Construction's next-generation leaders have a shifting mindset toward the role of marketing and business development in engineering and contracting firms, says preliminary research by two marketing consultants. They found that 90% of industry CEOs and presidents queried see marketing staffers as integral to the company, deserving seats at the decision-making table.

“Marketers are the protectors of our brand. Why would we not have them at the table,” said Donna Corlew, a former design firm marketing executive who now holds the role of chief whatever it takes officer at business development consultant C*Connect, about the attitudes expressed.

At the Fellows Symposium of the Society for Marketing Professional Services annual conference in Washington, D.C., on July 31, Corlew and Frank Lippert, founder and partner of Go Strategies, shared the early findings of their research.

The two former SMPS presidents each noted many calls from clients last year that indicated a trend, so they decided to study the question.

The preliminary data comes from 30 completed surveys submitted by industry C-suite leaders and 100 from marketing professionals. Lippert says, “We didn’t define CEOs by age or birth year, we defined them by the way they think.”

The survey still is open for continued input from company CEOs and presidents. 

Next-gen thinking, the two executives say, involves working collaboratively, trusting and empowering your team, and working for the greater good—characteristics associated with Millennials.

Lippert points out that Millennials are the largest generation ever, so they are having a major impact as they come into the workforce in huge numbers. Many have MBAs in addition to degrees in engineering, architecture or construction management.

“These dual degrees in leadership roles are resulting in more strategic planning and a better grasp of the business-side of AEC," she says.

In its early findings, the study also says that 75% of responding leaders reported that they “meet with marketing staff regularly” and “seek ideas from them." CEOs also said they “hire good marketing people and let them run their department,”  according to the findings. (See graphic above)

One marketer who has risen to the top at an Arizona-based contractor—and responded to the survey as a CEO—also spoke at the symposium.

Grenee Celuch, CEO of Mesa-based Concord General Contracting Inc., started at the company 14 years ago as a marketing coordinator and rose through the ranks to marketing director, partner, vice president and, in a 2019 appointment, CEO.

Eight years ago, she developed the first strategic plan in the company’s 40-year history. “It was a down economy, and they said, ‘Well, we have nothing else going on, let’s try it,’” she said. For the first three years Concord held revenue steady but figured out “who we are and what we want to be.”

Four years ago, “with the economy on our side, we experienced 110% growth”—from $40 million in revenue to an estimated $85 million anticipated in 2019, Celuch said.