Please state your name and a little about your current status.
Paige Arnof-Fenn is the Founder & CEO of global branding and marketing firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA.
What exactly does your company do?
Mavens & Moguls is a global network of seasoned marketing experts who can do anything a marketing department, market research shop, public relations firm or ad agency does on an as-needed or outsourced basis. We have resources in major metro areas across the country and around the world. Our clients range from early-stage startups to Fortune 500companies to nonprofits.
How did you start your company/business as a startup?
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 became an entrepreneur and 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.
What struggle did you go through to reach your current status now?
For the first 5 years after I started my company 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 6 months apart (7 people in 6 years) and I became executrix which is like having another job at times.
My biggest mistake was not realizing sooner that the people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The hardest lesson I learned when I started my company is not getting rid of weak people earlier than I did in the first few years of my business. I spent more time managing them than finding new customers. I knew in my gut they were not up to snuff but out of loyalty to them, I let them hang around much longer than they should have. It would have been better for everyone to let them go as soon as the signs were there. They became more insecure and threatened as we grew which was not productive for the team.
How did you manage to cope up with those struggles?
When everyone was getting sick and dying 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. I no longer try to squeeze in more meetings or hit multiple events at night. 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 >85,000 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.
As soon as I let the weak team members go the culture got stronger and the bar higher. “A” team people like to be surrounded by other stars. It is true that you should hire slowly and fire quickly. I did not make that mistake again later on so learned it well the first time. I wish I had known it even earlier though but lesson learned for sure!
Who inspired you to move forward and influenced you in all your achievements now?
I have had great mentors and champions throughout my career. In my corporate life, I had bosses, senior women or alums from my alma mater who took me under their wings to help me advance and show me the ropes My father and both grandfathers were successful in business and they have inspired me throughout my life.
What piece of advice will you share with those who would like to follow your footsteps?
Disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch 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 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.