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Transcript - The Missing Link in Your AEC Marketing Strategy, with Brenda Christman

Audio: Welcome to AEC Marketing for Principals, brought to you by Smartegies, where we help design and construction space navigate sales and leverage marketing to win more projects. Here are your hosts Katie Cash and Judy Sparks.

Katie: Hi there and welcome to another episode of AEC Marketing for Principals Podcast, I'm your host, Katie Cash and as always, I'm joined by my partner in strategy, also my boss, Ms. Judy Sparks. The founder and president of Smartegies, a full-service marketing agency servicing the design and construction space. So, welcome Judy.

Judy: Thank you, Katie. Great to be here. Excited to talk to one of our favorite clients today.

Katie: Yeah. And so for all of you listeners out there today, we are excited to bring to you, Ms. Brenda Christman. Brenda is the Senior Vice President for Marketing and Communications for Hunt Companies and we have enjoyed working alongside her for a couple years now and really wanted to have a chance to bring her on the show and have her share her journey with us in terms of how she got into the industry and what she's doing day in the life of a Senior Vice President for marketing communications for such a global brand, such as Hunt. And really just celebrate all things marketing, design and construction. So, Brenda, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining us and thanks for carving out some time to talk with us today.

Brenda: Thanks Katie, thanks Judy. I'm excited to be here as well.

Katie: Perfect. So for those of, listeners out there, Ms. Brenda if you don't mind, could you share maybe a couple minute overview of who Hunt is and what is all underneath the umbrella of the Hunt Companies?

Brenda: I would be very happy to. Hunt is a global enterprise, it's a holding company that invests in businesses in the real estate and infrastructure markets and sectors.

We currently employ about 6,000 people across the globe. From our holding company, Hunt Companies Inc across all of our affiliate companies. And some very well known brand names within the companies that are part of the Hunt family of companies. 

Firms like Pinnacle, which is a very well known, very well respected third party, multi-family property manager. And Amber Infrastructure which may be not as well known here in the U.S., but is based in London and they are a global, well-known infrastructure company that is now part of the heart Hunt Family Companies as well.

I've been with Hunt now, about eight and a half years now and we've grown really substantially in that period of time and have acquired a lot of really great synergistic businesses.

Katie: That is so great and congratulations on what you guys have achieved, I know that that is no small feat as you go through and look for firms to acquire, to get them, you brought into the Hunt Family, to help onboard them in terms of your marketing team support and what you can do to help them. I just want to say congratulations to you and your team for what you guys have been doing, it's very impressive and something to celebrate.

Brenda: Thanks. It's always exciting, it's always interesting. Never dull. In the eight and half years I've been with Hunt, we've done 12 acquisitions and so, it is pretty intense and always changing landscape. It keeps me on my toes.

Katie: Yeah and I think you guys like to buy just about every kind of company out there so it's not like just now learning about architecture, you'll buy a construction firm, you'll buy an engineering firm, you'll you know... What do you know, we want a maintenance firm too, and you kind of have everything under your umbrella over there and I would imagine that the learning curve of not just those companies but their services and how they fit into the overarching strategy is always a moving target. I can just imagine what that looks like. 

Brenda: It is, it is. I'm sorry, go ahead Judy.

Judy: I was just going to say, and what you've achieved as a professional marketer in that environment is really phenomenal to touch corporate real estate, to touch design, to touch construction, and then often times Hunt is the owner actually being the developer and hiring outside firms to perform those matters. And it's really important and impressive that in the center of all that you have this really amazing marketing and communications infrastructure that keeps everything consistent and synergistic. I think that's the word you used. And it all plays well together, so what you've done is fascinating and I just want to get right in there and talk about, how did you do that Brenda? 

So many marketers in our industry, they fall into the profession. They either start on the admin side or they come from the project side, but very few marketers go to college and say, hey I want to be a marketing professional in the professional service space, that's my dream, right? So... And then if you're fortunate like us you fall into this niche and you fall in love with it and you've found your calling, really to be able to go through the ranks and find yourself at the C-suite table helping make strategic decisions and managing the image and communications across several different brands and brand architectures. Tell us a little bit about what that looks like from a career perspective. How did you get to where you are? 

