Interested in submitting a blog post?

Email us at:
[email protected]


What's in a Domain?

What's in a Domain? It’s a statement frequently heard in Architectural, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) circles that I’ve even uttered: “I didn’t go to school to be a professional services marketer, I sort of ‘fell’ into it!”

For those, like me, who hold a degree in marketing or business, our education focused primarily on product—not services—marketing. As much as I tried early in my AEC career to apply the Four P’s of Product Marketing—product, promotion, placement, and price—in the AEC space, it didn’t quite fit. Other colleagues joined the profession via different avenues—perhaps with degrees or experience in journalism or liberal arts, as a technical professional, or through an administrative support path. No matter the path traveled, knowing what to do and gaining the insights and skills to help your firm grow and thrive are challenges faced by us all.

When SMPS began developing a long-awaited Certified Professional Services Marketer (CPSM) program, the first step in the process was defining the practice of marketing and business development in the AEC/professional services realm. The result of in-depth research and numerous interviews with practitioners across the country are what we now know as the six Domains of Practice, specific content critical to building individual skills and supporting firm growth:

  • Domain 1 - Marketing Planning
  • Domain 2 - Marketing Research
  • Domain 3 - Client and Business Development
  • Domain 4 - Proposals
  • Domain 5 - Promotional Activity
  • Domain 6 - Management

The Domains have a much broader meaning than the basis for the CPSM. Within these six Domains are the building blocks for understanding the role professional services marketing contributes to the success of the firms for whom I work, as well as opportunities to expand my skills and understanding. 

These Domains provided a roadmap for the different phases of my career and while I mentored others. As a marketing coordinator, my early “AEC marketer” life centered around proposals and promotional activity. The best practices and skills identified in Domains 3 and 4 helped me understand how I could help my firm stand out and succeed in winning new work. In turn, those same Domains helped to set expectations and share best practices with coordinators who worked with me as I moved into manager roles.

As I moved into manager and director roles, the remaining Domains helped me understand how market research and planning could differentiate my firm by collecting valuable intelligence and insights then using that information to differentiate the firm from our competitors. By collecting and sharing insights into geographic markets and market sectors, we connected with existing and future clients using client-focused messaging and understanding of their issues and concerns. Domain 3 provided best practices and guidance working with our technical professionals to build and deepen client relationships.

Now, as a consultant working with AEC firms across the country in the areas of strategic guidance and facilitation, training and coaching for marketing/business development teams and doer-sellers, and marketing communications, I still reference the Domains on a regular basis. I realized long ago that you can teach an old dog new tricks, and this old dog turns to the Domains, Markendium, and other SMPS resources on a regular basis to check my thought process and broaden my perspective to consider approaches to benefit each of my clients. (For the record, I prefer the term seasoned veteran!)

In our current economic and social upheaval, I challenge you to consider how the Domains can help you to help your firm survive and thrive. In times of uncertainty, firms have been known to turn into ostriches (stick their collective head in the sand and wait for this to pass) or Chicken Little (the sky is falling!). By applying the guidance offered by the Domains and SMPS Body of Knowledge, your firm will benefit by taking a broad, offensively-focused view of the market factors impacting future work, assessing opportunities to address those factors, engaging individuals across your organization to connect with existing and future clients, creating thought leadership pieces to position the firm in a specific market sector or geography, and developing key messaging that identifies your unique differentiator. If you’re keeping track of my thought process—that’s Domains 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5!

Today, Markendium—SMPS’s Body of Knowledge—is a living, breathing compilation of insights you can use to gain firm leadership buy-in, along with the ability to share documented best practices for our profession in the AEC space. Technology is changing how and where we do, pursue, and win work—and the Domains are flexible enough to roll with those punches. Supplemented by the robust conversation happening daily across the online communities of MySMPS and the resources available through the Markendium Online Learning Center, the Domains provide a framework for our profession so every marketer can contribute to SMPS’s vision, “Business Transformed Through Marketing Leadership.”

