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SMPSBB18 Conference Takeaways

Build Business – a conference full of great insight from A/E/C experts, networking, excitement and a great way to recharge your battery. This year’s 45th Annual Build Business Conference had a record-level attendance rate, revealed the new SMPS brand and had impressive guest speakers from all over the world providing great insight.

Here are just a few of my takeaways from the conference:

Get Known Everywhere: Using Publicity to Market your Services  
Jill Lublin, NSA, CEO, - Jill Lublin provided great insight about the publicity and how to get known everywhere. A few key concepts include:

  • Use everything you’ve got! Don’t fall down the same, boring path of submitting information about what your firm DOES to every media outlet in hopes of getting press. Instead, look at all your firm’s traits and characteristics. Does your company have a stand-out culture? Use that to your advantage! Gather the data and submit information about your company for awards and publications that will care about how great your company is!
  • Get mentioned! Your company should be mentioned in your local business journal publication every 60 days
  • People on the Move! You can utilize the people on the move section in business journal publications for more than just new hires. For example, congratulate a coworker on milestone anniversary
  • Craft the right message! Translate your message appropriately and get rid of the jargon!
  • Be a problem solver in the market place. Tell your client what the problem is and then give them three solutions that are interesting, dynamic and relatable

The problem today is that 4/5 businesses will go out of business because of lack of publicity. Here are three gorilla publicity tips to keep you in business
1. Create your “ooh ahh” factor
2. “I’ve heard of you” syndrome
3. Networking 2x a month at minimum

Creativity Myth Busters
Craig Atkinson, VP of Communications & Strategic Services, Walsh Construction

Craig Atkinson takes iPhone photos as a creative outlet and he’s found it is a great mind-escape when he flies – one of his biggest fears. Craig explained the importance of being intentional with all you do – even with taking iPhone photos. You can see some of his incredible iPhone photos on his Instagram.

  • Being creative is not a trait, it is a muscle and you’ve got to strengthen it!
  • You can and DO shape your brain with your thoughts – suffering is a choice, so is happiness
  • Be intentional with all that you do – notice what you notice
  • Don’t feel like you have time to be creative in a proposal? Adjust your cropping on an image and make it unique – take the small chances to show some creativity, even when you’re up against a deadline
  • 80% of our wandering thoughts are negative and 90% of those are repetitive – get out of your own way!

Beyond proposals: Adding Value with Project-Specific Marketing Plans
Jennifer Lacey, CM-Lean, CPSM – Division Marketing Director, Robins & Morton
Bill Stevens, Senior Superintendent, Robins & Morton

It’s important to build relationships with your team members and the Jennifer-Bill duo were a great example of why this can be so beneficial. Not only do you build team comradery, but you will be more successful!

  • Get to know your team members and get the right people involved with project marketing from the beginning. This means your Division Manager, Project Manager, Project Engineer and Superintendent.
  • Creating that bond with the field team will open so many opportunities. A few examples include:
    • Play the love vs. loathe game with your coworkers – really get to know them
    • Working on a hospital? Create a poster with inspirational imagery and verbiage that relates to each floor on the hospital to get your subs dedicated to the project
    • Create campaigns with your teammates’ input – the example the presenters used was a “small wins” campaign. We always celebrate the large milestone achievements but what about the small wins?
    • Jennifer got to know her field team so well that she met a laborer their company hired that was previously incarcerated – they created a touching video to show the strength of their culture at Robins & Morton.