Brenda: Well I mean it's been a long winding road. I always wanted to be a journalist and be in broadcasting and that's from my earliest memory of what I knew I was going to do in my life. All the way through high school and college that was my goal. I got my first job in radio broadcasting when I was 16 and a local radio station, WFPY in Illinois and a shout out to my peeps over there. And I was so grateful for that. What a great experience. I started there as a receptionist and just wanted so badly to be on the air and to be part of the broadcasting team and so they took lots of chances with me and let me do the weather and do the news and run the board and it was just really a great launching pad and just fueled my passion for wanting to be in that business. 

As I moved through college I studied journalism. I was a journalism communications major and with political science major. I was going to be Barbara Walters and as we all wanted, right? But as I head out into the real world, once I graduated from college, and I worked in TV and radio all through college, I went on to work for a CBS affiliate in Las Vegas and I very quickly realized that it wasn't my cup of tea. That it was... it's a little... It just didn't fit my personality out there as well as I thought it would and it was just really a tough business to be in and not a very... it was very gritty and sort of backstabby. It was very backstabby and I just thought, is this really what I want to do for the rest of my life? I know it was what I always thought I wanted, but maybe there's something else out there. And I literally fell into a marketing job at a resort there in Las Vegas and I was at the bottom, bottom of the totem pole. My office was above the bolling alley, just so you know, that's where I started.

Katie: Awesome, you got sound acoustics I'm sure.

Brenda: So it was an interesting, interesting place to start and I was doing the most menial work, but I loved it so much. And it just utilized all the facets of the things I thought I was good at and I got to exercise all of those things there. I got to do, you know, PR and we had entertainers come in so I got to organize the entertainers who were performing and logistics of grand openings and it was just really, hit the ground running kind of vertical learning. And I worked in several different kinds of hotel casino developments during my time in Vegas and ended up in retail development. Just sort of a natural transition. 

I moved from being a publicist to being marketing manager to being a marketing director, and just kept moving up and learning more every time I had an opportunity and I worked for General Gruff properties, which is a very large global, retail property manager and developer and marketing, and did property management with them as well. So I kind of moved into a whole new direction. My philosophy always is, what can I learn here, what can I... where can I grow here, what can I do different and new and I think that served me really well. So I did retail development for a long time and that was sort of a very natural transition from that to maybe a broader real estate world when I joined Lendlease. And I joined Lendlease in Denver and we were opening a brand new office there, a brand new division of the company and so I had an opportunity to introduce that business to this market. And that was really great learning and what I learned most there in that role was the idea of teamwork. It was really one of the best environments I ever worked in. 

We had a very small-ish 20, 25 person team and the whole culture there was about execute on a plan, execute on strategy, but do it in a team. Do it as part of team. So it wasn't just one person out there in front. It wasn't just accolades for you or them. It was about how we all achieved and so that was something that I always carried with me from that point on. That... How do you build that?... The collaboration and the sense of teamwork and all getting to the same place together idea. And-

Judy: You know... Brenda sorry to interrupt you, but you know, it makes total sense because having worked with you first hand multiple times, that's one of the things that my team always states about you as a client is how team oriented you are. You're very inclusive, very collaborative. Not only to your internal team, but also to your vendors like us who are often called upon to jump in and maybe manage a project on your behalf or maybe take care of a detail or to turnkey a job. And you are always so... Your leadership style is always the good for all. You know, what works for everybody to get the best end result and hearing your story it really makes sense, where you come from and how you adopted that leadership style. I think that that is a huge differentiator of your personal brand. Really indicative of what the experience is like when working with Hunt from a vendor standpoint. So kudos to you for that. We are often celebrating the clients we feel like are firm but fair and always having the end goal in mind, which is to get to a win, right. So I think that makes a lot of sense. 

I do have a question though. When you're making the transition from outside the industry into retail development and then to Lendlease, talk about a big global brand right, Australian owned brand. That is often times a really hard transition, not just for the marketer, but for the employer. So talk to me a little about, why did it work with you? We hear time and time again, marketers who try to transition into the built environment from other industries whether they're B2B or B2C industries, and they get to a construction company or they get to an architectural firm and the employer is not really sure what to do with this new breed of person in their firm. This non-billable marketing person. And the marketing person is eager to please, but not sure how. So what are some of the things you did to bridge that learning curve?