Donna Corlew FSMPS, CPSM is chief WIT (whatever-it-takes) officer with C*Connect. Driven by a passion for coaching and helping others identify and maximize their unique talents and expertise, C*Connect works with firms across the US to focus strategic vision and market research, grow connections and chemistry with clients and targets, and help seller/doers and marketing/business development teams to thrive and win profitable work. Want to talk further? Contact Donna at [email protected].

Read More

The Accidental Salesperson

The Accidental Salesperson

I did not start out my career wanting to go into business development. In fact, I went to college for architecture and got a job in virtual design and construction, working on MEP coordination and 3D modeling for clients throughout the US. And I liked it. But once I got into my groove, an opportunity presented itself. My area leader asked me if I had ever considered business development. To be honest, I never had considered it, nor did know what business development was. I was happy doing what I was doing, but he saw the potential in me. And I had a decision to make.

Now, I’ve always considered myself to be a planner - someone who has a one-year, five-year, and even a ten-year plan. Becoming a business development manager was NOT anywhere in those plans. My plan was to work, become a licensed architect, and take on management level roles within the VDC department. 

Then this opportunity popped up, and my plan had the potential to change. Dramatically. I had to ask myself some tough questions. Would I enjoy doing business development? Would I be okay starting from the bottom again? What the heck IS business development? Would I be successful – both from my perspective as well as my company’s perspective? What did my manager see in me that made him think I would be successful in business development? 

So, I did what anyone would do -  an internet search for “Top Skills for a Business Development Manager”. I sifted through the plethora of results. It turns out, I had many of the characteristics listed out – I was just using them in a different way. People skills? Check. Working with internal clients throughout our organization has taught me a lot about people and how to customize the message for your audience. Strategic mindset? Business development is all about strategic action plans, and that is definitely in my wheelhouse. I find that structure actually allows for more creativity and helps define a path to success. Knowledge of the company and the market? I realized I had a unique perspective because I have a background in architecture and am an Arizona native. I specifically understood building in Arizona, and that, it turns out, is invaluable for business development. Organizational skills? People who are successful at business development have many balls to juggle, and I am a master juggler! Goal focused? Um, definitely! To say I am competitive is an understatement. Failure is simply not an option, and I feel that mistakes and setbacks aren’t failures, they’re just learning opportunities to succeed next time. 

That’s when I realized that sometimes you just have to take your one-, five-, and ten-year plans, wrinkle them up into a big ball, and throw them away - hopefully making a three-point shot into the can.  

Then the real work began. I quickly realized that while I had similar characteristics in my VDC life, they didn’t always translate smoothly into my business development life. There was just so much to learn. I did have people skills, but selling and closing a deal is a completely different aspect. I also thought I knew a lot about building in Arizona. However, I had a lot of homework to do on the market and the trends that shape it. And as far as organizational skills, I quickly realized that organizing tasks is easy, but figuring out how to organize and qualify relationships in a business development role proved to be an enormous challenge. So, two years in, I’m still learning each and every day. One of the most important things I’ve learned is, sometimes, you just need to “fake it ‘til you make it!” 

Were there moments when I’ve regretted my decision? Absolutely. But here’s the thing - I really love what I do. I love the challenges, the new interactions, the strategies, the wins, and even the losses because they show me how we can do better and be more successful.  

The point is don’t be afraid to become what you never thought you’d be. A co-worker of mine loves to say, “Be afraid, but do it anyway.” And she’s right. For all of the questions and concerns I had walking into this new career, I knew, ultimately, that it was the right decision for me. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. And if someone sees something in you, believe them. And maybe you, too, can become an accidental salesperson.

Michelle Rousseau
Business Development Manager

Michelle Rousseau is a business development manager for Gilbane Building Company’s Western division and began her career as a VDC manager with Gilbane in 2014. She is currently slogging through her architecture exams and is looking forward to the day when she doesn’t have to study for a test. She lives in Phoenix, has an addiction to working out, and has recently adopted her new best friend, her pug Rosie.



