Preparing Marketing Leaders for a Complex Future

As we look ahead to 2024 and beyond, it’s clear the architecture, engineering, and construction (A/E/C) industries will only get more complex. With trends like supply chain issues, skilled labor shortages, evolving building technologies, increased regulations, climate change impacts, and more, the challenges firms face show no signs of waning.

In a speech by Duke University’s Women’s Basketball coach, Kara Lawson, she told her team succinctly: “Hard is not going anywhere…You’ve got to be able to handle hard better.” Her advice applies just as aptly to us as leaders in A/E/C firms. The work will only get more difficult, and successful leaders must embrace that reality to thrive.

How specifically can marketing and business development leaders “handle hard better”? The key is shifting one’s mindset to be more adaptable, emotionally intelligent, and strategic when faced with obstacles. Leaders reframe challenges as opportunities for growth rather than threats. They build resilient teams that collaborate effectively to tackle problems from multiple angles. They forge an inspiring vision to motivate their firm when things get tough.

On a tactical level, marketing and business development leaders can focus on key skills like data analysis, automation, and technical literacy to make better decisions and drive efficiency in our complex industries. They can also double down on strategic planning to anticipate paradigm shifts through scenario planning. Most importantly, they must hone the ability to communicate and connect authentically across their organizations to align and inspire in disruptive times.

The A/E/C industries won’t get any easier in 2024. Still, with a disciplined commitment to growth and resilience, marketing and business development leaders can build organizations that not only withstand turbulence but thrive because of it. As Kara Lawson would advise: “You’ve got to change your mindset… that hard means growth.”

By embracing challenge as an opportunity, we, as marketing and business development leaders, can model resilience and agility for our entire firm. We can bring people together in the tough times. And we can build capabilities that make our organizations anti-fragile – building strength through disruption.

The challenges ahead are inevitable. But great leaders don’t hope for easy – they prepare for hard. We need marketing and business development leaders ready to step up, unite their firms, and lead through complexity. With an attitude of self-improvement in hardship and a commitment to organizational growth, marketing and business developers can transform difficulty into a competitive advantage for their firms in 2024 and beyond.

The key is to “handle hard better.” It’s advice we should all take to heart in navigating the intricacies of an increasingly complex world.

Article written by SMPS President Dana Lancour, FSMPS, CPSM, who is vice president, branding + communications of Barton Malow. She can be reached at

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