Brenda: Well that's probably not even a simple answer. I think a couple things. I always try to come in with a great attitude and I think I hire people who have great attitudes. I think that's really important. I think you can teach a lot of things, you can't teach that. You either got that or you don't. And so I also try to look at what skills do I have that are translatable regardless of where I'm planted, where I'm sitting. We all have skills that you can put to use if you understand where the employer, where your employer is trying to go. Just try to figure out how you can add value and always be trying to add value. I... Josh Hunt actually has a really good saying. He always says "Don't confuse success for business." And so just because you're busy doesn't mean you're actually getting anywhere and you really got to start thinking about how you're moving the needle and how you're proving that you're moving the needle. I don't care if you have an admin job or you're FDP, that's your job, it's to figure out how you can move their strategy forward. And it takes a lot of listening and I think maybe that's where a lot of people fall short. 

I am an introvert by nature so I'm a listener. I will listen and take things back and think about them. I'm not one to just shoot from the hip, but that's just my personality so I think that that has served me well. I can think about dynamics, I can think about the people in the room and what their individual objectives are and how I can plug in to that. And sometimes it's just, you find a person that you can help and add value and at Hunt people are always going in a million different directions. It's just crazy busy and everyone has different needs and different times and so I'm always trying to outreach and say, what is it that you need right now, what help can I help you do what you're doing? And there's time when there isn't anything at the moment you know, and other people are very busy and need lots of help. I don't know I just try to plug in where I can and when I started... Okay go ahead.

Judy: I keep interrupting you and I'm sorry, but what you're saying is really resonating with me. But how do you breed that with your team because it's not just you, it's every person on your team carries that torch of bringing value and being collaborative and quite honestly very forgiving when mistakes happen as long as the people making the mistakes own those mistakes. But how do you breed that from a leadership standpoint with marketers who I find are often times not sure where they fit inside a construction company or inside a development company? Because they're not the front line, but they're so critical to the support mechanism and especially when chasing that new job or that new client. How do you make sure that that brand promise lives beyond yourself and extends to every member of your team?

Brenda: It's hiring the right people. You know Judy is one of the hardest things to do and it's the scariest thing for me in my job. I get terrified of hiring the wrong person because it is a drag. It really will set you back. If after six months you've interviewed, hired, onboarded and trained the wrong person, and if they're the wrong person on a good team it becomes very obvious very quickly and it can have such and infection. So I think really carefully thinking about your team, the synergy of the team. Everyone doesn't have to be the same because you know the person I work most closely with at Hunt is very different from me, but we offset each other so we're comfortable challenging. You got to be comfortable to challenge each other, comfortable asking each other questions, "why are you doing that, what about this, what if we did this?" And just having an internal team culture where it's okay to critique and to be trying to make a better product in the end. That's what Cindy Gersch, you know who I'm talking about, we... that's where we're always focused. She reviews my material, I review her material. We sit in strategy sessions and challenge each other, we'll wait on [inaudible 00:16:58] with that and it's all fine. There's no bad feelings about that. 

Judy: Right because you're after the same goal. You want the best product at the end. That's phenomenal. 

Brenda: But not everybody is like that. You know, we've brought... we've had third parties, people involved in projects who get very offended by that approach or don't understand what we're trying to do or why we're disagreeing with each other vehemently in a meeting because we're interrogating a problem and not everybody can hang with that, you know?

Judy: Right.

Katie: And there's... one thing you mentioned, I do that that hiring the right person makes a ton of difference and certainly having that trust in one another where you can ask the hard questions and they understand, hey this is not me personally trying to be ugly towards you, I'm trying to make the best decision to move the business forward, but someone young in their career that may not know the answer, or may not really know how to start having those conversations, maybe could you share some... early in your career how did you work with your partners or work with the executives in some cases to build credibility to help you get to where you are today as the SVP? 

