“Try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You’ll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. I also always have a pad, pen, trade journals and articles with me so if my meeting is running late and I have some time to kill before they show up I can get caught up on the latest happenings or write a blog post or article while I am waiting. Time management is key to success and you have to take good care of yourself so you can be at your best for your customers and team too.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn, Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
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 3 different startups as the head of marketing. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides me a platform to do work I truly enjoy with and for people I respect. I get to set my priorities, I have time to travel and hang out with my inner circle, and work out every day. It has been a journey to get here but I am lucky to have found it. I love the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that I know every day the impact that I have on my business. When I worked at big companies I always felt the ball would roll with or without me, that if I got hit by a bus someone new would be in my office right away. Now my DNA is in everything we do and I can trace every decision and sale to something I did or a decision I made and that is incredibly gratifying and fulfilling. Like most entrepreneurs, I am working harder and longer than ever and I have never been happier. Working for yourself and building a business you started in incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am the accidental entrepreneur. I knew I had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 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 really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In the first few years of my business I had pitched a CEO about a month before I ran into her at a networking event where she was the keynote speaker and her topic was about being a woman leader in a traditionally male-dominated business. I had followed up after sending my proposal several times via e-mail and voice mail but the CEO never returned any of my messages or even acknowledged receipt of the proposal requested. You can imagine my shock when she announced at this event as part of her speech that she believes it is important to put your money where your mouth is and for women CEOs to support other respected & well-run women’s businesses and that is why she has hired my firm to handle all her company’s marketing & PR! Everyone congratulated me after, it was a better endorsement than the New York Times because she was very well known and had the reputation of being very tough with high standards so I got a LOT of business from people in the room that night because they thought if I was able to impress her I must be very good ;-)
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
It can be hard to laugh at mistakes but looking back I remember one week early on when I had 3 or 4 talks lined up over a couple of day period so I went from one evening event to a breakfast the next morning to a lunch and evening talk the following day. I enjoy public speaking and get a lot of referrals and business that way. The morning after my final speech I showed up at a meeting with a prospective client along with a ew of my colleagues and I realized I was completely out of business cards. I was so embarrassed and my team laughed at me since I always remind them it is important to be professional and prepared all the time. I ended up sending a hand written thank you note to the prospect with my card enclosed and we won the business so I turned my mistake into a good outcome plus I have never run out of business cards again!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a branding and marketing company, it is important to have a great name and I think our name helps us stand out. When I started the firm I jokingly referred to the women as the Marketing Mavens & the guys as the Marketing Moguls & for short I called them Mavens & Moguls as a working name but never expected it would stick. I did research over e-mail with prospective clients, referrers, media, etc & tested ~100 names. Mavens & Moguls was one choice on the list & to my great delight & surprise it came out as a clear winner. It has helped us be memorable and stand out from the pack. Because I have a hyphenated last name half the battle is for clients to be able to find you when they need your help. I have had clients tell me they could not remember anything other than my first name & one word of my company so they googled Paige & Mavens and we popped right up. I was at an event one day and a venture capitalist started waving in my direction and shouted “hi Maven!” across the crowd, everyone looked my way and we ended up getting introduced to a portfolio company that hired us! Names contribute to your brand and in our case I think it has been a major plus. Maven is Yiddish for expert and a Mogul is someone of rank, power or distinction in a specified area. I like the alliteration and I think it sets us apart from other consulting firms. It shows a little personality & attitude and implies we do not take ourselves too seriously. Would you rather hire “Strategic Marketing Solutions” or Mavens & Moguls? We are the “not your father’s Oldsmobile” of marketing firms. If nothing else our name is a great conversation starter and getting into a conversation is all it takes to open a door.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I think every project is exciting! That is the beauty of running your own business, if you are not genuinely excited by the work then you can pass on it. I only take on work that I find interesting and worthwhile. We are doing market research for a university, design work for a non profit, public relations for a first-time author who made the best seller list this week and branding & positioning for an early stage startup just to name a few. Finding the right words and pictures to tell great stories that attract more customers to our clients’ products and services is incredibly fulfilling.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. Instead of meeting up with your local colleagues at a coffee shop, over a meal or chatting with them on the phone, meet them for a walk so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too. You’ll feel great after, the time will fly & it will be a fun activity to share. It works with customers too, I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range instead of the office to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. I also always have a pad, pen, trade journals and articles with me so if my meeting is running late and I have some time to kill before they show up I can get caught up on the latest happenings or write a blog post or article while I am waiting. Time management is key to success and you have to take good care of yourself so you can be at your best for your customers and team too.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
I think clear communication is the key to successfully managing teams. When in doubt, over communicate but boil it down to just a few key messages. Create a mantra, catchy phrase or 3 bullet points. People have a lot going on so do not hesitate to tell them, send an e-mail, reinforce it in face to face meetings, put reminders on conference room walls, sticky notes on computers, etc. Make it simple, they cannot do everything so just stick to the most important priorities.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I have been so fortunate to have great mentors, champions and role models throughout my career including former bosses, my father, senior women in organizations where I worked but the person who has always encouraged and supported me as an entrepreneur and has my back every day is my husband. He started a company too so understands the journey of an entrepreneur and has been my sanity check and thinking partner every step of the way. He is both a cheerleader and butt kicker depending on the situation and I trust his judgment and advice because I know he always has my best interests in mind. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I sit on a number of non profit boards and one I used to chair started an anti bullying program that has been rolled out to >65k school aged kids. I love getting involved in local organizations to help strengthen the community and feel it is a great use of my professional skills and network.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
I had leadership positions in large Fortune 500 companies as well as early stage startups. Managing a team requires patience, vision and good organization skills but becoming an effective leader takes time and experience. Here are my top lessons learned:
* Optics matter — you better walk the talk because all eyes are on you so your team is not just listening to what you say but also watching what you do and how you respond/react
* Culture counts — as the leader you have to set the tone for your group, do meetings always start on time? Do people e-mail/text or talk to others in the office? Do you walk around and address everyone by name?
* Fail fast — you learn more from the failures than the successes so make sure you conduct post mortems when things go wrong and celebrate the key learnings so you never make that mistake again, how you handle bad news sends a very strong signal to the team, taking smart risks leads to success over time
* Fire fast too — when someone is not a good fit it is best to move on sooner vs. later so they do not drag down the team, keep the bar high so the A players stay engaged
* Get great advice — you do not have to know everything but you do need to know who and when to ask for help, whether it is your board, a coach, or outside expert get the best people on your team and leverage their knowledge and expertise
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Wow that is a tall order. I grew up in the Deep South where manners matter and people are raised to show respect. I would love to start a movement of kindness where everyone takes the high road, is a giver not a taker, gives people the benefit of the doubt, and realizes that life is not a zero sum game. If we all focused on figuring out ways to bake new pies and not just divide the ones we have we’d all be a lot better off. Just be kind.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite quote is “people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” it has been attributed to many people including Teddy Roosevelt. I like it and find it inspiring because it is a simple reminder to listen more than talk, show empathy and try to look at the situation from another perspective. The goal is not to wear them down or impress them with your smarts. The goal is to connect, communicate clearly, solve the problem and move on.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
My LinkedIn profile is: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn
Thank you so much for these inspiring insights! Thank you!