Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting. If you are not passionate about your brand why should anyone else be?
Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global branding and marketing strategy consulting firm whose clients range from early stage start-up to Fortune 500 companies including Colgate, Virgin, Microsoft and The New York Times Company. She was formerly VP Marketing at Zipcar and VP Marketing at Inc.com before the company was sold to Bertelsmann. Prior to that she held the title of SVP Marketing and was a key member of the IPO team at Launch Media, an Internet start-up that went public in early 1999 and was later sold to Yahoo.
Arnof-Fenn has also worked as a special assistant to the chief marketing officer of global marketing at The Coca-Cola Company and held the position of director of the 1996 Olympic Commemorative Coin Program at the Department of Treasury, U.S. Mint. Previously Arnof-Fenn worked in brand management at Procter & Gamble.
Arnof-Fenn is a founding Board member of Women Entrepreneurs in Science & Technology and she is the past Board Chair of the Alumni Board of Stanford University. She has been the Appointed Director for Harvard Business School on the Harvard Alumni Association Board, which governs all the schools across the university. She is also the former Vice President of the Harvard Business School Global Alumni Board and the only woman Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Sports Museum at the Boston Garden, is an advisor to several early stage private companies and non profit organizations and is also a 3 time past president of the Stanford Club of New England which serves alumni in a 5 state region. She holds an undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford University and an MBA from Harvard Business School. She is quoted regularly in the media, was a monthly columnist for Entrepreneur and Forbes for several years, has been on the IDC Technology Advisory Council, selected as a Woman of Note by The Wall Street Journal and a Time Magazine Opinion Leader.
Where did the idea for Mavens and Moguls come from?
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 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). 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.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
First thing I do when I wake up is turn on NPR so I can catch up on the news while I shower, dress and get ready for my day. Then I check e-mail, make notes while my mind is fresh, review my to do list and calendar, wake my husband, eat breakfast and get going. I usually wake naturally (no alarm) ~5am or so and breakfast is typically ~730am so I do not have to rush, it is a slow ramp up to my day which is great. Some days I start with Pilates or Tai Chi at a studio other days I head to town for meetings or jump on a conference call. I am a morning person so once I start my day it flies until lunch. I always eat breakfast and like to work out at least 3-4 mornings a week 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! I prefer lunch meetings to breakfast ones wherever possible. I typically do calls and meetings in the afternoon and networking events at night 2-3 days each week. Weekends are for admin and catching up on non urgent client and personal e-mails. To be more productive I try to find creative ways to multi task that incorporates work and exercise. When I worked at large companies they had gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but when you are an entrepreneur you have to get creative to find balance. 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. A change in venue is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk. The other tips I like to incorporate are taking public transportation when possible, parking at the far end of the lot and walking as well as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, it adds up to a lot of extra steps and movement if you do it every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
With stories & storytelling, we help our clients tell their stories in compelling ways by finding the right words and pictures to create interest. In early days of mankind, stories were a great way to communicate around the campfire, they are critical to the Bible and they are still effective today. People do not remember facts and figures but if you tell them a story that touches them emotionally you get their attention and they want to hear more. People need to be educated, informed and/or entertained so figure out how best to tell your story in a way that makes them pay attention and breaks through the noise. Focus on the benefits to them not the features of your product or service. Stories create fans who will help you sell! create a lot of content marketing material for my clients. My best tip is to stop selling and start sharing. If you share what you know — your passion, your war stories, the good, bad and ugly — the content will flow and pour out of you. The stories will be interesting and the lessons will be real, people will remember you and come back for more. It always works well for me.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Voice search & voice user interface allows users to interact with websites through voice commands so it adds usability and functionality to your site making it accessible to all users including those with limitations and disabilities. It is not just about complying with the ADA, responsible web design and corporate social responsibility goals but it is also good for the bottom line by reaching a broader audience. Inclusion is the right thing to do and it is good for business. Smart speakers are only getting more popular going forward so voice is here to stay.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
It might sound counterintuitive but my favorite tip is to disconnect from technology and focus on cultivating human, face to face relationships. Meeting for coffee or lunch not only allows you to refuel and recharge but it also 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.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I would say 1) 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! 2) 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. 3) 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. 4) 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.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