Brenda: Well I think two things kind of come to mind. Find a good mentor, someone who will be a sounding board for you, who will tell you the truth without worrying about hurting your feelings, who you can go ask for advice about how to approach, how to do, how to improve. And then I think very practically, I ask a lot of questions and sometimes you don't have to be confrontational, it's just a clarification question that helps everyone to think about something maybe a little bit differently. And for those people who are in the room with maybe executives and you're sort of the low man on the totem pole, sometimes just asking a question gets your voice in the room. I heard that advice early on because, again, I'm an introvert. Sometimes that first time just getting your voice in the room will get you over a hurdle and we all need clarification. Anyone can ask, maybe, I don't understand that, can you explain that a little bit further. Or really I thought it was x y z and you just said it was this and I'd like to understand that better. I think those are just very practical ways to be seen and also get some value out of being in a meeting. Because if you're in a meeting and you have nothing to contribute you probably shouldn't be there. 

Katie: Yeah and I, you know I've always been in marketing in this very technical space and early in my career I was highly intimated to be in the room with, you know, the lead architect or senior project manager or project executive and didn't really know how to hone my voice. But I found in every occasion, every firm that I worked in, whenever I would ask a question, like, "hey, help me understand why we're going about it this way versus this way... last time... I'm trying to figure this out." Every single time those technical folks were very accommodating at entertaining my question and helping me bridge that technical gap that I didn't have because I wasn't an architect, and engineer, or a contractor. And I grew pretty quickly by just being open to asking those questions and sometimes just asking a very dumb question and airing on the side of, "okay I know this may be a dumb question, but help me understand x y z." And they're like, "oh yeah, well here's your answer." And that kind of helped me get over the hurdle of not knowing how, as an introvert to myself, how to have a voice, how to start putting the pieces together. 

The other thing that you mentioned a little bit earlier that I think is true of you and other folks on the Hunt team that I've interacted with, is you guys do have this culture of always be learning. You're always looking to learn from one another, you're always looking for new tools to bring onto the team, you're looking to work smarter. You're not necessarily wanting to get their first, but you definitely want to find ways to work smarter. And so in today's fast paced space, you're definitely traveling more than any of our other clients out there, you've got a hundred brands it feels like that you're managing. How do you stay up to date with the things in the marketing world, and in the Hunt world, and in design and construction, what are you doing there?

Brenda: I mean I read everything I can. I read voraciously across lots of different genres and I listen to podcasts like this one and I'm a member of various organizations that have great learning tools and resources on anything you can imagine and so I find that the resources are there if you go looking for them. Within any industry find the industry organization that leads the way and they'll have lots of opportunities to learn through conferences or reading resources or just networking and asking and being in the room with very smart people. 

I'm always like, I know I'm not the smartest person in the room, but I'm always listening and I'm will to ask a question when I don't understand something and that's being just open like you said, open to learning is really a key. And there's lots of people who will help you too. If you went to a senior executive and said, you know, "Look I want to learn more, what can I do, is there an organization I should join, is there something I should read, is there some learning I can do, where can I get that?" And nine times out of ten they'll be very happy to help. 

Katie: Yeah I think, you know, there's executives out there who have young marketing professionals or even more seasoned ones that are taking an active role in understanding the business. That's an invested employee right? You want to keep reaping the benefit of that investment and as long as they're engaged, then they're going to just be more invested in helping your brand move forward. 

Judy: So Brenda, tell us a little bit about current day challenges and information management. One of the things that I'll also tout about your group is while you're constantly learning and looking at new tools and technologies and resources, I know when we work with you we use tools like Basecamp to communicate and you have such a wealth of knowledge about how to do things efficiently and more effectively. What are some of your go to tools that you use day to day with your cross functional teams and your outside vendors?

Brenda: Yeah it is a lot of data management that is for sure. And if you can setup systems and software that are useful it's a huge time saver. So we use a couple different things. We use SharePoint and ShareFile within our group. SharePoint we use typically when it involves other outside entities are involved, so if we're using consultants or other companies are teaming with us on projects. It's a great tool for that. They can access we can edit at the same time documents and so I really like SharePoint for that purpose. You know you mentioned Basecamp. We used Basecamp for a long time and I still do use it. It's a little bit... it's not as good sort of filing system if you will, more difficult to find things that you've uploaded there. But it's a great file sharing program and it's very intuitive, very easy. 

