Welcome to our exclusive Q&A session with Margaret Kinsey, a prominent figure in the world of architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC). As the Director of Design and Pursuits at Small Giants, Margaret is a seasoned professional who brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. With a background in marketing at an architecture firm, she possesses a deep understanding of AEC design and construction processes, particularly in Alternative Project Delivery Methods. Her unique skill set allows her to provide invaluable support to Small Giants’ clients by orchestrating the creative and strategic execution of their pursuits.

Margaret’s approach to client pursuits goes beyond the conventional. She takes a holistic view of her clients’ goals, finding innovative ways to promote their pursuit messaging through various marketing channels. Her diverse background, including experiences in different states, brings a fresh perspective to her work. Margaret’s journey from her hometown in Chicago to living in California, Colorado, Alaska, and Arizona has given her a unique vantage point on the AEC industry.

In this insightful Q&A session, Margaret will delve into industry trends in the construction sector in Arizona, offering her expert insights on the state’s market health and the key factors that contribute to a successful pursuit. Get ready to gain valuable knowledge and insights from Margaret Kinsey as she shares her expertise and experiences in the dynamic world of AEC.

Interview with Margaret Kinsey

Q: The first question is specifically about pursuits. So, you’re known in the industry as a proposal expert. How do you discern the different priorities and nuances in both private and public pursuits?

A: Anytime you’re dealing with a public pursuit, it is very much about compliance and ensuring that you are answering the questions, you know, to a T. Public solicitations have a responsibility to the taxpayers to have that equal and fair procurement process. So, it is crucial to maintain that trust and follow the rules. This includes upholding the “cone of silence” that occurs once the solicitation is released, which means you can no longer reach out to the city or municipality to ask questions about this project. The “cone of silence” ensures the procurement process is fair and equal for all contractors. In addition, for public pursuit, all your pre-sale efforts must be done ahead of time. Doing so is a key aspect because it respects the existing guidelines that municipalities have in place and ensures that your team follows that compliance.

As for private pursuits, the process is much more open, and contractors have the ability to maintain that communication with the owners. You can ask questions while you’re putting that solicitation together. The team also has the opportunity to stretch the boundaries of what they might present. You know, just because the owner asked for the fees and resumes, nothing stops you from going the extra mile because you do not have to conform to the compliance regulations you would in a public solicitation. Depending on the client, you can go above and beyond and be really creative.

Q: Great. The next question is: AZBEX’s August DATABEX snapshot showed $212 billion in construction activity across 3,075 Arizona projects. There are currently over 2,200 contracts available. With this amount of capital investment, how do you see this impacting contractors in the Southwest for 2024?

A: My understanding is that Arizona has much healthier construction activity compared to other areas throughout the country, which is good news for our local businesses. However, the healthy construction market is also attracting more competition as contractors from different parts of the country consider Arizona a prime ground to spread their seed. So, it will increase competition and require companies to level up their quality of work, not just on the procurement side but in how contractors do business as well. This includes the way they maintain relationships and the way they do business development. As successful contractors enter the Arizona market from places like Chicago, Texas, and Utah, our current local contractors will also need to step up their game. 

In addition, with Arizona being such a growing area, as we think about all of this new development and growth, we need to think deeply about what we are building and why. Are we building it with discernment, or are we just building it to make a bunch of money without regard to how these impacts existing or future communities? I think that’s something that’s really important. The leaders of Arizona need to have a greater sense of what boundaries and parameters our state is putting into place. I think they need to deeply consider what they want to build, where, and how they want to have it built.

Q: Prop 479 will be on the ballot this year for Maricopa County voters. It was initially introduced and passed in 1985 as Prop 300, renewed in 2004 as Prop 400, and is now up for renewal for the third time. What is the significance of this proposition for Arizonans and our infrastructure?

A: Without Prop 300 and 400, there wouldn’t be Arizona, and there wouldn’t be the growth in the Valley Metro area we have seen over the last 30 years. Significant work has been done to help get us this far in the legislature, but we need the voters to go out and vote. It is important that we share our knowledge with the voters, especially those who didn’t live in Arizona five or ten years ago. It is important that they understand the highway system that we know today exists because of Prop 400. We wouldn’t have the Loop 101, the 202, or the South Mountain freeway. With those highway systems, the Valley would have the growth we have seen in recent years. The greater Phoenix Metro area would be much more akin to Tucson, where you don’t have the major freeways going through your city. Tucson is great for its own reasons, but, you know, it’s just a very different story than here in the Valley, where we deeply rely on these highway systems for our way of life. Supporting Prop 479 this November is very important for the future growth of the Greater Phoenix Metro area. 

Q: Great. Why is this proposition beneficial for the construction industry? 

A: When you think about the construction industry, the development of the Valley in Arizona, and how it compares to other major cities in Southwest, we need the proper infrastructure to compare as a national or even international player. This means having the proper funding for horizontal, highway, and road system construction and maintenance. If we don’t pass the funding for these initiatives on the Arizona side, then you don’t get the kind of matched money from the federal side. Arizona would make itself essentially ineligible for federal funds. And those funds are not used only for new construction but also for the existing maintenance of roads, which is necessary for the safety of our communities and the betterment of our cities. 

In addition, on a larger scale, without that new highway infrastructure, you have a new area for growth and development in the industrial, commercial, and residential markets. The continued growth and maintenance that will come with Prop 400 keep a major metropolitan city growing. 

Q: Moving on from Prop 479, we’ve seen you across the Valley at numerous industry events, whether you’re speaking on panels at an APWA conference or leading a proposal training for the Associated Minority Contractors of Arizona. What three proposal essentials do you talk about that set a company apart from its competitors? 

A: The main thing is pre-selling. If you haven’t done any pre-selling, you probably should consider not proposing. This could include traditional business development or brand awareness, such as updating your websites, social media, and blogs. The business development team should have a clear sell message that can be shared on a company’s communication platforms and then reiterated in the proposal. 

Then, two is lean very much on the design or visual side. You have to make it easy for the owner to digest the content through the design and navigation of your layouts. The last piece is to have very compelling, thoroughly edited content. This kind of content can be found through group discussions, compromising, and collaboration. Everyone on the team needs to speak up, and the team needs to provide a space where everyone’s voice can be heard. 

Q: Thank you. Last question: the Small Giants proposal department has drafted, designed, and produced $5.5 billion in contracts pursued since 2021. We call you the billion-dollar woman with a billion-dollar team. How do you build such a talented team and what is unique to this line of work?

A: We are lucky to have a team that compliments each other well. The Small Giants pursuits team has diverse strengths, from designers and strategists to content editors. Everyone is supportive and complements each other’s strengths well.

I think when managing a team, it is essential to help people see their strengths, build upon them, and be able to challenge them in supportive ways. In addition, I think an aspect of being a successful person working on proposals is having a certain level of curiosity and wanting to know a little bit more. A proposal is like an extensive report you’re researching, and you need to be interested in digging deeper to understand a team and its capabilities. 

I think one of the greater skill sets is the ability to translate. When you’re writing a proposal, you need to be able to translate the technical details given to you by the owner and project team into something interesting to read and look at. As the proposal writer, you must prioritize the most important information to ensure it is seen by your key audience.