Facilitation Meets Play  
Jennifer Newman, CPSM, CEO, Ignite Coaching & Consulting, LLC
Donna Corlew, FSMPS, CPSM, Chief WIT* Officer, C*Connect

Lego Serious Play is method to produce a deeper understanding of a topic through this hands-on, learning tool. We learned the following:

  • How to facilitate meetings more effectively with better results that foster creative thinking and unique solutions
  • Understanding of different modes of communication
  • How to encourage curiosity by establishing thinking with the hands and listening with the eyes

This facilitation method would be great for improving group solving or even interview preparation for people that are not used to answer in on-the-spot environments. We were even told that one company that was shortlisted for a construction job showed up to the interview and had to participate in Lego serious play to win the job! The following pieces are important to the overall puzzle of Lego serious play: 

  • Goal setting
  • Team building
  • Idea generation
  • Values and behaviors
  • Shared vision
  • Avoiding meeting agony

Marketing Communications Awards
Wow! There were some brilliant ideas that came out of the MCA’s this year. If you haven’t had a chance to see the finalists and award winners, click here. You’re sure to walk away with a few dozen ideas for your firm. In case you haven’t seen it yet, the new SMPS Brand video can be accessed here! Did you attend Build Business? Do you have additional takeaways you’d like to share with the chapter? Please, comment below and share your knowledge!

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 traveling, basketball, cooking and spending time with her niece, Halle.

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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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Build Business 2017 Takeaways

Build Business is the premier A/E/C Marketing and Business Development Conference that brings together hundreds of marketers, business developers, principals and firm owners. This year’s Build Business had a few new features and a lot of great information!

What was new this year?

  • Three-day conference: Build Business started earlier this year (at 1 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 12) with immersive learning, workshops, and never-before-seen presentations

  • MAX (Market.Act.eXchange): The popular, short-form presentations are back—but this year, they were on the Main Stage! 

  • Digital Skills Lab: Instructor-led, hands-on training makes its debut with technology-based programs such as InDesign and Photoshop (Yes!) 

  • Mind Exchange: Roundtable discussions with the latest topics facilitated by industry experts

  • Evening of Excellence: Reinvented awards presentation focuses on recognition, inspiration, and more networking opportunities

Several of our Arizona Chapter members had the opportunity to attend Build Business this year and came back with great tips! See below:

Data Tells, Stories Sell

Data is about connection, not necessarily perfection. Data doesn’t say much until it is interpreted. Evidence SPEAKS:

S – stories
P – personal examples
E – expert testimony
A – analogies
K – killer quotes
S – statistics & facts

The Best Leaders Prioritize Effectively

According to CJ McClanahan, there are five levels of commitment that we can attach to tasks and life. Prioritize your tasks by assigning a level to them: 

  1. No – not doing it!
  2. Wishing and wanting to do it.
  3. “I’ll try.” (We all know this really means “no”.
  4.  I’m committed, unless something else more important comes up.
  5. Absolutely! Whatever it takes!

Most people feel the exact same way as you do – swamped and unsure of how to get everything done. Prioritize effectively and you’ll always feel ahead of the game.

  1. Plan your week in advance – Less than 5% of professionals plan their week in advance because odds are, it’s going to change. Plan out your week so that you always get your most crucial tasks completed on time. How? Monday morning sit down and write down five things that hold the top priority level. Then, get them done.
  2. Eat that Frog – Yep, you heard me. Complete the task you don’t want to do, first.  Just get it done first.  It’s all downhill after that.  Try to avoid the fake conversation with yourself late on Tuesday afternoon. You know, the one where you’re telling yourself you’ll be “in the mood” to work on that task tomorrow. Chances are you won’t be “in the mood” tomorrow. Attitude second, priority first.
  3. Reduce Distractions - Distraction number one is your coworkers.  Resolution – shut your door!  No door?  Put in headphones.  Send a do not disturb signal to your coworkers.  Create an environment where you are not accessible to everyone, all of the time.  If you are working on something that requires total concentration, do not allow yourself to be distracted or fully accessible to other people. Distraction number two is your cell phone and number three is email.  We are addicted to interruptions.  Studies show e-mail is destructive for productivity. Studies show, when you are interrupted, it takes 7 to 21 minutes to refocus your brain on what you were doing originally.  Want proof? How many times have you stayed late and been way more productive in those last hours when no one is in the office than you were the entire day?
  4. Write things down in a notebook - Sticky notes are not to-do lists.  Microsoft Outlook is not a to-do list.  Canary pads are not a to-do list.  Get a special notebook and take it with you everywhere and use that as your to-do list.  When people ask you to do things, write them down, in one place, and then get back to what you were doing.  Then, at the end of the day, you can revisit that list and ensure nothing is forgotten.
  5. Stop saying yes to everything – Consider the level of importance of tasks you’re requested to do and how well they tie in to your job description. If you are asked to do something that is not part of your job or not important, you CAN say no to it. You can’t do everything. Something has to take a priority.  Your priority is quality not quantity. 