You have to give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), getting a massage, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. Like most small business owners and entrepreneurs there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise or just relax. What I have come to appreciate and realize in my 50s is that “me time” is not a luxury or pampering like it was in my youth, now it is maintenance! I do not use a smart phone and people think I am crazy but it works for me. I hear Anna Wintour and Warren Buffett agree so I am in good company at least!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
In this day of social media, high tech, AI, VR, AR, cryptocurrency, etc. I think the best way to stand out from the pack is to get out of the arms race and pick up the phone, send a hand written note or an old-fashioned e-mail and just get back to the basics of relationships 101. People like to do business with folks they know, like and trust not robots or manufactured personalization. I think there is a role today for basic good manners, civility and humanity to grow your business and build your brand. I grew up in the Deep South so maybe it is just me but sometimes the old fashioned advice your mom gave you is still the best.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Social media and technology are 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but 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. I am a big fan of Content Marketing and Thought Leadership which are great ways to build your brand, increase your visibility more broadly, raise your profile and attract more clients/customers. Activities like speaking at a conference, writing articles, building your following on social media all contribute 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 or talks become available online, make sure to send them out via social media to all your friends, followers and contacts. Don’t 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. For professional service firms like mine LinkedIn is a priority. If your customers are not looking for you on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram then find the platforms where you can stand out.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
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 think men in general have an easier time cutting their losses and moving on. 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. As soon as I let them 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!
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
My advice to find new customers is to go on a Listening Tour! Politicians do it all the time and it is great for business too. Make a list the movers & shakers, people you admire and prospects, ask a few smart open ended questions then sit back and take notice. They will be more than happy to tell you what is on their mind. If you listen to what they share with you there will be plenty of opportunities to help them. I did it when business slowed and picked up several new clients but you can do it any time. It is a great way to connect and a lot of fun too. Start listening with no strings attached, you’ll be amazed what you find. It does not cost much, for the price of a few coffees and meals you will get an earful. I had no idea what to expect and got a lot of new work as a result. I did my listening tour the old fashioned way by sending out e-mails & picking up the phone then brought a pad & pen, asked a few open ended questions then shut up and started taking notes.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
An old business school friend was in town recently and we grabbed dinner to catch up. The best part of great friendships is that you just pick up where you left off. We talked about work, life, family, everything. To be able to share a delicious meal and perfect bottle of wine over a few hours with people you care about is really special. As I get older l have come to appreciate that the best things in life are not things at all but the people who bring you joy and spending more time with them.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
You can call me old fashioned but the best communications tool for me to be productive is still e-mail. To be able to stay connected to my clients and keep my team moving seamlessly through the asynchronicity of e-mail on our projects and connect so easily anytime is amazing. E-mails are a great way to build relationships over time and keep the conversation going. Projects can be worked on over a 24 hour day with key deliverables communicated as one part of the world winds down and another ramps up. It is just so much easier now. You do not need to be a big multinational company to have the tools at your disposal anymore. It is fast, convenient, cheap and effective. For me you can’t beat it.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
How To Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie — it is a classic with timeless advice on manners and people/human nature. You cannot go wrong with this one.
What is your favorite quote?
“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 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.
- Branding is very important to growing your business because if you do not brand yourself then the market will brand you instead. The single most important ingredient to creating a great brand is authenticity. To help establish an authentic brand without spending a lot of money here are some lessons from my career:
- Be original. What makes you unique or special?
- Be creative. How do you want people to think & feel after interacting with you vs. your competition?
- Be honest. Let your brand be known for speaking the truth, and you become the trusted advocate and go-to source.
- Be relevant. Brands aren’t created in a vacuum.
- Be consistent. Develop a cohesive message, and live it every day.
- Be passionate. Everyone loves to work with people who are passionate about what they do; it makes life much more fun and interesting. If you are not passionate about your brand why should anyone else be?