Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing and branding firm that helps organizations get more clients and scale up through effective storytelling.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up, responsible and hard working. My father and both grandfathers were in business so I always thought I would go that route too. From a young age, I loved sports, movies, TV, and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and in Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years. After graduating college with a degree in Economics, I started my career in finance 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 before they went public or were sold. I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I have never looked back and loved being an entrepreneur.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
I would love to tell my younger self many things including:
Be patient — It really is a marathon, not a sprint so do not set arbitrary goals like being named 30 under 30 or 40 under 40 because it may take you longer than Mark Zuckerberg to hit your stride and that’s ok. Most people take many detours on their career path before finding their true calling. Don’t be disappointed if you get to 40 and are still exploring because the journey really is a great adventure so enjoy it!
Fail fast — Don’t be scared to fail, just learn from every bump in the road so you make better mistakes next time, that is where you learn the most! You learn to do by doing. Course correct and pivot along the way, it makes for a fun career path.
Keep learning — Finishing school is not the end of your education, you will be a student for the rest of your life so never stop learning new things. Your education is just starting to get really interesting and the grades don’t matter anymore. Be a sponge for knowledge & enjoy the learning process.
Success is personal and your definition will change over time. That is normal and shows maturity, find what matters to you, and don’t worry about anyone else.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Especially for new business owners and entrepreneurs, I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers. Getting your URL and a website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online, and made downloadable materials as leave-behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly. I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a website to be taken seriously but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle. Find those reference customers quickly, use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up!
I also think “there is no such thing as bad PR” is bad advice because there are a lot of ways you can dilute or damage your brand equity. Stay on message and on strategy for best results. It can take a lot of time, effort, and money to try to course-correct after the fact but once things are released/posted online social media can take on a life of its own and the information can live on the web forever.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
For the first 5 years after I started my business I was scared to go on vacation for fear all my hard work would unravel. Then my in-laws, father, mom, and stepdad all started to get sick and I wanted to be there for them. They all lived thousands of miles away so I started to work less. After years of decline, they each died about 8 months apart (7 people in 6 years) and I became executrix which is like having another job at times. So I had to take very good care of myself or I would not have been helpful to anyone else. I started working out every day. I started planning my time on my calendar. I became more comfortable with white space in my day and stopped over-scheduling myself. And guess what? My business did not suffer, in fact, it has become stronger. We moved up the food chain and have better clients. I do not think I could ever go back. I am so much happier and more productive as an entrepreneur than I ever was working for others. It is all about controlling your calendar. As an entrepreneur, I can be selective. Less really is more. I’ve chosen quality over quantity. It sounds trivial but it is true. I created a platform to do work I enjoy and feel energized by. I feel I have found my purpose because I used to work all the time and life was passing me by. I got raises and promotions but I was all work and no play and I did not feel fulfilled. 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 >100,000 middle school-aged kids have gone through. As a marketing consultant, I am able to write articles, contribute to books and speak at events to share my experience and lessons learned.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
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.
It really started with my parents who always supported me to challenge the status quo and question authority when I had done my homework and could make a strong case which is also great training to becoming an entrepreneur. They were also very proud of me and encouraging when my high school guidance counselor told me I needed more backup schools because I was shooting too high for college and I went ahead and applied to my top choices anyway. My mother reminded that man every time she saw him how much I loved going to college at Stanford and getting my MBA at Harvard Business School so I come by my renegade tendencies naturally I guess. My parents seemed to get me when I tried to bend, break or change the rules if I had a solid argument so I learned early on to not stop just because someone says no. That is such an important part of being an entrepreneur and has served me and. my business very well.
What is your morning routine?
I do not set an alarm but usually get up ~7 am now. Pre Covid’s first thing I did when I woke up was turn on NPR so I could catch up on the news while I showered, dressed, and got ready for my day. Then I checked e-mail, made notes while my mind is fresh, reviewed my to-do list and calendar, woke my husband, ate breakfast, and got going. My routine has changed since the pandemic began. I am sleeping more (10+ vs 5 hours per night) so am starting my day much later than before. After a morning workout, showering, and eating breakfast I am at my desk non-stop most of the day now. I have always been a morning person so once I start my day it flies until lunch. I always eat breakfast and like to work out in the mornings to get my day off to a strong start. I feel I have more energy all day when my heart and brain kick right in! It all starts with a great night’s sleep though! Nothing beats a great night’s sleep to be an effective CEO, it works for me.
The importance of morning is that it sets the tone for the rest of your day, when it starts strong you build momentum. Do hard tasks first to get them out of the way, delegate what you can, and only touch each e-mail once for best results. Don’t let others distract you or hijack your schedule.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Now that I am not traveling and running to meetings and events anymore I think I am more productive and efficient now than I was before the pandemic, a silver lining in the crisis! By being organized and setting my schedule in advance I find I am actually sleeping more, eating healthier, and getting more done in fewer hours now.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
As a small business owner, you are always on and with social media/technology going 24/7 it can be tough at times to stay energized/focused especially now with everyone remote. A mentor once told me that to be successful “me time” is not a luxury/pampering, it is maintenance! Respecting my time on the calendar/taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients. It is the least I can do for self-care because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either so I manage productivity and encourage my team to:
Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, delegating more work, or just turning off your phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting yourself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts you can give yourself. It is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more.
Disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face-to-face relationships (when not social distancing). Even meeting for virtual coffee or drinks can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges, social media posts, etc. I have found that building relationships are 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.
I am measuring productivity by what we get done, it is based on accomplishments, not activity. Our job is to get through this period together intact, that will make us all feel we have been productive.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
I read a lot for professional development and usually prefer books by practitioners because they are more relevant and have current examples from pop culture vs. theories based on research. I also like the classics that have advice that has withstood the test of time and in this case, the best book I can recommend is How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie — it is evergreen with insights on manners and people/human nature. In my experience, you can learn a lot from books which offer practical advice whether you are someone just starting a career in sales as well as anyone managing and leading a sales team. It was published almost 100 years ago and the advice has held up so you cannot go wrong with this one.
Getting To Yes by Roger Fisher et al. — I took his negotiations class in business school and this reminds me of what he taught us, we are constantly negotiating in business and to get respect you have to always keep in mind what your best alternatives are and be ready to walk away.
I also love books by and about strong women. Two of my favorites are:
Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a national treasure, every woman in this country owes her a huge thank you, her smarts, persistence, and tenacity are inspiring she never stopped fighting for truth and justice for all.
I could not put it down it inspired me and fueled my interest in business in college, such a strong protagonist I could relate to.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
One of my favorite quotes 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 helpful because it is a simple reminder even (maybe especially) online 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.
I keep a running list of inspiring quotes on my desktop here are a few others that remind me of life’s beauty:
“The most beautiful people are those who have known defeat, known to suffer, known struggle and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Such an important insight after the past 20 months, we can appreciate the beauty in people we barely noticed before.
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” – T. D. Jakes.
Another one highlights how much we have grown and learned in the pandemic. So many silver linings as we all go to school online now.
“Things Work Out Best For Those Who Make The Best Of How Things Work Out.” – John Wooden
A classic, it is up to us to make life beautiful.
“Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” – Maya Angelou
We all carry beauty within us we can share to make life better/more colorful/brighter.
“It’s gratitude that turns what we have into enough, and more.”
Not sure who said it but I think a lot of learned to appreciate the simple beautiful parts of life all around us this past year.
“Don’t tell me the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon.” – Neil Armstrong
The concept of beauty grows as your perspective changes, when we grow and learn more there is more beauty around us.