Paige Arnof-Fenn is the Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls. Mavens & Moguls’ mission is to bring world-class marketing talent and expertise to organizations that want to make a difference in the world regardless of size or budget. They believe every organization deserves the right words and pictures to tell their story in compelling ways. Although they work across various categories from startups to Fortune 500 companies, primarily they serve venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and business executives who seek expert marketing advice and innovative ideas without the overhead of a full-time marketing staff.
In an exclusive conversation with Aspioneer, Paige Arnof-Fenn shared insights into her career journey, discussing the mistakes she made while building her business and explains why self-care should be a priority. She explores the idea of relying on empathy and using your competitiveness to tackle the toughest business challenges like COVID-19. Read on for Paige’s advice around differentiating yourself to remain relevant in your marketplace.
An idea I am sharing with my community is to look at all the groups we are a part of and suggest we start our own stimulus packages by agreeing to support/buy from each other directly and refer business proactively to each other.
Aspioneer (A): Please share with us a little bit about your past. How did your formative years prepare you for the position you are at today?
Paige Arnof-Fenn (P): I started Mavens & Moguls global branding and marketing firm 19 years ago in Cambridge, MA. We are a virtual organization with experts in 14 cites across the US and major metro areas overseas.I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When I was a student, I looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. I started my career on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at three different startups as the head of marketing. I became an entrepreneur and took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. It has been a journey to get here. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote two case studies on my business a few years after I started it, we were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before my company it was only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance). I love the autonomy, flexibility, and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business.
A: Starting a business from scratch is no easy task. What were some of the challenges you faced in the beginning? How did you overcome them?
P: My biggest mistake early on was that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. As soon as I let them go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure! Also, I had to take very good care of myself or I would not have been helpful to anyone else. I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over scheduling myself. And guess what? My business did not suffer- it has become stronger. We moved up the food chain and have better clients. Since starting my business, I have joined boards and volunteered at several organizations. I am a mentor to the next generation of leaders and have helped build a very successful anti-bullying program that more than 100,000-middle school-aged kids have gone through. As a marketing consultant, I write articles, contribute to books, and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.
A: Not only the pandemic has decimated organizations around the world it has greatly affected the mood of leaders and employees. How has your company been coping in these trying times?
P: We are a network of seasoned marketing experts each with decades of experience who have survived business cycles, the Great Recession and more. 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 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. An idea I am sharing with my community is to look at all the groups we are a part of and suggest we start our own stimulus packages by agreeing to support/buy from each other directly and refer business proactively to each other. Cross-promote the products and services in newsletters, follow/like/retweet on social media, and vice versa. Help your neighbors and network thrive and we will all get through this together stronger. Apart from this, 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. Moving forward, 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. One goal in these uncertain times with so many problems to be addressed is to find new ways to bring creativity into my life. I think as we age it is important not to become a creature of habit and to keep your synapses firing and antenna up to be exposed to new and fresh ideas, products, ways of thinking, people, and experiences. It is so easy to get busy and let inertia kick in so I want to make staying creative a conscious choice.
Leadership today is about staying agile. Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring on board people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision.
A: Let’s move on to lighter but still a significant topic. Leadership is a continuously evolving process. No matter how long one has been working, there is always something new to learn. What are the leadership principles that you have discovered over the years that have contributed to your success?
P: I started my company to work with people I respect and admire for people I want to help succeed. For my team I know when the creative juices start drying up or people start to feel tired or unmotivated it is time to shake things up. A mentor once told me and I have come to appreciate and realize is that to stay sane and be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! I have specifically encouraged my team to: Give yourself permission to say no, disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships, take breaks with exercise, and practice gratitude. These ideas do not require big budgets but they are productive ways to get through this together. To succeed as an entrepreneur I think being a good communicator is important. Communication goes both ways so learn to talk and listen for best results. Apart from this, a strong moral compass, smarts, and as a bonus, a great sense of humor is the cherry on top.
A: In a previous question you told us about a leadership principle you learned from a former mentor of yours. Is there any advice you wish to share with women aiming for leadership positions?
P: Leadership today is about staying agile. Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring on board people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision. Learn to delegate and empower people to take more initiative so they can rise to the occasion. Providing the team with autonomy and the opportunity to collaborate on tactics generates creative solutions. The world has been forced to pause and hit the reset button while the pace of life and business has slowed. We have all been given the space to reflect on how we both live and work so it is a great time to apply the project management principles of Agile to all parts of our lives focusing on iterative incremental changes, open communication, and feedback, staying flexible, sharing learnings across our networks, and recognizing that small wins are still ‘wins’.