We use Cosential for essentially our data management. So when we're trying to make sure our executive bios and project information and company data is consistent anybody can go in there and grab a bio and it's the most recent, that's the goal. So that it doesn't live with one person, it lives in the system, and then we're not recreating something many times over. Project information, you can pull project information and it's constantly updated so as we do these various pursuits and various projects we're always getting and finding new information that is needed and so it goes in the system and there it lives. It's not stuck in someone's file folder on their desktop that no one else has access to. So those are some really useful tools. 

And ShareFile we use within my team for document storage basically. It's where all of our active day to day operational materials are. Our documents, our information, our checklists, that sort of thing lives there. We also have a photo library. We use ZenFolio for photo library. I found when I first got here there are photos that lived all over the place. I mean this company has been in business since 1947 so you can imagine the myriad of-

Katie: Sure yeah. 

Brenda: Yeah, so we consolidated all of that and now it's in one place and now it's easy to sort through and find whatever you might be looking for. 

Judy: So adopting just one of those tools in no small task. The fact that you have such a rich, what we call, marcom technology stack working together to make your job more efficient I think is something that more and more companies are curious about, not real sure what tools to use. So that was super helpful for you to name drop some of the actual tools you're using and a lot of the marketers I'm talking to at your level Brenda, they find that the strategy component of their job is not just on the external facing, you know, winning work side, but it's also on the communications, internal and external communications and how do we manage our information, the data management collection and distribution of that information through all of those technology tools you just named. 

I would imagine the relationship between you and your IT director is probably closer than traditionally when I started in the industry 20 years ago the IT guy never talked to the marketing person. Now it's hard to go a day without having some sort of conversation or some sort of communication on the IT front. Talk about the integration of technology in marketing today. We just have so much more data available to us, how do we capitalize on that to go to market? 

Brenda: Well that's so true and Karl Schosser who's our Chief Information Officer for Hunt is a fantastic guy and he's been with Hunt for, I may be wrong here, but 22, 25 years, something like that. And he's relatively young so he's basically... he's seen it from the beginning, all of this transition. When I joined Hunt they were still doing paper newsletters internally and so it's very different today. We obviously have an intranet and we implemented that five years ago, six years ago, something like that and it continues to evolve and change and improve. It's used very widely. We had 1200 employees when I started, we have 6,000 today. It just gives you an idea, it's been quite an evolution and trying to communicate strategy and business direction and just things happening in the business. Things that people are doing and wins that we have, new projects that we're working on, status of things, is very difficult. 

We implemented a yearly State of the Business address so our executive level team, our C-suite spends and hour, two hours on the phone with all the employees and they go through the performance from the prior year and where we're headed the next year and then we'll open up for questions. And that, people really enjoy that. It's a chance for people to listen to and ask questions of people they don't get to interact with all the time. And I know that happens on a more frequent basis within each of the business units so our other division had them do that throughout the year, passing down information through their organization on a more regular basis. So those are some things that we've done, I mean the whole landscape of it has changed so much. I mean we've got your Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn and integrating all of our... getting all of our employees on those platforms has been something we've been working to do and-

Judy: It's funny you should say that because I remember when social media first surfaced and IT groups were locking down the wifi so that people couldn't be on Facebook at work and now we're reverse engineering all that so that people can actively share and post and engage in company content. So you know the culture of social media has definitely changed within our industry and it's interesting how much companies are embracing their employees being on social media because I think that there's an acceptance now that it further enhances your brand reach with a much larger, wider visual audience. 

Brenda: And there's constant push and pull. Yeah I'm sorry, go ahead. Yeah I was going to say there's constant push and pull between you know opening that up and engaging and then being careful and safe to with our systems. So it's always a little bit of like we'll go forward and then back, and then forward a little bit more, so just trying to find that balance of what makes our systems safe, but also allows broader engagement. 

Judy: Exactly.

