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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 Thinking Sara will be impressed by his effort, Hitch arranges to display her great grandfather’s signature on a historical document.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.”

https://youtu.be/ouUTjtDevHk

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.

Support

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.

Time

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.

via GIPHY

Assignments

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!

Money

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.

https://www.smps.org/smps-marketing-compensation-and-metrics-survey/

https://www.careercontessa.com/the-salary-project/splash/

Promotion

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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A Blueprint for Prime and Subconsultant Partnering Success in SOQ Development

Lately, it feels like we are continually responding to requests for qualifications, which may or may not include fees. We have all had occasion to request qualifications information, we have all submitted it, and in my 26 years of experience, some Primes absolutely request it more efficiently and consistently than others. Putting together a collaborative and cohesive submittal package requires extensive and dedicated creative experience. I often think of it as ‘designing’ and ‘constructing’ a winning story, which if relayed successfully allows your team the coveted opportunity to provide the desired architecture, engineering and/or construction services.

The following items are a few guidelines that should help A/E/C Primes & Consultants work together better on their submittals:

PRIME PREREQUISITES

  • READ the RFQ/RFP before requesting information. Consultant information is not always needed or is limited in scope. Restrictions on font size and content is critical, etc.
  • SEND the RFQ/RFP to the consultant when you request their information. Don’t assume they have it.
  • NOTE the page numbers and items in the RFQ/RFP you want responses for, and anything additional or special.
  • ENCOURAGE participation on the project approach. A consultant may know or have information you are not aware of.
  • CLARIFY if confidentiality of information is required. Lead sharing is common and should be addressed.
  • EXCLUSIVITY for consultants is rare. Be sure it is necessary before requesting and consider if limited exclusivity of specific team members rather than a firm would meet your goal and intent.
  • GIVE as much time as possible for your consultants to respond. Last minute requests don’t allow time for innovative or thorough responses.


CONSULTANT CONSIDERATIONS

  • READ the RFQ/RFP and the request from the Prime carefully before submitting your information. Don’t be the reason your team could be disqualified.
  • CONFIRM the due date and time and delivery method for your information.
  • ASK what the preferred format is for your qualifications and if the Prime has a template you can use or follow.
  • OFFER project approach information, etc., if previous experience or knowledge of the site will provide insight or clarification.
  • PROTECT a Primes’ data, approach, formats or templates. Remember not to share or duplicate them.
  • REQUEST a proposal format if a fee is to be included. A fee by phase is very different than a lump sum. Be efficient with your team members time.
  • SEND your qualifications before the deadline to allow review time, and for a follow up request if anything was missing or misunderstood.

 

Design and construct a successful submittal story by collaborating with your consultants in a diligent and consistent way.

Margie Luster
Director of Business Development, Caruso Turley Scott Structural Engineers

Margie is a 5th generation native Arizonan and is a perpetual optimist about the future.  She has over 30 years of experience in the AEC industry and values the relationships she has made with knowledgeable and respectful Partners and Associates.  In her free time, Margie enjoys working in her garden, growing trees, flowers and fat birds. 

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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.

Messaging
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.


Execution

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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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. 

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Top 10 Tradeshow Essentials for Success

Tradeshows generate income and improve the bottom dollar. Tradeshows are a great way to meet new prospects, connect with clients, position your firm as experts in the market and gather competitive intelligence. Unfortunately, we often see firms spend thousands upon thousands on tradeshows, without maximizing their time and money to ensure top results. In the past two decades of exhibiting at tradeshows and conferences, I have learned a lot of lessons – most of them the hard way.

Here are my Top 10 Tradeshow Essentials for Success:

1.  PLAN FOR THE WORST, EXPECT THE BEST

Make some goals. Every solid plan starts with clear goals in writing. Goals guide important decisions, helping you determine the best decisions on everything from booth placement to giveaways and provide a yardstick to assess whether the tradeshow was ‘successful.’ Some sample goals could include:

  • Get at least 20 genuine prospects.
  • Ask customers 3 specific things about their business or buying habits.
  • Find 10 good recruiting prospects
  • Talk with 10 industry leaders.


