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Build Business: Diversity Is Harmony: Making Music Not Noise

by Craig A. Holmes, Chair, SMPS National Diversity Committee; Charles Silver, Vice President, M. Silver & Company, Inc.; and Elizabeth Bowers, President, Elizabeth Bowers Construction Services
March 1, 2005

Editor’s note: As a new monthly contributor to, the Society for Marketing Professional Services is sponsoring Build Business. This new series, written by industry experts, focuses on marketing and business development best practices that will help you build business and advance your career.


Take a look around. Wherever you are right now you will find some examples of diversity. Look within your homes, your neighborhoods, your workplaces, and even within your client bases. Diversity is everywhere. It is what keeps life interesting and enjoyable. Diversity is recognizing our differences, not just our noticeable differences, but our difference in skills, interests, experiences, styles, way of thinking, speaking and listening, hobbies, and spiritual and religious beliefs. Diversity is a natural part of life and it appears we would rather have it than not – most of the time.


The question is: How do I make diversity work for me? For more than three years now, the SMPS Diversity Committee has been focusing on increasing awareness and understanding of diversity as well as providing educational materials and implementation strategies to a national audience of SMPS members to assist them in embracing diversity.


There can be no question that we have become a more global community. As marketers, we are constantly preaching to our firms to think outside the box. Embracing diversity is one way to seek the input of others who have different perspectives than we do. It also provides us an avenue to better understand our existing and new clients and serve them more effectively.


How does diversity impact our industry?


Appreciating diversity as a resource for problem-solving and creative thinking is only one aspect of its impact on our industry. More and more, managers who make decisions, and the employees about whom they make decisions, are changing.


The results of the 2000 U.S. Census confirm this trend. Even the census itself was revised to incorporate major demographic changes occurring in our nation! For the first time, an individual could choose more than one category to represent their ethnic background. Consequently, a clearer picture of the ethnic makeup of the country, and our workforce, is emerging.


For example, the 2000 census indicates that the Latino population increased to nearly the same level as the African-American population, or approximately 12.3%. In addition, three populations – African American, Latino, and Asian-Pacific Islanders – were growing at such a rate as to represent a majority of the population by 2050, if not sooner. The percentage of the population of women also continues to grow, while aging baby boomers push up the median age.


The changing face of the consumer and workforce has prompted some forward-thinking corporations to respond by providing diversity training. Aimed at developing the awareness and sensitivity required to manage and motivate different populations, these programs aid firms in tapping the resources of an increasingly varied workplace. Each day, more and more corporations and associations are looking at implementing similar initiatives as they recognize the value of including a diverse pool of talent at all levels of their organizations.


Not since the late 1800s have four generations – veterans, Boomers, X, and Y ­– been in the workplace at the same time. The opportunity for dissonance is great. Working in harmony means recognizing the differences, reacting to the discord, and moving forward toward harmony. These three steps will help you make sense out of the noise, avoid needless confrontation, and produce better results in a complex, stressful environment. It can also be used to improve your sales efforts with a wide range of the new buyers in the market.


How does my organization benefit from diversity?


A company whose makeup is as diverse as the market it serves will improve the rate of retention of its employees and the confidence of its clients by promoting acceptance and equal opportunity. So it is, too, with an organization like SMPS. We will grow as we mirror the diversity of the A/E/C industry.


Where do I learn more?


The SMPS Diversity Task Force (DTF) Committee web site has more information.


At the 2005 SMPS/PSMA National Conference, Build Business: Beyond Boundaries, August 10-13 in New Orleans, the SMPS Diversity National Committee will be addressing this important topic by exploring how to make harmony within an organization.


Craig A. Holmes is Corporate Director of Business Development for Engineering Consulting Services, LTD (ECS), a national engineering firm, and chairs the SMPS National Diversity Committee; he is based in Hanover, MD.


Charles Silver is Vice President of Raleigh, NC-based M. Silver & Company, Inc. and has been consulting to the design, engineering and construction industry for over 25 years.


Elizabeth Bowers heads Elizabeth Bowers Construction Services, Pittsburgh, which provides construction management, estimating, constructability review, affirmative action and arbitration services to the A/E/C industry.


The Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS) was created in 1973 by a small group of professional services firm leaders who recognized the need to sharpen skills, pool resources, and work together to create business opportunities. Today, the association has 50 active chapters and a membership of 5,500 marketing and business development professionals representing design, building, and related firms. To learn more about SMPS or Build Business, the SMPS/PSMA National Conference, click on links.













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© 2005