Spotlight on SMPS Volunteer Mel Gravely, Ph.D.

Marketers and business developers: Be the best business person in the room.

In his day-to-day role, Mel Gravely, Ph.D., leads one of the largest commercial builders in the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana tri-state region. TriVersity offers construction management, general contracting, and design-build services. He has more than 25 years of business management, sales, and strategy experience, including Fortune 500 positions with The Timken Company and IBM.

Mel also has a personal passion for supporting the growth and development of women and minorities in business. He is a founder of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking, Ltd., a think tank focused on getting the best results from minority business development initiatives. He has authored eight books, with his latest titled The Capacity to Succeed: Fulfilling the Mission of Minority Business Development.

Mel also serves as an SMPS Foundation non-member trustee. As a trustee, Mel provides an industry perspective to the SMPS Foundation’s board. As part of his role, Mel serves on the Thought Leadership Committee, which is tasked with determining what’s next for our research projects.

Even with his busy schedule, Mel took time to chat with me about his favorite parts of his job and offered up tips of the trade.

Number of years in the industry:

I entered the A/E/C industries for the second time in 2009. I had previously owned an engineering firm in the ’90s. Total years in A/E/C industries is 17.

Has SMPS helped you in your career and, if so, how?

SMPS specifically has. This group of professionals has a unique place and perspective in the A/E/C industries. Sales and marketing professionals are forced to understand the market from the customers’ perspective and are often first to spot emerging trends. Working at the board level in the community has been my number-one leadership-development activity. I have worked with various leadership styles, seen how complex ideas come to life, and come to understand how decisions are really made.

Do you have a helpful hint to share, such as a website, blog, book, etc. that helps you do your job?

I am a business-strategy geek. Two business books I enjoy revisiting are Good To Great by Jim Collins and Playing to Win by A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin. They just make me think deeper about the choices it takes to build a great business. I also enjoy reading The Wall Street Journal. No other paper covers the variety of topics of my interest.

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

I love the theater.

What did you do at work yesterday?

I led our Monthly Executive Leadership team meeting.

What are the challenges and rewards of the job?

The biggest challenge in my job is to continue to drive our organization to refine how we create value for our customers. The biggest reward is to see people develop and thrive as professionals.

What was your childhood dream job?

Race car driver. My sister would cry every time I mentioned it. She was afraid I would die in a race car crash.

How did you decide to have a career in the A/E/C industries?

I cannot say I decided on a career in the A/E/C industries or any other career. I have been moving along in my career and trying to do two things. 1. Gaining more meaningful experiences, relationships, and education. 2. Taking opportunities that seem to align with my skills and aspirations. It has not always worked, but it has always been interesting.

How would you describe your role/job?

My role is to care for and nurture our culture and drive the organization to our strategic aspirations. In my role I must work through people and connect them to the aspirations and a supportive culture. In my opinion, this is my highest and best role.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Working with the team on our strategy and engaging in our sales process when invited to do so.

What has been your most meaningful project?

Growing TriVersity over the last eight years has been the most meaningful experience of my professional life. I cannot pick one construction project over another. To me, the projects and this business are a means to express our values to the customers we serve, the people who work for TriVersity, and the communities we work so hard to support. Sounds a little corny, but I mean it and I hope we show up as a company who demonstrates our intentions.

What has contributed to your success?

I would say the number one contributor to my success has been the many  people who for some reason wanted me to win and invested in my success. That continues even today.

 What advice would you give to someone who is about to enter the marketing or business development field?

People who enter the A/E/C industries in sales and marketing roles seem to feel less important than those in operational roles. That’s crazy. My advice is to be the best business person in the firm. Know more than anyone else. Stay on top of things like trends, challenges, opportunities, and best practices. Understand the firm’s strategic direction. Know the customer, their procurement processes, how they make decisions, etc. Last but not least, understand the money. How does your firm succeed financially? Marketing and business development professionals are in the unique position to be the best business people in the room.

What have you gained from volunteering with the SMPS Foundation on a professional and/or personal level?

I had been away from the SMPS network for many years. It was good to get reconnected and to gain a different view of the SMPS mission. Most of all I was inspired by the passion of the people. It led me to volunteer to do a program locally and to more actively support TriVersity’s representative to our local SMPS chapter.

What has surprised you most about working with the SMPS Foundation?

The passion of the group. This group wants to make a difference for the SMPS Foundation and for the A/E/C industries. They think hard about making a difference and work tirelessly to achieve it.

What do you think will change about The SMPS Foundation over the next five years?

The Foundation’s mission is clearer. This clarity will continue to grow the value created by the work.


SMPS Foundation President Melissa Lutz, FSMPS, CPSM, is principal at Champlin Architecture. She can be reached at or 513.241.4474, x116.


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