Like many successful business owners, MaryPat Kavanagh never really planned on being an entrepreneur. Thirty years ago, she graduated from college with a communications degree then worked in a furniture business she had started with her then-husband “until I got a better job.” Her goal, she says, was to find a PR job at a not-for-profit organization, but ultimately she realized that having her own business would be more fulfilling and more lucrative.
“I ended up opening up a couple of different businesses, including a cafe,” Kavanagh says. “In 1995, I tried to introduce mochas and lattes to northern Arizona and [the business] was not well-received. It was five years before Starbucks got there.” Being ahead of the curve on trends would be a recurring theme in her career. After spending a few years wearing a variety of hats at a local radio station, she launched Strategic Results as a full-service marketing agency.
While she took whatever work came her way in her company’s early days, she says that she soon “refocused my efforts to working with business coaches and online marketing experts, helping them increase their visibility and manage their brand message.” A few years later, she launched her first course on how to use social media to build a business and a brand. “I think my first class was teaching people how to use Myspace,” she recalls.
“I’ve been an early adopter on a lot of things in my life, and social media was one of them,” says Kavanagh. As the social media industry expanded, it attracted more and more people who felt compelled to participate but didn’t quite know how best to leverage their time and effort. Kavanagh found her niche in teaching business owners how to build relationships online by being genuine, authentic, and transparent. Then, in 2013, she shifted her focus back to more traditional marketing and began working with service-based professionals such as attorneys, health practitioners, and technology-based businesses. The commonality among her clients, she says, is that they are “introverted people who struggle with some of the face-to-face interactions that are required in business communications. I help them build systems and processes and get really clear on messaging.”
Kavanagh says her Forbes Council membership also provides important “social proof” for potential clients. “That’s where I see Forbes Communications Council being crucial,” she says. “When I’m networking and people go check me out and they see that I’ve got these credentials — that reinforces the good feeling they had when they met me.”
Last year, Kavanagh expanded Strategic Results’ offerings to include digital transformation. “For a number of our clients right now, we’re building staff portals and intranets where they host all of their systems and processes,” she says. “Many of my clients lack the desire to become tech-savvy. They’re sitting in that age bracket — 45 to 65 — where you have either really tried to embrace technology or have really tried to stay away and hope it wouldn’t speed up. But it has. So my market is really more defined by psychographics.”
As an advocate for cloud-based, digital, and virtual business, Kavanagh decided to practice what she preached: she packed up herself and her youngest daughter — she’s a single mom of four girls — and moved to Ireland in February of 2019. “It was a lot about expanding my horizons, experiencing more culture and exposing myself and my children to things that we haven’t been fully exposed to. And I’m teaching businesses to go cloud-based to do digital transformation, so now I’m able to say ‘look, I’ve done it and it can work and it doesn’t matter where you are. You still have to have some face-to-face with people, but there’s a whole bunch of your business that you can digitize so that you can be more focused and efficient with the time that you spend in your business.”
Another important part of her identity: being a member of Forbes Councils. “For me there was something really empowering about being able to call myself a member of the Forbes Communications Council,” she says. “The people who are active on the online forum are having conversations that are just really powerful.” Some of those conversations inspired her to further her education with a leadership course at Cambridge University. She says her Forbes Council membership also provides important “social proof” for potential clients. “That’s where I see Forbes Communications Council being crucial,” she says. “When I’m networking and people go check me out and they see that I’ve got these credentials — that reinforces the good feeling they had when they met me.”