How Swinerton Management and Consulting creates a marketing mentality—an interview with Myrna Wagner

Swinerton Management & Consulting (SMC) was established in 1994 to assist clients with strategic advice and management of their design and construction programs and projects. With seven offices throughout California,SMC provides a wide range of capital improvement program, project, and construction expertise, tailored to meet the specific needs of each client.

MARKETLINK Principal Stephanie Craft caught up with Myrna Wagner, Vice President of Business Development, to learn more about how she and SMC leadership have created and fostered a marketing mentality within the firm.

Stephanie: As a firm principal/leader, what have you done to create a marketing mentality in your firm/office?

Myrna: One of the most important initiatives was creating a culture of collaboration and accountability with the leadership team. A particular challenge has been finding the balance between each team member’s own work and business development responsibilities. As their core competency is to manage work, I seek to provide them with tools to help and encourage their BD involvement. This includes working with each person to determine their interest and passion, assigning them pursuits that spark their interest and expertise, and having the support of a BD consultant who can help with assignments.

Hiring a BD consultant has empowered project executives to become seller/doers. Our consultant makes the initial calls to get an appointment with a client and then does the client recon needed for the meetings. This helps leadership team members balance the demands of pursuing new work while successfully managing existing projects.

Stephanie: Is there someone who mentored you about marketing mentality?

Myrna: I mainly learn by doing; however, a former boss saw something in me that made him think I would be good at BD. He observed me in the field at weekly construction meetings and recognized I brought a sense of balance and positivity to the meetings when they were contentious. He thought those skills were needed in marketing and BD. When he started the first marketing team at Dinwiddie Construction Company in the mid-1980s, he invited me to join him. While we weren’t always sure of what we were doing, our marketing team of three recognized our work was what the company needed.

When I transferred to Northern California I went back into the field but was again pulled back into marketing and business development. I joined SMPS and that’s when I started to get a sense of everything I needed to know.

Stephanie: How do you get firm leaders on board for your marketing initiatives?

Myrna: Quiet but persistent persuasion is how I sell a new initiative. I use the “Claim and Proof” approach and do a lot of preparation so I’m prepared to support my claim. A lot of communication is also important in the art of persuasion.

Thankfully, my direct boss trusts my instincts so I have free range with respect to new initiatives. The real challenge is ensuring we’re coordinating with other Swinerton divisions and sharing the wealth. To that end, we’ve set guidelines and protocols for leads and teaming.

Stephanie: How do you show ROI of the marketing program to other firm leaders?

Myrna: SMC tracks cost by time for ROI, but the firm is incredibly strategic and selective about the work we pursue. We no-go 70% of the opportunities that come our way. If the project isn’t part of our strategy or we haven’t spent a year or two positioning ourselves, then we don’t pursue it. While we don’t track many specific metrics, we closely examine our BD efforts on a monthly basis against our business plan goals to ensure we’re staying on target.

Stephanie: How do you get non-marketing staff involved in/excited about supporting marketing efforts?

Myrna: Our philosophy is that every employee plays a part in the business development effort. Our hiring process supports a mindset of business development for all employees. Engaging staff has been relatively successful. We have a lot of corporate marketing, BD, and community involvement initiatives that motivate our staff to get involved and give back.

A couple of years ago, an administrative manager expressed a desire to learn and work on marketing initiatives. When asked at her annual review what she wanted to do, she said, “Work with Myrna in Marketing.” I began training and mentoring her and introduced her to SMPS. She has been a great addition to our team.

Stephanie: What is the best way you have found to get your technical staff involved?

Myrna: I started my career in construction as a project engineer, which gives me a solid understanding of the requirements of managing construction. Understanding that responsibility has helped me work with project managers so their involvement in BD is a positive experience. I work hard to minimize any unnecessary burdens. I enjoy engaging one-on-one to train and help project managers be better in the client environment — how they carry themselves, how they talk with clients, and manage that relationship.

I’m careful in what I ask my leadership team to do, keeping menial tasks to a minimum and then providing tools that help support their BD efforts. Working toward their strengths and passions and utilizing our BD consultant with the leg work helps keep them engaged and responsive. She has been instrumental in building a positive BD attitude with technical and leadership teams.

Stephanie: What are three tips you give your marketing coordinators to help them progress and evolve in their role?

Myrna: First, learn your craft and don’t be in such a rush to be promoted. People want to be promoted into BD because they perceive it as fun to be out and about, dining clients, going to events. However, BD is a career with many responsibilities. It requires thoughtful learning, so learn well. Then, when you’re ready, make the move.

Second, emotional intelligence is critical. How we behave and respond in the workplace and the community has an important influence on your impact and how you are perceived. Learning emotional intelligence can position you for greatness.

Last, become a member of an organization like SMPS where there are opportunities for education, training, and mentorship.

Stephanie: Are there any books you’ve read or other media that you would recommend regarding marketing mentality?

Myrna: “Good to Great” by James C. Collins showed me thinking strategies I was able to apply. For instance, developing the ability to think in a master plan view. When you get down in the weeds, you can’t look at the big picture. I also enjoyed the situational questions the book poses. For instance, “Who are the people on your bus?” and “Are they in the right seats on the bus”? Now, when we hire people here, we ask ourselves: “Do they have the right technical skills we need?” and “Is that person a good a good fit for us?”

Stephanie: What are the biggest hurdles your team/office/firm faces related to marketing?

Myrna: As a company with multiple divisions, our biggest hurdle is to continue to improve our internal collaborative process as a company.

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About The Author

Stephanie Craft, MBA

Stephanie Craft, MBA, has worked in the A/E/C industry for more than 30 years. Her marketing strengths lie in researching and opening new doors for technical firms by getting directly to decision-makers and influencers, and obtaining and using client feedback to help firms differentiate themselves and strengthen client loyalty through targeted strategic efforts. She also works with firm leadership to evaluate in-house marketing and business development efforts to optimize staff processes and procedures. Stephanie has been a featured speaker at many AEC professional society meetings and has been selected “Chapter President of the Year” twice by the national Society for Marketing Professional Services for her management expertise serving as President of the Utah and Sacramento Chapters.

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