true leader.

Bestselling Author, CEO Mentor and Business Coach, Tom Zender utilizes his successful background of leadership positions at General Electric and Honeywell, senior vice president in NYSE and NASDAQ listed corporations, CEO of small-medium businesses and startups and a global organization, to mentor and coach leaders. 

See below for a recap of the Tom’s recent leadership workshop on the following topics: what is a real leader, leaders and managers, 10 key leadership qualities researched and the “irresistible attraction.”

What defines a real leader?

  • Create lasting value for others  - generally leave something valuable behind them
  • Hold visions that persist into reality
  • Build teams that stay together for the long term
  • Offer products that shine on by leaving a continuum of great products and services
  • Shares their good fortune


Leaders and managers are not the same but often have either overlapping or similar traits. There are leaders who are good managers and there are managers that are good leaders. Tom explained that there are leaders at every single level, one is not better than the other and we need both to be successful. 

Tom provided the following generalized characteristics:

There are numerous qualities that make up a great leader and Tom has narrowed them down to ten. After researching several business publications such as Forbes and Fortune, he came up with the following:

  1. Integrity - Having integrity means being consistent in all situations.
  2. Communicating – Great leaders listen more and talk less. Always listen first. 
  3. Affirmative – Decisive decision makers are often leaders 
  4. Mindfulness – A leader is conscious of their environment and is self-aware
  5. Initiator – Leaders are Innovative and know how to sustain success
  6. Supportive -  Being trustworthy AND trusting are important keys to being a leader
  7. Principled – Leaders hold high value for themselves and their organization
  8. Visionary – Everything is focused around the vision and leaders are passionate about that vision
  9. Team Builder -  Being involved, engaged and connected are team building characteristics of a leader
  10. Authenticity – Leaders think, speak and act from their innermost being, their heart. They listen to their inner voice, not their ego. 

Authenticity creates irresistible attraction of like-minded people, builds more honesty, better interpersonal relationships and a better view of life and work. Furthermore, authenticity builds trust and bonding which are essential to good business.

  • How can you be authentic in order to create irresistible attraction?
  • Match thoughts, words and actions
  • Take care of yourself – meditation, exercise, diet, journaling, etc.
  • Be yourself
  • Listen to your inner voice 

In Tom’s opinion, being authentic is the most important quality of real leaders. What is the most important quality to you? Do you have that quality? If not, work on it! Not everyone is born a leader and it takes patience, practice and desire.

 Always remember, leadership is based on behavior, not position. 

Ashley Black
Marketing Coordinator, Ryan Companies US, Inc.

Ashley joined the AEC industry in January 2015 and became a member of SMPS shortly after. She is the current Blog Chair and a member on the hospitality committee. Ashley loves hot yoga, basketball, cooking and spending time with her newborn niece, Halle. 

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I liken the new SMPS year to a new school year. While it obviously occurs around the same time of year, it also resembles a time of advancement to build on what we we’ve learned over the years. Every year presents new opportunities based on the last, based on trends and changes. In Maureen’s closing message, she highlighted impressive accomplishments of what this Chapter provided you during 2016-2017. I see those accomplishments as a foundation for continued advancement, growth and opportunities to our profession, our firms and our industry.

So what’s on deck for 2017-2018? Internally, we’re fine-tuning some processes to give you the best impression and experience possible. Externally, we’ve planned some exciting programs and networking opportunities that we believe will fuel your professional development and help you take your career and your firm to new heights. Part of this includes giving back to those who give so much to us: our members and sponsors. Expect to see more scholarship opportunities, free events for members and a sponsors-only event— to name a few.

As in any business, we spent significant time strategic planning and identifying new goals for the year, and making sure they align with our mission, “To ADVOCATE, EDUCATE, and COLLABORATE for the AEC industry to build business for a THRIVING economy.” This year we’re putting extra emphasis on THRIVING. Together, we’ve weathered many storms; we’ve survived, we’ve established deeper roots, and now we believe it’s a time to provide opportunities to grow deeper and stronger.  Through our programs and events, we will help you build up your toolbox with resources to market smarter, and strengthen your leadership skills to be the marketing and business development expert in your firm. SMPS’ vision is that, through this experience, you will transform your business through market leadership.

On a personal note, when it came time for me to write this first message as President, I found myself imaging what I wanted to write in my closing message a year from now. I realized that my hope, in the end, is that you are given an experience this year that makes you thrive. That all the goals our Chapter leadership has identified will empower you in your career, guide your firm to more successes and ultimately give you greater personal fulfillment.


If you serve on the board or leadership team, this experience will challenge you and provide a chance for you to be the leaders that our industry needs, that your firm needs and that your career needs. If you are a member, this experience will expand your network, help you do your jobs better and with more confidence and direction. If you are a non-member, we want to be sure every interaction with us brings value to your firm, your profession and entices you to be part of delivering professional development to AEC marketers. Member firms, you should see direct results of these experiences and feel comfortable providing feedback on how we can be a better resource to help your business grow. This is my hope and expectation for this year. Thank you for this opportunity to serve you! I’m excited to be part of this experience with you, and can’t wait to see you at our upcoming events!

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 What are you looking forward to for the upcoming  SMPS year? Leave a comment below!

