This month we sat down with Daryl Bray, COO and Principal at SGA, to talk professional development, business development & marketing, excellence, and travel.
Tell us about the professional development program at SGA and why you feel so strongly about it.
I’m a product of the professional development opportunities made available to me at SGA. When I joined the firm 21 years ago, I was unlicensed and unguided in my career. One of the principals at that time was very persistent in his encouragement for me to get my license, but ultimately it took a client expressing his expectation that anyone who worked on his projects needed to be licensed. That was a wake-up call for me, and it set me on a path to want to grow professionally. After I got licensed, I was motivated to take what I’d learned through my own experience and work alongside the principals to establish policies and goals related to professional development.
At SGA, we believe in the strength of our team, and providing our employees with the tools they need to succeed. Our firm covers expenses related to professional memberships, dues, and registration exams, and we regularly host valuable education sessions to ensure our staff is continually learning. SGA’s award-winning emerging professionals programs have been recognized numerous times by AIA and NCARB. Our firm is a strong supporter of AIA, and we encourage our employees to get involved and make a difference in our profession. Specifically, our support for those pursuing an architectural license or interior design registration has proven to be a strategic advantage for our growth by emphasizing the value to the individual, the community, and our clients. Over the past twenty-one years at SGA, it’s been amazing to witness the growth and success of so many people who have taken advantage of what our firm has to offer.
Coming from an architecture background, how did you get into Business Development & Marketing?
Even while in college, I kind of thought I’d end up more on the business side of the profession. During a particularly difficult semester, I briefly thought about changing my degree from architecture to advertising. I took some advertising classes and learned some basic graphic design skills, but ultimately I stuck with architecture since I’d wanted to be an architect from a very early age. I have great admiration for design architects, but my strengths lie elsewhere. As architects go, I’m a decent writer and have a peculiar affinity for contracts. About 3-1/2 years ago, we shifted some responsibilities amongst the principals, and I was asked to take over business development & marketing. I had been a part of our marketing executive committee for a number of years, helping develop messaging, meeting with prospective clients, and preparing proposals – so it was a natural next step and one which I embraced enthusiastically. I’ve learned so much over the past few years about things that I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to; things like CRM (Customer Relationship Management), SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and hit rates. I remember a time at our firm when marketing was misunderstood, if not dismissed, as a necessary ingredient to success, and the term business development was not even used. Over the past 3+ years, I’ve picked up a little knowledge along the way and have had an enormous amount of help from colleagues and peers. What has mattered most, however, is the deep support from our firm leadership to try new things and do things differently.
What does excellence mean and why is it important?
I believe excellence is a mindset, and that the outcome of an effort is inseparable from the attitude one has when approaching the task at hand. As Hunter S. Thompson said, “anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” My parents definitely encouraged me to always do my best at whatever it was I had committed to do. Of course, doing “my best” does NOT guarantee that whatever I do is going to be “the best.” Striving for excellence is not easy. It takes a lot of energy, focus, and failure. That last part has been the hardest lesson to learn. Architects are trained to think big and pay attention to the smallest detail. Sweating the small stuff is part of the game, at least if you’re in it to win.
Tell us about the most interesting trip you’ve taken?
I love to travel. For me, a big part of what I enjoy about travel is planning the trip. Filtering through the endless options of when to go, where to stay, and what to do is exciting. Andrew (my better half) and I were lucky enough to be able to visit Greece about 10 years ago. We visited the ancient ruins in Athens that I’d studied in architecture school and spent some time on Santorini (thought by many to be the lost island of Atlantis made famous by Plato). My love of visiting other countries began when I spent a semester in college studying abroad. My first time on foreign soil was when we landed in Helsinki. I’ll never forget that first night, walking around the port, when we spotted a sign that said “Tex-Mex.” Hailing from Texas, I naturally had to investigate. What we found was a street food vendor selling hot dogs. No salsa, no enchiladas, no queso. HOT DOGS! Something had clearly been lost in translation. Over the next 3 months, our class visited 12 different countries in Scandinavia and Western Europe. That semester was life-changing for me. It opened my eyes to different cultures, different values, and different thinking.
Have you always been a dog lover? Tell us about your favorite pets.
There are cat people and there are dog people, and I am decidedly a dog person. I’ve been lucky to have dogs as pets for most of my life. As a kid, I was a big fan of Charlie Brown and my favorite character was Snoopy. I loved Snoopy so much that when our beagle had her first litter, I named one of the puppies Snoopy. We have two dogs now, both American “brown dogs.” Poet is a 20 lb., 10-year old who revels in announcing his presence each time he goes outside. Addie is a 60 lb., 5-year old who CAN DO NO WRONG. She may be my favorite, but don’t tell Poet. Having dogs around brings me a lot of joy, and I wouldn’t want to imagine a life without them.