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Letter from the President

Howdy, Austin Chapter! 

I hope all of you are enjoying this unseasonably wet and (relatively) cool summer thus far. The Austin construction market seems to be moving along nicely and it’s nice to see a renewed sense of optimism across the AEC sector again. With the 2015 Texas Legislative Session now wrapped up, many of our firms are looking down the road at related project opportunities to be released over the next two years. The SMPS Austin Chapter Programs Committee is tracking many of these funded projects, and we hope to offer opportunities for you to learn more from owners at our future luncheons. Stay tuned!

Also, please keep an eye out for invitations to our monthly lunch and learn series and our networking happy hours. Lunch and learns offer a great opportunity to build your firm’s marketing knowledge through live presentations from local marketing experts. These events are typically held monthly and feature basic, intermediate, and advanced level marketing topics. After work, our networking happy hours offer are fun and free to members and non-members alike. These happy hours are typically cash bar and are held at different venues each month. With host locations across the city, there’s never a good reason to not stop by for some relaxed conversation with fellow A/E/C professionals.                   

Finally, if you haven’t done so already, I encourage you all to visit our new SMPS Austin Chapter website ( Our communications committee did a great job pulling this project together and it looks FABULOUS. Our new site now has everything you need to know about the Austin chapter, including our upcoming events and chapter volunteer opportunities. We also feature an active job board that is free for members and their sponsor firms. Please take a moment to check it out.     

Have a great rest of the summer, and I look forward to seeing you all at an upcoming SMPS Austin event soon.  

Best regards,
Joe S. Reyes, P.E., LEED AP
MEP Engineering, Inc.
SMPS Austin 2014-2015 Chapter President

2016 Southern Regional Conference

Half Day Workshop Recap

Nearly 40 participants (both members and guests) spent the afternoon of June 17 at Mercury Hall for the SMPS Austin Chapter’s Annual Half Day Workshop. Led by the animated Rich Swingle of Graceworks, the workshop focused on bringing a human connection to presentations. The workshop was targeted at the AEC industry and gave participants a wealth of knowledge on best practices for project interview preparation, graphic development, shaking nervousness, and expressing messages clearly and authentically. Through a variety of exercises, games, and live examples, Rich illustrated many tactics for making presentations successful. We will highlight just three of the valuable lessons learned.

Get Buy-in Early
One of the most challenging parts of putting together a presentation is getting all of the relevant parties in one place, at one time, and early enough to prepare thoroughly. However, this is one of the most important steps you can take. After you have learned about an interview, immediately gather your team for a brainstorming session based on the interview requirements. After the initial session, give everyone homework to think independently on the presentation, the key messages, and potential graphics before you gather again to discuss the ideas. Giving each person the time to create their story allows them early buy-in to what the resulting presentation becomes. This helps the entire team avoid last minute changes, which we all know are common in these scenarios.

Content Development
One of the most powerful points of the workshop can be invaluable to producing effective presentation content. At the core of your messaging, be sure you are consistently answering the question, “How can I help the listener?” Many times, when preparing for an interview, we are overly concerned with presenting our firm in the best light and become distracted by the need to talk about all of our former accomplishments. While this is important information, much of the background qualifications have already been vetted in earlier steps of the solicitation process. The client is now interested in how you might approach the project and what it might be like to work with you. The main focus of an interview presentation should be the client, their project, and the obstacles you can help them overcome.

The Genuine Article
The more authentic you are in any type of communication, the more authentic and honest you will come across to the listener. Presenting does not come naturally to most people, so often presenters put up “masks” to ease the discomfort associated with being in front of an audience. With ample practice and an awareness of what masks you tend to reach for, your natural personality and passion can shine through. This genuine portrayal helps the client see who you are, discern your level of chemistry, and ultimately, decide how well you might work together. Bottom line… be yourself!


New Member Breakfast Recap

SMPS hosted a breakfast on June 25 to welcome our recent additions to the chapter. Sixteen new members joined us at Kerbey Lane Café on Guadalupe to enjoy a tasty breakfast and get an overview of the benefits of SMPS from several of our board members.

Thanks to Membership Director Marisa Jarmon for organizing a great event honoring our latest membership additions.

Happy Hour - July 23

Lunch and Learn: Press Releases 101 - July 30

Join the us on Thursday, July 30, as we hear from Austin Business Journal editor and 2014 Austinite of the Year, Colin Pope, the do's and don'ts of press releases. In this one-hour session, we will hear from Colin on what constitutes as newsworthy, helpful tools for distribution, and the best way to approach a correction to a released article. Seating is limited, so register early! 

Summer Shindig - July 30

Looking for a chance to celebrate summer and take a break from the 9-to-5 routine? Pierpont Austin is putting on the 7th Annual Summer Shindig on July 30, which is co-hosted by eight communications organizations, including SMPS Austin. Summer Shindig is the best place in town to meet new connections while enjoying Cedar Door's famous mini-Mexican Martinis and tasty Tex Mex appetizers. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 30, 2015
5:30-7:30 PM
Cedar Door Restaurant and Bar


SMPS Represented at AIA Summer Conference

SMPS Members Mike Wong of Tom Green & Company Engineers and Katie Harris of RVi Planning + Landscape Architecture will present Fundamentals of Marketing and Business Development: How to Organize and Position Your Firm for Success at the upcoming AIA Austin Summer Conference. This course will offer a well-rounded approach to marketing and business development, including the steps of the of the strategic marketing process, how marketing and business development activities should be structured to support firm goals, and how to identify competitive and situational factors that lead to better positioning in the marketplace. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015
10:00-11:00 AM
Norris Conference Center

For more information and to sign up, visit the conference website.