Values-based Hiring Leads to Higher Employee Engagement and Lower Turnover

Ever wonder why some people just seem to be a “fit” in your firm and others are like poison apples? Perhaps it is because you are focusing just on an employee’s skill set and not how their values align with your firm’s values. By utilizing behavioral and experiential interview processes, and including questions on your firms’ values in the application process, you are much more likely to find the right match. How does marketing fit into this? Well, we are the brand ambassadors, meaning it is our job to help HR (and our entire firms) to understand the mission, vision, and core values.

You can work with HR to ensure that the application process includes questions on your application. You can be a part of the interview experience by creating a “values exercise.” Your employees have an effect on everything that you do. In order to communicate your culture to a potential employee, ask cultural questions such as “What attracts you to our company?” or “What do you know about us?”

You can make sure your office is clearly expressing your values through internal marketing such as naming your conference rooms after your core values or having signage that shows employees what those values look like. Lastly, you can create an internal marketing campaign to reward employees who are living the core values through their work. You cannot stop people from leaving the firm, but you can create an environment they don’t want to leave. Retention ideas include hand written notes from the CEO, golden anniversary gifts, one on one meetings each week, and a “years of service” wall in your office.

Untapped Marketing Power of the Infographics

Why infographics?

  • We’re visually wired - Almost 50% of your brain is involved in visual processing.

  • It’s more persuasive: In a Wharton School of Business study, 67% of the audience was persuaded by the verbal presentation with accompanying visuals.

  • Infographics are easier to recall: People remember 80% of what they see and do, versus 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear.

How to Create an Infographic:

Start with an Infographic Go-No Go. Ask yourself the following questions: Why is this needed? Who is it for? What should they know after seeing it? What is the topic? Finally, where should it be shared? Once an infographic has received the “go,” collect the data and find your narrative for the infographic. Next steps include creating a mockup, design edits, and lastly, testing the effectiveness of your infographic.

Infographic Tool Recommendations:

Marketing Communications Awards

Wow! There were some fantastic and brilliant ideas that came out of the MCA’s this year. If haven’t had a chance to see the finalists and award winners visit You’re sure to walk away with a few dozen ideas for your firm. 

Thank you to our local members for providing great tips from this year’s Build Business Conference!

Build Business is a great conference that brings A/E/C clients, content experts, principals, business developers and marketers together to learn from and challenge one another to think differently about business. It looks like many of our fellow SMPS members were able to learn from others and provide the rest of our chapter with some great tools to “build yourself, build your firm and build the world.”

Did you attend Build Business? Do you have additional takeaways you’d like to share with the chapter? Please, comment below and share your knowledge!

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, 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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2016 Conference Top Takeaways

Why go to a conference? More specifically, why go to a SMPS conference? How do you determine whether you should attend the regional or national SMPS conference?

SMPS conferences attract hundreds of business developers and marketers to dive into trends within our industry, offer information to better differentiate your firm from competition, and highlight information to guide firms to thrive in existing markets. Yet, how do you pick which conference to attend if you are only able to participate in one?

The good news? You will benefit by attending any conference! However, there are a few different things to consider when making your decision!

Here are just a few reasons to attend Build Business: it is the only national business development, marketing and management conference for the design and building industry; you will expose yourself and your firm to top marketers and business developers throughout the entire country; you learn about the top trends in our industry from around the U.S; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development; increase your referral business and gain direct access to the decision-makers in the client organizations in hot markets! 

