Below is our recent interview with Paige Arnof-Fenn, the Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls:
Q: What is the impact of current situation on business?
A: I started a global branding and marketing firm 19 years ago in Cambridge, MA. I am very concerned about the spread of this virus and the short and long term impact it will have on the economy. We have had a few delayed projects but no client has been lost yet but projects have slowed, everyone is still on board knock wood. For professional service firms like mine we will recover even if our revenues slow from the crisis.
The biggest change for me, my team and my clients from the virus so far is the shutdown of all networking events, travel and conferences. Spring is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. and for the past few months everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the prior 12 months! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. So first and foremost I have learned to help small businesses to be flexible and open minded so we can keep working together during the crisis and create more flexible capacity going forward over the next year as the economy reopens.
If small groups on the team want to talk through specific issues (managing anxiety, kids, parents, etc.) virtual coffee meetings online have been helpful too. A few colleagues have even met online after work for virtual happy hour/beer/cocktails as well when they had more time to chat. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain my relationships. We have learned that finding routines and things we can control helps I think.
Q: How do you see exiting from this current situation?
A: I do not think the government bailout will fix this crisis so an idea I am sharing with my community is to look at all the groups we are a part of (industry, trade, neighborhood, alumni, women, hobby, religious, non profit, etc.) and suggest we start our own stimulus packages by agreeing to support/buy from each other directly and refer business proactively to each other too. Cross promote the products and services in newsletters, follow/like/retweet on social media and vice versa. Whether you need to buy food, a book or a gift, office supplies/equipment, update your website, or create a video there is probably someone in your network who is more than happy to get the business right now. You can always buy gift certificates from them too which is thoughtful and very much appreciated in times like these. I bought a few from my favorite local restaurants in fact. The corner store would probably even carry out your bag to your car if you called them and said you needed some cereal, milk, candy and lottery tickets if you asked. Help your neighbors and network thrive and we will all get through this together stronger.
Q: Did you change anything in your business operations?
A: As a small business we are always pivoting to respond to market changes but communication is key to all of our community, customer and employee engagement. This is a great time to build your brand through online marketing and social media. Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but we have learned you do not have to let it run your life! My advice is to pick a few things you enjoy doing and do them really well. You cannot be everywhere all the time so choose high impact activities that work for you and play to your strengths. For example, Content Marketing and Thought Leadership are great ways to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers. Activities like writing articles, hosting webinars, podcasts and building your following on social media all contribute to increasing your awareness with potential customers and building your credibility with a larger community. Instead of trying to start your own blog or newsletter, try contributing regularly to existing well trafficked blogs in your industry or newsletters of likeminded organizations reaching the same target audience as you. Make sure you put your URL or contact info on it so they can find you and follow up. When your articles become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts. Don¹t let social media drive you crazy, you do not need to be everywhere, it does not matter which platform you choose just pick one or 2 that are authentic to you. It should look and sound like you and the brand you have built.
Whether yours is polished or more informal, chatty or academic, humorous or snarky, it is a way for your personality to come through. Everyone is not going to like you or hire you but for the ones who would be a great fit for you make sure they feel and keep a connection and give them a reason to remember you so that when they need your help they think of you first. Start small and build as you go. For me I started with small publications then moved up the food chain to reach bigger audiences.
People need to be on LinkedIn so that they can be found too. It adds credibility and transparency when you know the people you are meeting or working with know people in common. LinkedIn has become more than an online resume or rolodex, it is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. You do not need to blog or be on all social media platforms but make sure you are active on the ones where you are. If your customers do not use Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find you then you do not need to make them a priority. For many professional service businesses like mine, LinkedIn matters the most.
Q: What can we expect from you in next 12 months?
A: I predict the most trusted leaders and brands will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-Corona world.
Employees, customers and clients will remember who treated them well during the crisis and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times. The current crisis has provided a stage for our political and business leaders to rise to the occasion. We have learned that it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more for a while. Online meetings, webinars, social media, etc. are a smart and productive way companies like ours can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. Once we lay this groundwork it all will be in place to continue moving forward as the economy reopens and some businesses come back quicker than others. Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that we have always needed each other and we have learned that everyone is struggling right now to find a new normal so the key is to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. With Zoom, social media, cell phones, etc. we see that technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real world communities and relationships too!
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Q: What’s the best thing about your company culture that people might not know about?
A: Collaboration is key to our culture of engaging our team and ultimately our success. I try to set the tone upfront with one rule, when in doubt over-communicate. Especially at the beginning of the project do not make assumptions of what people from different groups want or know, just ask or send an e-mail. It will save you a lot of time, money and frustration down the road. Trust me. This comes from experience. Be a good listener and make sure you hear the others, their hopes, frustrations and intentions. If the lines of communication are open and everyone makes an effort to listen and be heard then collaboration will happen naturally and the information will flow. I think it is a mistake to hide behind technology and CRM systems when it comes to team building. My advice is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships when not social distancing. Meeting for coffee or lunch even virtually can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. I have found that building relationships is what drives my business and technology supports them once they are solidified. Technology helps advance the conversation but it will never replace the human interaction that builds trust over time.
Before the virus hit I planned lunch meetings ~3 days a week and invited team mates with clients and prospects to events I thought they might enjoy attending to spend time together. The team is both witty and clever, so we laugh a lot and do not take ourselves too seriously. A good sense of humor goes a long way. We have a no jerks policy, so everyone is pretty low maintenance and kind which makes for a great work environment.