Project Sneak Peak

Name of project: Natural Vitality
(Office, Warehouse & Manufacturing Facility)
Location: Cedar Park, Texas
Delivery: Construction Manager at Risk
Contractor: Kiewit Building Group
Architect: LEVY Architects
MEP Engineer: TTG
Civil Engineer: KBGE
Structural Engineer: Cardno Haynes Whaley
Landscape Architect: Benkendorfer + Associates

Natural Vitality, producer and marketer of health supplements, currently has split operations between California and Texas. The new building, currently underway, will allow Natural Vitality to consolidate both its office and production operations into one location. The office and warehouse project consists of constructing a 48,000-SF, two story, tilt-up building in Cedar Park. Kiewit was given notice to proceed in mid-December of 2014. Kiewit's scope consists of a $6.8M GMP contract including site, civil, and vertical construction. Key features include tilt-wall construction with some of the panels weighing in excess of 120,000 lbs. The site features a half-acre filtration pond. To date, Kiewit has completed the majority of the civil and structural scope, and the team is now focusing on finish-out and site improvements. The project is scheduled for substantial completion in September 2015.

Lessons Learned: SMPS Mentor-Protege Program

As the 2014-2015 Mentoring Program comes to a close and we gear up for this year’s program, we thought we’d get some takeaways from one of the mentor-protégé pairs to learn how to make this program valuable for everyone involved. Check out the tips below from pair Devin Williamson, mentor, and Jennifer Finch, protégé:

Q: What did you gain the most as a mentor/protégé?

DW: I was honored to be asked to join the mentor-protégé program last year. Looking at what I do, down to the detail and thought process, helped me to ensure I was following my own best practices and also be able to make changes if I wasn’t. This seemed to breathe new life into my position. And seeing it benefit my protégé gave me a little boost of confidence in my position with my own company.

JF:  I gained processes and procedures to put in place for our BD department and a fresh perspective on business development. Devin always came to our meetings energized to talk about BD and I always left our meetings with a positive outlook!

Q: What were you most surprised to learn by participating in the program?

DW: I don’t know if surprised is really the word, but it was exciting to hear how my protégé was taking actual lessons away to share and implement within her company so quickly. She would ask for more details, showing me that she was using what we talked about and actually wanted to know more so she could explain better internally.

JF: A direct quote from one of Devin’s lessons: "Remember, there is only one cold call. After that, you are building a relationship."

Q: What tips do you have for other mentor/protégé pairs?

DW: The mentor has something to get out of this program as well as the protégé. Breaking down your typical day gives you a check up on your daily processes and procedures. Talking it out with your protégé and answering their questions validates or points out changes that need to be made in your own daily BD business. Also to talk with the protégé to the point where the protégé is helping to outline what is being discussed at your meetings. For protégés, make sure to ask questions or if there is something specific you want to learn, make sure to share that with your mentor.

JF: Come prepared to talk about a specific subject at each meeting. This way the protégé can prepare questions to ask and the mentor can prepare learning objectives. Devin prepared a lesson and learning objectives for each of our meetings and actually typed up a handout for me to keep. I still have my lesson handouts and refer back to them all the time. I just read through his lesson ‘How to Make a Winning Sales Call. Don’t Laugh. It is that Simple!’

Q: Why do you think this program is valuable for professionals in the AEC industry? 

DW: Many people in the AEC industry aren’t engineers or architects and probably didn’t go to school for AEC marketing or BD specifically. When the program is done correctly, the mentor and protégé help each other’s learning curve to success! Along the way, there are plenty of introductions within our AEC industry that will one day, if not now, benefit both people. This is such a hand- on program, and I know it is one of the biggest benefits we can offer our members each year.

JF: This program builds skills and confidence and has given me a fresh perspective on how to think about and approach business development.

Members on the Move

Jeff Casinger is now business development director at PGAL.

Eric Churchill was promoted to VP of business development at Broaddus.

Janki DePalma was promoted to associate at DCI Engineers.

Ashley Heisler is now the global marketing director at HTS Engineering.

Sita Lakshmi was promoted to vice president and principal at BLGY.

Cara Lyons is now business development director at Trimbuilt Construction.

Jackie Sartor is now the business development manager at Gorrondona & Associates, Inc.

Have you been promoted or moved to a new firm recently? Submit your Members on the Move updates to!

New Member Spotlight

Catherine Saunders
TBG Partners

Catherine is the marketing coordinator for TBG Partners, a landscape architecture and planning firm founded in 1987 in Austin. Over the past 28 years, the firm has grown from a single office in Austin to include offices in San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.        

Catherine is from Laredo, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University. In her free time, Catherine likes reading and traveling to new places.

Gregory S. Chashen, PE, CPC
Martines Palmeiro Construction

Greg is a senior project manager with with Martines Palmeiro Construction, a full service general contractor and construction management firm founded by partners Michael Martines and Cory Palmeiro in 2008. The company operates in Colorado and Texas, with their primary product type in Central Texas being large, multi-family projects. Greg is responsible for managing projects as well as overall marketing and business development in the Texas division.

Greg grew up in California and moved to Austin three years ago to start a family after falling in love with a Texan. He graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a degree in architectural engineering but has been in development and construction for most of his career. Greg is an avid wakeboarder, wake surfer, snowboarder, and do-it-yourselfer. He also loves building and growing things.

New Members

Joanna Butera
DPR Construction

Amber Fowler
GSC Architects

Charles Meyer
HA Architecture

Catherine Saunders
TBG Partners