Set a schedule.
Remember, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. Create a schedule for everything from securing your exhibit space, to producing pre- and event-marketing materials, including the day of set-up, etc.

2. DEVELOP YOUR MESSAGE

You have 3 seconds. Three seconds is about all you get to attract attention with your booth space. You need to decide what your message is early on, and use it often and consistently.  Hint: a photo collage of all your past projects is not a message. The goal is to get people to stop, not to explain everything about who you are and what you do.

3. DON’T FORGET TO PRE-MARKET

Send a personal invitation. Reach out to clients and prospects ahead of time to let them know that you will be exhibiting and give them a good reason to stop by. Direct mail can, and does, work in this instance. Offer something cool and expensive at your booth, but only if they bring the postcard to you. Then, because you collect their card, you have their contact info to follow up later. Don’t forget to put provide your booth number! Emails work as well because you can use the tradeshow’s name in the subject of the email inspiring people to likely read your email blast.

Promote the show. Add a line to everyone’s email signature with the show info and your booth number. If you have a giveaway or something else interesting, say that, too.

Make a date. Set up meetings ahead of time with existing customers, new targets, vendors, editors/publishers and potential alliances.

4.  HAVE A BOOTH THAT STANDS OUT IN THE CROWD

Location, location, location. Pick your booth location wisely. Think about how people move through a show. They have to pass by end caps, are likely to visit the restrooms, and will gather at food stations. Be in their way. Also, avoid being clustered with your competitors, and try to be adjacent to teaming/project partners.

It’s all about the design. How is your design conveying your one message? How is it showing the unique offerings of your firm? Attendees will see a ton of booths, all essentially identical. You have to do something different. It doesn’t have to be amazingly unique, just different.

5.  SWAG AND TECHNOLOGY, DONE RIGHT

Everybody loves swag, right? No! Most of us have many pieces of useless plastic. Try and relate your swag to your message. For example, if you tout technology, don’t have basic pens and notepads – have a cool techy device instead.

Moving pictures work. We tend to look at moving images, especially when they’re bright. Your booth should have a big monitor or a bright projector using video to tell your story. And remember, your story isn’t all of your past projects/experience, it is bigger than that. It should be focused on your UX or unique selling position.

6.  PROPER STAFFING

Plan on at least three people to staff the booth. One person should be walking around and going to meetings, and two people at the booth consistently allows for busy times, restocking items, and taking breaks. Most attendees don’t want to talk to sales people; they want to geek out with their peers so make sure you have staff ‘working the room.’

Invest in some pre-tradeshow training. Just because staff have attended a conference before, don’t assume they know what is expected of them when exhibiting (as well as attending). Go over the expectations with staff, review the tradeshow plan with them (see #1 on this list). Take the time to honestly assess if they have the business development skills needed to do well as an exhibitor. In other words, don’t put your most introverted person in the booth just because they are the subject matter expert. If they need to be there, pair them with seasoned business developers and marketers who will help them make connections.

7. MAXIMIZE YOUR TIME THERE.

Have a pick-up line. What gets people to stop? To laugh? To say, “Ok, fair enough, tell me more.” Test your pitch all show long. After the 100th pitch, you’ll know exactly what gets people’s attention — now put that on your marketing materials! Your opening line should engage them with something you specifically have to offer. Do some research and develop 3-5 questions that you’re going to ask of people who walk by the booth, then ask away.

Ask questions. Instead of constantly pitching to prospects, have a real conversation. Be genuinely interested in the other person — what do they do, what are they interested in.  If you’re good, they will actually ask you for a pitch as a form of reciprocation.  Don’t ask how they’re doing.

Take names instead of pushing brochures. How often do you dump all of the printed materials you received before you head back home? Do you think your prospects are any different? Scan their badge or get a business card and mail them something after the show.  Remember quality over quantity; if you take their info vs handing them materials, you now have a reason to follow up with them with materials that are customized to their unique issues that, obviously, only you can solve.

Wear comfortable shoes. Stand, don’t sit —sitting looks like you don’t want to be there. Get your body into the aisle. Just because there’s a table there doesn’t mean you have to stand behind it.