Katie: So you've mentioned a whole host of tools and you've talked at length about your team and hiring the right team. I'm curious in your role and the executive team that you're reporting to, what are those key performance indicators, those KPIs that you are actively tracking and reporting on? Like are you looking for employee engagement and who all is liking and sharing the posts from the company LinkedIn page? Are you tracking how many people are engaging with your website? What does that look like for you and your firm? 

Brenda: Yeah certainly the website engagement and the Google analytics and all that's important. We monitor... you know we have Facebook sites for all of the communities that we own and monitoring the engagement and the response rate on that is super important. So we have some standards in terms of how long it takes to have a response to a problem or complaint or a question. We obviously, as you know, we do a lot of business development so what's our win ratio and that business development, new business work that we're trying to secure. That's probably... those are probably the biggest ones. And then there's a lot of other little KPIs like how many people attended the state of the business address or you know that sort of... When we do press releases we do, we monitor all of those and report back on the visibility of that effort. Because obviously if you're going to do it you want to understand how broadly did it get picked up and where did it get picked up and that sort of thing.

Katie: You don't just send it out there to the abyss. Yeah. So I know in our engagement with you guys, we're not the only marketing agency that you work with. We're not your only consultant. I do believe that your company has probably embraced outsourcing to a level that a lot of other firms my cross with a great deal of trepidation, but for our listeners who are thinking about whether it's possible to outsource easy things like RFPs or presentation coaching or they're thinking about redoing their website or having someone come in and do a social media audit for their profiles, what would you share in terms of dos and don'ts when hiring a consultant that you've found to be most beneficial, finding that right partner? I think that would be helpful. You probably have more experience than anybody else we've worked with in that are. 

Brenda: It's a... you want it to be... I would look at it just as though I'm bringing them onto my team and I would say that when I'm working with a consultant or an agency I consider you an extension of me and so I want that to be a good cultural fit. I want to feel like there's trust, they're capable of course, that they can actually do the work that you want them to do, but that... somebody you want to work with. We all spend a lot of time at the office and I want to work with people that I enjoy being around and that can do the work. So I think if you think of it as, would I actually hire this person or these people internally, that's a pretty good litmus test to begin with. 

And also to have very clearly defined scope of work for them. I tend to be more on the side of, I like everything defined very clearly so there's no misunderstanding and that they can go, yes I can do it, I can do it in that time frame and for that cost. Rather than getting down the road and being like, oh that's not what we do, or we never could have done that in that time frame, I don't know why you'd think that, you know? So having those very clear expectations up front is always good. 

And I've worked in situations... When I first started at Hunt the first thing that I was charged with doing was rebranding this company and they were about the embark on new business outside of what was at that time their single cut client facing business, which was military housing, so their client was the DOD and all the branches of service that are associated with that and they knew they had to be poised to diversify. And so I had three different agencies working with me at the same time on that rebrand effort and that's a lot of personalities to manage and just being able to be diplomatic with them and to foster a sense of trust around that so that everyone hopefully felt like what they were saying, or suggesting or inputting was there to add value and everybody had [inaudible 00:36:14] footing. So I think that was very successful and one of the things I point to as one of the things I'm proudest of having done was working on that project with those agencies and then embedding that brand within Hunt internally. Having it adopted internally is always a challenge. That's my advice for agencies. Find the best you can get, but make sure you can trust them and you want to work with them. 

Katie: That's great and I want to be mindful of your time. I could sit here and pick you brain all day long because you are very easy to talk to and enjoyable to work with as well and I know that you are probably an inspiration to many of our female listeners and a lot of individuals in the design and construction space as you know are female working in the marketing departments and a lot of them feel the pressure to choose between obligations with their family, with their careers. Some of them may find it quite difficult because it is such a deadline driven environment when you factor in proposal and presentations, events and trade shows and I know Hunt is a workplace that supports women executives. You're not the only one and certainly we've interacted with the other ones, so what advice would you give CEOs out there on how they might be able to better accommodate the needs of working mothers so that they can get the benefits that Hunt's gotten out of you or Cindy and the rest of your team? Any advice there?