Emy Burback, MBA, CPSM
Lead Strategist, Marketing Engine, LLC.

Emy has been working in the A/E/C industry for the past 18 years and has been an active SMPS member for the past 10 years. She has enjoyed working for a variety of firms in the AEC industry. Most recently, Emy has started her own Marketing and CRM consulting firm, Marketing Engine. Her favorite thing to do in her free time is hang out with her husband and dogs on the beach in Rocky Point. Emy is passionate about traveling and loves an adventure! She enjoys hiking, going to new restaurants or buying a plane ticket to somewhere she's never been! 

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Living the Why

“Most of us live our lives by accident – we live as it happens.
Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose.”
- Excerpt from Together is Better: A Little Book of Inspiration, by Simon Sinek

From kindergarten through fifth grade, I was a Girl Scout. My parents initiated my involvement with the association and I learned practical skills such as how to build a campfire, navigate a canoe, administer CPR/first aid and even how to sew a button (although I have to admit that I lost that particular skill shortly after I learned it). I think that my love of archery even started way back as a beginner Girl Scout, when I shot a bow for the first time at summer camp. Looking back on those years, I have distinct memories of learning how to be part of a team, and also how to step up and be a leader. The Girl Scouts of the USA has a mission to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.” Being a Girl Scout played a role in shaping who I am today – my independence, my love of the outdoors and my drive to volunteer.

Courage, confidence, and character. The three C’s. Without these traits, it’s hard to live our lives on purpose, and impossible to feel fulfillment. My time as a Girl Scout introduced me to the three C’s, but I believe that my time as a member of SMPS pulled the three C’s out of me and made me live them every day. For instance, having the courage to walk into a room of a hundred people – without knowing anyone. The confidence to speak in front of a crowd of my industry peers. Lastly, the character to set aside my personal needs and wants for the overall benefit of something bigger than myself. With courage, confidence and character, I was fortunate enough to be the 2016-2017 SMPS Arizona President. My focus? The power of WHY.

This year’s SMPS Arizona leadership theme was the power of WHY. This comes from Simon Sinek’s inspirational TED Talk and subsequent book, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. Simon’s message is powerful. He talks about the WHY, how, and what of a company or organization; also known as The Golden Circle. As a Board and Leadership Team, our WHY has been clear: to increase awareness and increase advocacy for SMPS Arizona.  

We lived our WHY this year. I saw the motivation to succeed in our board of directors, our chairs, and our committee members. I couldn’t have asked to serve alongside a more dedicated and committed team. We achieved some pretty cool things this year – I don’t have enough room to list everything – but here are some highlights:

  • Hosted 12 Programs/Marketing Councils, with an average of 31 attendees per event

  • Hosted five Leverage Your Beverage events, with an average of 37 attendees per event

  • Exceeded Chapter sponsorship goals by 11%; exceeded Program sponsorship goals by 46%

  • Successfully implemented the StarChapter platform to increase efficiency of Chapter operations

  • Partnered with ADOT’s Business Engagement and Compliance (BECO) program and the APWA AZ Conference to give education presentations on behalf of SMPS AZ

  • Introduced CPSM-only discount on Chapter-wide events and training
  • Reinstated New Member Breakfasts

  • Launched new SMPS AZ Instagram account

  • Experienced 72% member retention rate and gained 36 new members

  • Partnered with APWA to bring in over 150 attendees for a single event

  • Launched Roadmap to Being a Marketing Ninja: SMPS AZ’s Program & Education Event Guide

  • Hosted 11th Annual CANstruction event, bringing in over 58k cans of food for St. Mary’s Food Bank, increasing donation from 2016 by 8,000 cans

  • Produced nine Chapter videos

  • Gained 157 Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter followers

We all accomplished these things while juggling full-time careers, families/friends, other industry commitments, etc. It never ceases to amaze me - as marketers, we continue to be the ultimate masters in the world of multi-tasking. We take deadlines, commitments, and goals head on and do what it takes to get stuff done.

And although the accomplishments listed above may be specific to this year, it’s due to a culmination of many successful years as an association that we’ve been able to achieve what we have. I can feel the energy continuing to build. We’re in a great place as a state, as an industry,  as an association, as marketers and business developers - and I am so excited to see where Emy Burback takes us next. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to serve in this position and I’ll never forget the inspiration I felt this year. It’s given me a renewed drive for what we do as marketers and for what SMPS Arizona stands for. My ultimate hope – and parting words – is that we continue to focus on living our lives on purpose, both personally and professionally. Let’s make the effort to keep an eye on our WHY and continue to find courage, confidence, and character within ourselves – every day.

What was your favorite aspect of the 2016-2017 SMPS year?


Maureen Varela, CPSM
Marketing Manager, Pulice Construction Inc.

Maureen joined the A/E/C industry in 2006 and has been employed by Pulice Construction since 2010. She has been an active member of SMPS for a decade and thoroughly enjoyed her role as current Chapter President. Many know Maureen as the hard-working Marketer that she is, but few know about her passion for adrenaline! Over the years, she’s tried out ziplining, skydiving, rappelling, and white water rafting, and she’s always on the lookout for the next adventure.

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