Read More

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!

Read More

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.

Read More

Why Positive Workplace Culture Matters

Workplace culture is a term that we are all accustomed to hearing by now, but what does it mean and why is it important to have a positive one in an organization?

Workplace culture is the foundation upon which great companies are built. It all begins with developing a strong company purpose and the values that guide your employees towards fulfilling that purpose. However, your purpose and values are not something that employees are just told they should believe in. It is important to feel like they are truly a part of the company and want to strive to make themselves and the company a better place. Culture lives and breathes through the words and actions of your peers. A Harvard Business Review article (HBR), How Company Culture Shapes Employee Motivation, defines culture as “the set of processes in an organization that affects the total motivation of its people.” They have compiled three questions that help explain how this is accomplished:

  • How does culture drive performance?
  • What is culture worth?
  • What processes in an organization affect culture?

Driving Performance

Giving employees a purpose gives them a drive to do more and perform at a higher rate. Empowering people to go above and beyond is essential for success. In the above-mentioned article, HBR adapted a study to distinguish the six main reasons why people work:

Play (motivated by the work), purpose (valuing your impact), and potential (work that benefits your identity) are all motivators that increase performance. The last three are ones that reduce motives; emotional pressure (external forces that threaten your identity), economic pressure (feel like you have to work), and inertia (you do not know the motive anymore and feel removed). Successful workplace cultures are the ones that focus on maximizing the first three motivators on why people work and reducing the last three.

Culture’s Value
If your employees are inspired and motivated to work, most likely the company as a whole is performing better. Company culture is always important to employees because workers are more likely to enjoy their time in the workplace when they fit in with the overall culture. When these relationships with others are developed, they become more productive. This is also tied to employee retention, as people are less likely to leave companies where they feel comfortable and supported.

Organizational Processes
There is not one “tried and true” method to creating an ideal workplace culture, it is a combination of a variety of factors. HBR goes into detail about how a role is designed can greatly affect motivation. Be sure to have a clear definition of a role and find the motivators of what that position entails. The next factor is the actual identity of an organization which encompasses the purpose and values. Depending on the work, develop ideas on how to play into those motivators to make the employees feel like they have an impact through their work. The last factor mentioned was a structure for growth. Employees want to know they can grow within an organization and be given the tools to succeed.

Lindsay McGregor, co-author of Primed to Preform: How to Build the Highest Performing Cultures Through the Science of Total Motivation, summarized it best, “A great culture is not easy to build — it’s why high performing cultures are such a powerful competitive advantage. Yet organizations that build great cultures are able to meet the demands of the fast-paced, customer-centric, digital world we live in. More and more organizations are beginning to realize that culture can’t be left to chance. Leaders have to treat culture building as an engineering discipline, not a magical one.”

Mandy Brown
Marketing & Recruiting Coordinator, Small Giants
Mandy has been with Small Giants for 3.5 years and in the AEC industry for 7.  She is an active member of SMPS but hasn’t made the leap to leadership yet.  In her free time, she likes to attend concerts, travel and hike.  On a recent trip to Sedona she went skydiving! Next time you see Mandy, ask her how it felt to jump out of a plane over those famous red rocks. 

Read More

Live Deliberately! - 3 Ways to Raise Your Level of Fulfillment and Happiness at Work (and in life) in 2019!

It is that time of year. For many of us, it is a time of excitement, goals, and resolutions. A NEW BEGINNING! Or maybe it is just another day at the office… If this describes you, feel free to move on to the next post on the web. This post is for those of us that, for better or worse, ring in the New Year with almost a child-like feeling of anticipation.  “This is my year!”  “I know I still have that gym membership, and Thigh Master that got used twice, but this year, by golly, is going to be different!” If you are anything like me, you start each New Year out with the best intentions, but it doesn’t take long for those intentions to get pushed to the back burner or off the stove completely. What’s up with that? Why is it so hard to do something that we want to do? Life, work, family, friends, pets, Netflix always seem to get in the way.

