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Presidential Thoughts: Paving the Way for Change

September 22, 2014

Benjamin Sawa is the Corporate Development Manager at GEI Consultants and President of SMPS Boston. This is his first Presidential Thoughts column of the year.

As I thought about what I would write to all of you in my first letter as President of SMPS Boston this year, many ideas came to mind. I thought I might wax poetic about how grateful I am to be able to help lead such a great organization of people (which is true); I considered promoting the programs we have lined up for the upcoming year by expressing my excitement (which is also true); and I nearly opted to hail the great history of excellence in our Chapter (which is most certainly true).

But I quickly realized that above all, there was one experience that I knew I had to share with all of you, because it perfectly encapsulated what this chapter is all about: an organization of individuals with a shared purpose to advance not only the roles we play in our firms, but to advance the profession as a whole.  

The 2014-2015 SMPS Boston Board of Directors held its final strategic planning meeting last month, which served as the culmination of all of our collective efforts during the summer to set the direction for the chapter in the coming year. But this was not one of our typical planning meetings. Each BOD member presented their strategic plan to a group of 10 past presidents, who led the chapter in every decade since the inception of the organization back in the 1980s.

What I took away from our discussion with this group, more than anything else, is the tremendous impact that even just a few dedicated, passionate people can have on an entire industry. Lois Boemer (chapter president in the 80s) discussed the fact that marketing wasn’t even a function in our industry four decades ago. It was considered counter to conventional wisdom to suggest that principals of AEC firms needed help to create their brand or articulate a value proposition. But intuitively, these future marketers and leaders of our industry knew that the times were changing. Competition and fee pressures were increasing, and firm leaders needed help to differentiate their firms. The role of the AEC marketer was born, and here we are 40 years later!

As we think about our roles in marketing and business development, we should not only remember and recognize the leaders that helped pave the way before us – but we should think about what our impact will be. How can we each play our part in changing the landscape of marketing and business development in the AEC industry? That’s our big question for 2014-2015, and I’m excited to get started!

Questions or suggestions for Ben? He can be reached at For more from Ben, check out his Career Ideas series for Outlook!

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