Path to Principal for Non-Technical Professionals

Path to Principal for Non-Technical Professionals

What did you want to be when you grew up? If you are like most of us, you didn’t grow up wanting to be an A/E/C marketer or business developer. And you’re in the minority if you dreamed of one day owning a professional services firm.

A/E/C firm principals have traditionally been technical staff who have been promoted to management and leadership positions. (For purposes of this article, technical staff refers to architects, engineers, or construction managers; and principal refers to an executive leader with ownership in the firm). It is rare for a non-technical person to be invited into ownership. Though some firms have become more progressive by inviting marketing, HR and finance professionals into the C-suite and ownership, the percentage is still small. SMPS members represent about 4,000 companies in the A/E/C industries, only 7.5% have non-technical principals.

Our goal is to show marketing and business development professionals in our industry that this path exists, that we can pursue executive leadership and ownership in our firms, and that we are well-suited for these roles. We want to help more people get on the path to principal, become firm leaders, and transform business through marketing leadership.

To further this goal, we interviewed 14 non-technical principals from around the country to learn about their journeys, inspiration, what they’ve learned along the way, and advice to help others get started. The path to principal varied greatly among those interviewed. Like you, our esteemed panel of principals’ childhood dreams were to be artists, basketball players, ad agency execs, attorneys, teachers or just be in charge, but no mention of professional services executive.

We’ve selected a few common themes from our interviews to share that help shed some light on being a principal, but first, learn about our own journeys.


To read more, download the full article.


Article, written by Leah Boltz, FSMPS, CPSM, and Adam Kilbourne, FSMPS, CPSM, first appeared in the May/June issue of Marketer.


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