Spotlight Gray

24 Aug, 2010

Industry Spotlight: Elaine Gray

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Read time: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Elaine Gray recently joined the Virginia office of HITT Contracting as Director of Business Development Base Building and Institutional. During her 23 years in the A/E/C field, she has served as Principal/Business Development, Marketing Director, and VP of Corporate Communications. Her articles have been published in the Washington Post, Washington Business Journal, and NAIOP’s Development magazine. She’s teaching a course this Fall at the University of Maryland Colvin Institute of Real Estate Development Graduate Program in Real Estate, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

spotlight-gray-150x150.pngHow were you first introduced to SMPS/what motivated you to join?
I first learned about SMPS in the early 1990s when I was a marketing director at WDG Architects (then Weihe Partnership). The market then was similar to what we’ve experienced recently – an economy in recession that greatly impacted the A/E/C industry. Intrigued by a flyer, I attended a program and was impressed by the welcoming environment, camaraderie among members, and the opportunity to learn more about other professions such as MEP, structural engineering, and construction.

How has SMPS helped you in your career?

The SMPS organization provided a platform to network with others that led to successful teaming arrangements and strategic partnerships. I still have many of those key relationships which are sources of market intel, opportunities, and friendships, too.

Helpful hints to share with your fellow SMPS members:

Thinking back over the past two decades, a few pieces of advice come to mind that helped me keep my sanity and excel in this fast-paced industry.

Embrace new technology but never become a slave to it. “Linked in,” Twitter and Facebook are all great sources for contacts and to quickly share news. I still find, however, that you also need in person meetings to help build trust and key relationships.

I’m using a couple of textbooks for the UMD course I will be teaching that are great primers for those entering business development and/or who manage client relationships:

  • 5 Steps to Professional Presence – How to Project Confidence, Competence, and Credibility at Work, by Susan Bixler and Lisa Dugan.
  • Professional Practice 101 – Business Strategies and Case Studies in Architecture, by Andrew Pressman, FAIA.

I scan several news publications daily, which include the Wall Street Journal, Washington Business Journal, the Washington Post, and several online pubs as well. These days when business, government and the world economies are intertwined you have to keep up with everything!

Whenever possible, I have accepted opportunities in public speaking. It is one of the best ways to establish your industry expertise and make connections. Along the way, I’ve received media and public speaking training. I highly recommend this training for anyone in our industry that serves on panels, interfaces with reporters, or hosts client meetings.

Tell us something we would be surprised to learn about you.

My husband is a sports addict – so by osmosis I have learned more than I ever imagined about football, baseball, hockey, and basketball stats, trades, and players. What seemed at first like useless information has actually proven valuable in breaking the ice sometimes in business settings. I’ve also come to enjoy some ESPN and sports radio shows.

What would you consider to be your greatest achievement (career or otherwise)?

During my career, I’ve focused on business development, public relations, and marketing, so I achieved success when new client relations were formed, my articles were published, or marketing materials increased brand awareness. I’m very proud of these results, but I consider my greatest achievements to have been those whom I’ve mentored and/or helped connect to a new position in our industry. I was blessed to have a number of folks share their advice and counsel over the years. To be able to pass that on – for me – has been the best accomplishment yet.

Who would you consider as influential in your career?

In the 1990s I learned the art of strategic marketing from George Dove, managing partner, WDG Architects. It was tough going in the ‘90s downturn, but from George I learned how to focus on the big picture, stay positive, and build relationships. When I served on a Board several years later, Nan Tolbert, The Communication Center, provided me a wealth of media and public speaking training. Now I am passing that wisdom on to colleagues in seminars that I’ve given on public speaking and presentation planning. Lastly, I’ve enjoyed learning more about social media from my children – who are now in their 20s and others with whom I’ve worked. What I’ve learned from them has broadened my communication skills and outreach. And, is clearly evidence that knowledge comes from all ages.

Interviewed by Justin Jacobs, William H. Gordon Associates