Brenda: Well I think give the flexibility that they need. As long as the works getting done and it's getting done to your expectation and it's on time and all of those sorts of things, give the flexibility for them to be where they need to be. I tend to be one who'll get up at five in the morning and be right on my computer working and then I know if my daughters' have something going on at school, I'm going to go at two o'clock and be part of that because I've already put in at that point eight hours in the day. And I work late, I work whenever I need to work and sometimes I feel like I'm always working, but that's how I am and I'm a little bit of a workaholic, but I also make, I'm serious about making time for my family and when it's my family time, it's my family time. 

And I've been very fortunate that both at Lendlease and here at Hunt, they've embraced that and been very flexible with that for both me and the people on my team, so I for sure believe that that is important and try to perpetuate that through the people that I oversee and I think that I have probably proven enough that I am available 24-7, it may just be at two o'clock that afternoon I'm not available to send that email or to send that [inaudible 00:39:08] you know. So I just... manage your time and try to have some flexibility so that you can have a life and you can have a family and do the things, those are important things, those aren't side things, those should be central. And if you have happy employees, they'll work harder. I mean, it's simple. 

Katie: Absolutely. So Brenda here at Smartegies we call that work-life integration because I think you know, that balance is kind of a lofty goal. Especially if you're a working mother and you're in a high level leadership position like you are. But you're right, the life part is kind of important. It's kind of why the work part needs to happen so being very diligent about making sure you're carving out enough time for your family as much as you're dedicated to your work. 

We like the idea of work-life integration because what we tell our employees is if... You know, the work has to happen when it needs to happen, and life needs to happen when it needs to happen and sometime they're happening at the same time and if you can figure out that juggle then you're going to be really successful. 

But what it looks like is exactly what you said. If you know you have to leave early, then you're in early or you're working at night after your children are asleep or you know, I can't tell you how many times along the sidelines of a soccer field I have my laptop, but you know, being present when you need to be present is important. But also for so many of our clients with more and more women entering leadership roles and technical roles and operational roles in our industry, that historically has been very male dominated, I think the women labor force is very, very valuable and not to take anything away from the men, but if you allow them to meet all of their obligations you're going to have a really happy employee and the return on that is far more then the flexibility that you are, the things that you are giving up to afford that flexibility. I'm so happy when I hear companies that have been around as long as Hunt has been around are changing with the times and are not only changing, but pioneering that mindset in the environment you work in. 

Brenda: Yeah, and I do think a lot of times it's being pushed from the ground up, you know? And because it's a necessity and it's got to be embraced and it's got to be fostered, that acceptance of this other life that we all have. And I think that's had a big effect, just women saying, you know what, I worked all weekend so Friday I'm going to cut out a little early. You know it's, you just got to... and hopefully we can find environments where that's okay to do and accepted to do.

Katie: So to summarize today with our listeners, Brenda I just really want to thank you for your time again. I think the big take aways for me in this conversation is to make sure you're listening intently whenever you're in those meetings and being present when you're there. Finding a chance to speak up and to be brave and bold and ask questions. For those young listeners out there that are early in their careers, finding a mentor or an internal subject matter expert that can help answer some more technical questions on a one to one basis. 

For teams out there and executives that are listening, employing tools that help your team work smarter and more efficiently, helping with that collaboration so that you can benefit from a broader team perspective will certainly prove helpful. And then of course if you are looking to add to your project team members, hiring smart whether that's hiring someone for your internal team or hiring an agency or consultant, find the right person, find the right partner that's going to make your lives easier. Doing so make sure you set clear expectations on what those roles are, what the expectation of the roles are going to be. 

And lastly, giving flexibility to your team that they need so that they can have that work-life integration and trusting the team ultimately to get the work done, whether it's on the soccer field or if it's at home, or you know if it's in the office before the official HVAC system kicks on because you're putting in the time early. So Brenda again thank you for your time. Judy thank you for, as always, adding to the conversation and everybody out there we hope you have a great week. 

Brenda: Thank you both. Appreciate it. 

Audio: You've been listening to AEC Marketing for Principals brought to you by Smartegies. If you liked this episode please let us know by visiting AECMarketingPodcast.com where you can learn more ways to position your brand and sell to owners.

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