Here are a handful of reasons to head to the Southwest Regional SMPS conference:  you will meet hundreds of marketers and business developers who are located within your own region; you will learn about the hot trends closer to home; renew your passion for A/E/C marketing and business development and build relationships with more members from within your own chapter! 

Check out some of my favorite takeaways from Build Business and some of our members’ key takeaways from the Southwest Regional Conference.

Five Great Takeaways from Build Business: Synthesis

1. Don’t sell yourself short and be ambitious!
No one likes to be asked a question they don’t know the answer to. Saying “I don’t know” or “No” can leave you feeling uninformed or behind. Instead, try incorporating the word “yet.”

For instance, if someone asks you if you are proficient in Adobe Illustrator and you aren’t, try answering with, “not yet” instead of with ”no.”

2. The what, who and how are the most important elements of a proposal.
The most important pieces to the proposal are the cover letter, fee and resumes. Selection panels want to know what it is you plan to accomplish (cover letter), with who (the team) and how much is this going to cost (the fee).

3. Be in permanent beta mode.
We’ve all seen the reference ‘beta mode.’ Companies will often label new products as “beta phase” or “beta testing” to emphasize that the product is not complete and improvements are on the way. Apply this to yourself!

Keep learning, stay relevant and train your mind to be in permanent beta mode. Remember that your career is a work in progress. 

4. The best qualities of a great leader:
Great leaders have strong convictions, develop visions, develop high performance culture, convince rather than control, and are continually learning.

5. Most often, management of ourselves and how well we manage relationships with coworkers determines success or failure in a job.
It is so important to be self-aware! It is easy to say what others could be doing better, but have you taken a second to evaluate yourself and your attitude lately? Managing your relationships with your coworkers is important. If you build that relationship early on, you will trust each other and work better together as a team.

Five Great Takeaways from Southwest Regional Conference

1. “An RFQ/RFP is not a subpoena – you do not have to respond.”
Sometimes it feels like we are blindly throwing darts at a dartboard, hoping one of them will stick. We can fall into the trap of responding to every RFQ or RFP that is sent our firms’ way. However, it is important to look at the RFQ/RFP and decide whether it makes sense for your company to submit. Then, set up a go/no-go meeting to help determine that final decision. Remind your teammates that it’s not a subpoena, and you do not have to respond.

2. Learn, Do, Master, Teach.
Many of us are in roles in which we set up conferences, training sessions or even interview preparation meetings. When determining learning objectives for a conference or training session, you want to cover all types of learning styles. The three objective types are affective, cognitive and behavioral:

      • Affective - relates to moods, feelings and attitudes
      • Cognitive – of or relating to cognition/learning
      • Behavioral – involving, relating to or emphasizing hands-on learning

 3. You have the power!
We all have power – whether it’s positional or personal power and a corresponding weapon of influence. Leverage your power to do something positive and position yourself as an expert.

4. The 5-50-100 Rule.
Turn your relationships into opportunities! Of 150 connections that we are able to maintain, 100 are peripheral, 50 should be strategic partners, and five should be trusted advisors that help you support your journey fully!

5. Focus on how great your client is, not how great you are
Before you start a proposal, ask yourself a few questions:

      • How will you show the client your passion for this project?
      • What’s the client’s vision for the project?
      • How will you use your IQ to connect with the client?
      • How will you use positive attitude to come across as confident, not arrogant and make you potential client at ease with who they are?
      • What story will you share that exemplifies you and your companies’ integrity?

If you’re starting to see the value that SMPS Conferences can bring to you and your firm, now is the time to speak to your employer and plan/budget for the upcoming events in 2017-2018. The next Build Business Conference will July 12 – 14, 2017 in Indianapolis, IN. For more information, visit:  The next Southwest Regional Conference will be in January 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Keep a look out on  for more details in the coming months.

If you need more concrete data to convince your employer, check out this article written by Cricket Robertson, Immediate Past President and CPSM, about how to earn a greater ROI on your conference attendance here

Ashley Black
Marketing Administrator, 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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