Use the time to gather competitive intelligence. Walk the floor and talk to everyone. You can commiserate about how the show is going and how it compares to others. Scope out the competition.

Build your own party. Who can resist free booze and free food? Rent a room at or near the conference site with wine, beer, and basic food. Pass out invites at the show and on your pre-show mailers.

8. LEAD TRACKING*

Take notes. You’ll talk to 100s of people: write it down within 10 minutes. How often do you finish a conversation and then can barely recall it? Use their business card to take notes on what you discussed as soon as possible. Use LinkedIn every night to follow up with contacts quickly.

Have a system for lead tracking and train all your staff on how to use it. You have likely spent thousands of dollars to exhibit, make sure you get your money’s worth by tracking all of the contacts you have made and any
potential leads. This is the #1 missed opportunity at tradeshows and the #1 reason why you are there.

*Sample tracking tools: CRM database, card scanner, tablet, or a simple lead sheet.

9.  FAILURE TO PLAN IS A PLAN FOR FAILURE

If you don’t plan for an emergency, the likelihood of it happening is 10x greater (note this is not scientific, rather based on personal experience). Prepare a tradeshow emergency supply Box of Everything. Here is a starting list for you:

  • Pens (multiple, different colors)
  • Sharpie
  • Scotch tape
  • Masking tape
  • Zip ties
  • Extension cord
  • Batteries
  • Electric plug bar
  • Post-it notes
  • Rubber bands
  • Tiny stapler
  • Highlighter
  • Paper clips
  • Scissors
  • All-in-one tool (screwdriver, can opener)
  • Medicine (Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, Dayquil, etc.)
  • Generic business cards (in case anyone runs out)


10. FOLLOW UP FAST



The key to getting your money’s worth from exhibiting at a tradeshow is to capitalize on every encounter there. Sadly, more often than not, firms return to the office after a show and get right back to business as usual. It is not surprising, you all have been out of the office for days and there is work piling up! Really, what is the point of all of that time and money if you do nothing with what you learned at the show?

External tasks. The marketing department can do a direct email campaign with lessons learned at the conference, who won your giveaway, or just a Thanks for stopping by email. This is a good time to get prospects integrated into your marketing process. Your business development team should be scheduling follow-up meetings, making CRM entries and sending any follow up information that was promised.

Internal tasks. Don’t forget to debrief internally to improve your processes and make decisions on next year’s attendance. Did you meet your stated goals? Why or why not? What could you do differently?  Also discuss the competitive intelligence you gathered (see #7 on this list). And lastly, apply what you learned. You talked to many firms, pitching a hundred different ways. What did you learn?  How can you use it to improve your firm?


Deirdre Gilmore, CPSM
Founder of Tank Girl Marketing and Co-founder of TGM Development
Deirdre is a Certified Professional Services Marketer who understands all aspects of marketing, from business development through research and operations. She specializes in setting strategies, business and marketing planning, training and coaching, strategic project pursuits, strategy, and brand development.  Deirdre sits on the board of the Arizona Association of Economic Development and received their Member of the Year Award in 2015. Furthermore, Tank Girl Marketing won three SMPS marketing communications awards. When not fulfilling her duties as Sergeant Strategy, Deirdre enjoys spending time with family and traveling the world.

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Five Best Practices for AEC Websites

Having designed hundreds of websites over the past 20+ years, we’ve seen significant changes in website standards and best practices. However, having looked at a large number of Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) firm websites, we’ve noticed that many are not keeping pace with these changes. If your goal is to attract and engage new clients, you can’t underestimate the role your website can play in this process. Whether potential clients find your firm through referrals, networking or online searches, your website is often the first (or close second) impression they have of your firm.

Whenever we evaluate a website, there are five best practices that we consider first:

1. Website Load Speed/Performance
2. Mobile Responsiveness
3. SSL Security
4. Search Engine Optimized Content
5. A Clear and Engaging Homepage Message

Before you say, “Wait a minute! What about design or style,” yes, of course these factors are also important. However, if your visitors leave your site before they have a chance to notice the design or style, what good is it? The five factors we focus on are directly related to the initial experience visitors have on your site. We also know that these are some of the same critical factors that Google uses to rank your website in search results. Let’s look at each in more detail.