So what is the solution? How do you break the cycle of unmet goals and unfulfilled potential? Below are three simple, but not necessarily easy, things you can do to make 2019 your best year yet.

1. Live Deliberately! 

A few years ago I woke up on New Year’s Day and made a decision to “Live Deliberately.” I wasn’t sure what that meant specifically at the time, but I realized that no one else was responsible for my happiness. Not my boss, co-workers, wife, kids, and not the 1,879,652 drivers on the 6-mile section of Interstate 10 that I happen to be on. I took ownership of my life, and stopped playing the victim. I decided that I was going to do the things that I wanted to do, not what I thought I was supposed to do. Which brought me to three very big questions:

  • “What do you want?”
  • “What is your definition of success?”
  • “What makes you happy?”

I believe that the vast majority of people do not know the real answer to those questions. Sure we can all come up with an answer if pressed. A healthy family, a secure job, a nice car, the corner office, money, become partner, work life balance (whatever that means), and so on. Those are all great, but what I have found is that most people answer what we have been educated and trained to think since the day we were born. In order to get what you want, be successful, and happy, we first must know what the real answers to those questions are. And only one person has them. You. So ask yourself these questions and start searching for your answers. What we want today may not be what we want in the future. The key is to be deliberate about what you do, the decisions you make, and the goals that you set. If something isn’t moving you closer to your goals, then you should probably ask yourself why are you doing it, and reevaluate. Take responsibility for your happiness and success. There is nothing more fulfilling.

2. Manage Your Thoughts

Depending on what research you read, we have between 12,000 – 70,000 thoughts per day. Or if you have ADHD like me, it could be approaching 200,000+ thoughts per day. Studies have also shown that 80% of our thoughts are negative. Well that’s a bummer. Maybe not. We are actually hardwired to go to the negative for one important reason. STAYING ALIVE! So if we can’t control what thoughts come into our head and the majority of the thoughts that we have are negative, what are we supposed to do? Luckily, in 2019 most of us live in a world where there isn’t something trying to eat us or really even harm us every time we step outside of the house. Therefore, we can train our brain to dial back that immediate fight or flight response. Not eliminate it, but just make it take a quick pause.

When a thought enters the brain, one of three things can happen. 1) The thought is acted on. 2) The thought is sent to another (higher more cognitive) part of the brain and expanded on, debated, analyzed, stored, and countless other options. 3) The thought is dismissed as not useful and discarded. In his bestselling book Infinite Possibilities, Mike Dooley says that “Thoughts become things, so choose good ones.” This very well may be the most powerful advice ever given. A person that can train their mind to focus on the positive aspect of any situation is almost certain to be happier than someone who is mired in negativity. Positive people tend to create their own luck. They find beauty in places that most do not. Opportunities of all kinds present themselves to people that are more positive. The Law of Attraction states that what an individual focuses on is what will come to them. If this theory is even remotely true then learning to manage your thoughts and being deliberate about what you focus on is at the foundation of achieving any goal. Spend most of your time focused on why something WILL work, instead of why it won’t. Try it for a week and tell me it doesn’t make a difference.

3. Embrace the Contrast

Edgar Allan Poe said “Never to suffer would never to have been blessed.”

Life is an adventure! And no matter what anyone says, sometimes it’s hard. In fact, the moment you wake up in the morning there are thousands of forces out there that are trying to mess up your day! Traffic, the wrong coffee order, someone parked in your space… It’s not personal. The Universe doesn’t hate you. It is just the way life is. How you choose to deal with the obstacles and challenges is completely up to you. And that is key. You can’t expect to get smarter without studying. How can you get stronger without exercising, pushing yourself, stretching your limits.

Understand and accept that sometimes bad things are going to happen and realize that without the bad times you would not appreciate the good times. I am not saying not to get angry, frustrated, sad, or any other negative emotion that arises when bad times come. Those feelings and emotions are real and part of the coping and healing process and should be acknowledged. What I am saying is accept that nothing is perfect, learn from the bad times, find the good in it, and move on. Don’t stay in the negative space for one minute more than you need to.

Make 2019 your best year yet by choosing to live deliberately, focusing on positive thoughts, and learning from and understanding that there will be bumps in the road.

Matt Connor, CPSM
Owner, Coach Connor Consulting
Matt has over 25 years of marketing and business development experience which he shares with others through his speaking and coaching consulting firm, which he founded in 2017.  Matt is a past president of the Houston Chapter of SMPS and has been a member for 17 years.  As his motto is "If we aren't having fun, then why are we doing it?" it's no suprise his free time is spent with friends and family, playing soccer and dancing.

Read More

2018 Year at a Glance: Were You a Wrecker or a Builder?

Ah yes, the new year. A clean slate. The season where we gorge on tasty treats, resulting in some extra insulation to keep us warm during the cold winter months (the irony is not lost on me...I live in Phoenix). Or maybe you were one of the rare creatures able to resist the candied pecans and pumpkin pie (are you out there, mystery person? Do you even exist?). The end of a year always begs for a moment of reflection. You may be asking yourself questions like 'did I accomplish my goals?' or 'What are my ambitions for next year?' Maybe you're already making a list and checking it twice, saying quietly to yourself, 'this year will be different'.

I'm going to propose a new perspective of reflection. A new question to ask yourself: Was I a builder or a wrecker? The question stems from a very old poem 'Builder or a Wrecker' (posted in full below). In it, the writer dubs a builder as a person who: 'works with care, measuring life by the rule and square...shaping my deeds by a well-made plan, patiently doing the best I can.' Versus a wrecker who: 'walks the town content with the labor of tearing down'.

Now, I'm no fool. You said you were a builder, didn't you? Of course you did. Nobody wants to be a wrecker. Nobody likes that guy. But you know what? Wreckers don't call themselves that either - they think they are builders. Take a real moment to ask yourself:

  • Did your interactions with other people build them up or did you cause them to second guess themselves?
  • Do people come to you for advice, or do they flinch when they hand you something to review?
  • When you accomplish a goal do you take the time to recognize the team of people who helped you achieve it?
  • Do you encourage or discourage others?

A wrecker undermines growth. They discourage and dispirit whether subtle or overt, whether through words or actions. We've all had moments where we've been a wrecker. As we reflect on our year, we should revisit these instances and ask ourselves how we could have been builders; the ultimate goal is to take those lessons with us into the new year.

A builder empowers themselves and those around them. They encourage and educate, whether subtle or overt, through actions or through words. In reflecting on instances when we have been builders, we should take note on the outcomes of those occasions and measure stock in those successes.

As we head into the new year, brimming with opportunities and challenges, we can go into it with the single question navigating our way: Do you want to be a wrecker, or do you want to be a builder?

Taryn Harbert
Brand Specialist, Rider Levett Bucknall
Taryn has been a member of SMPS for three years and currently serves on the Publicity Committee.  She is also a published author.  When not writing fiction, essays or poetry, Taryn enjoys reading fiction, thrillers, suspense and horror novels.  She is in training for her first ultra marathon race. 

Read More

Leave Your Comfort Zone - Why Career Change is Healthy and Necessary

People often say that change is hard, but that it’s a good thing. Others like to say how change can be great for growth. I once read–pretty sure on a fortune cookie in fact– that “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone”. Most of these sayings are clichés to highlight the fact you are doing something unfamiliar and new. For me, it’s highlighting the fact that I was choosing to leave the side of the AEC industry that I had known the longest and where I got my start. And I was doing it in the middle of my career.