1. Website Load Speed/Performance

What do we measure?
How much time does it take to load your homepage in a visitor's browser on their computer or mobile device?

Why is this important?
Research shows that many visitors will leave your site if it does not load within a few short seconds. A load speed of less than 3 seconds is ideal. We also know that Google considers load speed a critical factor for ranking websites in search results. Your website performance is affected by many factors, including the speed of your server, the plugins installed on your site, and other technical issues. For AEC firms, one of the most common problems is high-resolution, full-screen project images, which can reduce site performance to a crawl.

What improvements can you make?
Photoshop and apps like Squash help you resize and compress images before uploading them to your website. Large, full-screen images should be no larger than 1500 pixels on the longest edge, and file sizes should be compressed to less than 200 KB.

2. Mobile Responsiveness

What do we measure?
Does your website layout properly adapt to different screen sizes on smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computer screens? 

Why is this important?
Nearly everyone has a mobile device these days. According to Statista.com mobile internet search traffic is outpacing that of personal computers and is forecast to continue growing. In 2017, Google recognized mobile responsiveness as a top criteria for search result rankings. More and more people work outside the office from their mobile devices. If your website is difficult to read or use on a mobile device, they are very likely to leave.

What improvements can you make?
Review your website on different sized devices. If you find it difficult to read or navigate, then it's time to consult your website designer to make some changes.

3. Secured Socket Layer (SSL) Security

What do we measure?
Does your website have a Secured Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate, which allows secure connections from a web server to a visitor’s web browser?

Why is this important?
Unsecured websites are more prone to hacking, malware, and other attacks. Starting in July 2018, Google began penalizing (i.e. lowering a site’s search ranking), and in some cases, blocking access to unsecured websites Imagine how potential clients might react to seeing this alert come up when they visit your website.

What improvements can you make?
Visit your site. Check the URL in the browser address bar. If your site is properly secured, the URL will start with https://. If you see http:// then your site is not secure and you need to contact your web designer to install an SSL Certificate.

4. Search Engine Optimized (SEO) Content 

What do we measure?
How well does your site rank for relevant search terms, compared to your competitors? This is your search engine ranking.

Why is this important?
Getting found online is critical for attracting new clients. When your website copy and content is properly optimized for search engine ranking, you appear higher in search results and get found more easily by potential new clients.

What improvements can you make?
Many factors can affect your search ranking, including the use of relevant keywords and properly written content on your site. Regularly update your site to continually improve your search ranking.

5. A Clear and Engaging Homepage Message

What do we measure?
Does your homepage answer the three important questions critical to engaging new visitors? Those questions are:

  • What does your firm do and who do you do it for?
  • What key "pain point" do you resolve?
  • What is the next step to move forward?

Why is this important?
Your website should introduce visitors to your firm and bring them to in-depth content that will answer their questions. If your homepage messaging does not convince them to go further, they will leave.

What you can do?
Take time to ensure that your homepage clearly and concisely answers The Grunt Test. (Could a caveman understand what you offer?) A clear message is your best opportunity to engage and convert new website visitors.

Ready to Take Action and Take Control of your Success?

It's important to have a website that connects and engages with prospective clients. The five essential factors we’ve covered are critical to your online marketing success! Following the best practices we’ve outlined, you’ll rank better in search, attract more traffic, and bring visitors deeper into your site.

Bryon McCartney
Chief Idea Guy & Managing Partner, Archmark Branding & Marketing
Bryon has been in the marketing and branding industry for more than 30 years and has worked with AEC firms for 20.  His past experience includes professional photographer and video producer where he completed assignments around the world.  When not working, Bryon enjoys golf, traveling, and building with Legos. If you’d like to know how your website measures up, get your own website evaluation, FREE for SMPS Arizona members by emailing Bryon at [email protected]. You’ll get a detailed review of your website and concrete steps you can take to improve it.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

 

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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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