This no doubt has created a lot of questions amongst my peers ranging from “Why would you want to switch?” to “Do you know what you’re doing?” to “Don’t business development people just golf all day? Because you’re terrible at golf.” That latter part is true of course, but I’d like to think I am like most people who find themselves in a business development or marketing role in the AEC industry. Namely, how did I get here? The AEC industry wasn’t a career path that many were exposed to during undergrad in the marketing, communications, or business schools. And this was before social media or the internet were things. At 22, I was a prelaw major planning to become an attorney and work for a sports franchise. My career plan B was to become a meteorologist. So clearly, the engineering industry, let alone construction, wasn’t on my list of options.

After I relocated to Arizona, I was lucky that my first real job out of college was for a large engineering firm based in the Midwest. Fast forward several years and after taking a range of twist and turns, riding out the recession, chasing my professional sports marketing career for a minute, I found myself at 39 at a position and company that I liked. But I also felt I needed and wanted to do something different professionally. I just didn’t have a clue what it was. I knew I liked aspects of the engineering industry, but I was gravitating towards a relationship-based, sales-based role. I didn’t dislike the company I worked for (it’s still annually listed on Fortunes’ 100 Best Companies to Work For List) and I still have many friends, mentors, and now clients there. But it simply wasn’t for me anymore. I wanted something new.

A friend of mine last year was laid off from his firm after downsizing and yet just a few months later found himself in an entirely new career but in the same industry. I asked him how he landed where he was and he said he reached out to a mentor of his who gave him the task of creating 10 things he would want in a job, regardless of industry or pay. And once he could determine what that was, his search became easy because he could quickly determine his options. It’s an interesting question to answer when you are free from any constraints and can draft a job description of your choosing. But finding a role that I thought would be challenging and rewarding while also allowing me to do what I felt I was good at was going to be fruitless without a plan. I recently attended a Fiesta Bowl event and heard Coach Herm Edwards say “A goal without a plan is a wish”. And that has stuck with me since.

Since I made the move, I’ve been asked what I would have done differently, if anything. And what is the most challenging thing about switching industries. The easier of these two questions is the latter. Mainly the hardest thing is learning the entire company history and project resume to sell it. This is by no means unique to me but it has been my biggest challenge. Well that and figuring out how to do my timesheet. But I’ve realized that’s a “Kirk thing” as I’m consistently bad about it no matter where I work. As for what I would have done differently. Honestly the answer to that is nothing. The path, direction, and way my career path has progressed and evolved, I think, is exactly how it was supposed to go. I’m grateful for the time, mentors, and relationships I was able to make while on the engineering side of the industry. My time on that side has given me an advantage that is unique in the industry. There are however questions or brainstorming activities I wish I would have known to ask myself when I started this process. 

Brainstorming Activities for Career Change

  1. What do you think you are good at?
  2. What is most important to you in a career? (Rank your answers accordingly.)
  3. Would you be able to take a pay cut to make a career change?
  4. Who are your mentors that will give you honest feedback?

What I learned through this process was that I liked the development aspect of the industry the most. And I enjoyed connecting and helping people. It’s now been five months since I decided to leave my comfort zone and join The Weitz Company as their Senior Business Development Manager. The change has been exceptionally fast-paced and I’m learning an entirely new side of the AEC industry. You may have read a blogpost on this same site that referenced learning what you don’t know. That more than anything was one of the primary drivers for me to switch. For me to grow professionally, I needed a new challenge, see new ways of doing business, and learn from new people. And as a creature of habit, trying something new not only fulfilled a professional goal but a personal one as well.

Kirk Fonfara
Senior Business Development Manager, The Weitz Company
Kirk has been in the AEC industry for 15 years and with his current firm for 6 months. He is actively involved with 9 committees through out the commercial real estate industry including NAIOP, ULI and the Fiesta Bowl.  When not on the golf course in his BD role, Kirk enjoys watching golf and football.  He is proud to have been at Wrigley Field when the Chicago Cubs won a World Series Game.


Read More

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.

Read More

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! 

Read More