Paige Arnof-Fenn is Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
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, all 3 had positive exits. 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. 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).
What does an average day look like for you?
My routine has changed since Covid 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 on the phone/computer/Zoom.
I am still virtual/remote and think I am more productive and efficient now than I was before, 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. 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. Even if I do not always have balance I am able to integrate my work and my life in a good way.
How do you balance the needs of your business with the needs of your personal life?
I think the concept of balance is a myth. As an entrepreneur it is easy to get overwhelmed. Staying healthy is about finding ways to unwind/relax as part of my day, it is more about integration than balance for me. I try to disconnect from technology periodically and focus on cultivating human/face-to-face relationships. Meeting for coffee/lunch even virtually not only allows you to refuel/recharge but it also can accomplish so much more than e-mail exchanges/social media posts and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests/hobbies/dreams. I also try to find creative ways to multi-task that incorporates work and exercise. Pre-Covid there were gyms at the office/groups who walked at lunch but now you have to get creative to find balance. Can you take a walk (social distant or with headphone) so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too? I have clients who play golf so sometimes we meet at a driving range 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.
I think respecting my time on the calendar/taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients is the least I can do because if I am not at my peak performance I am not going to be useful to anyone else either. I have learned to give myself permission to say no: sleeping in/meditating/taking a walk/turning off my phone/computer. When something has to give it is usually time I have allocated for myself to exercise/relax. What I have come to appreciate and realize in my 50s is that “me time” is not a luxury/pampering like it was in my youth, now it is maintenance! The reality is that if I do not feel good I am not going to be at my peak performance level for my team or my clients. With technology and social media we are always on today 24/7. All work and no play is just not a sustainable option.
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. I set aside regular time to recharge my batteries and take better care of myself so that mentally and physically I will be sharp and in the best health possible to set myself up for success. Even if you do not have time for a big vacation, sometimes a long weekend away, a walk outside in fresh air mid day or a trip to the museum or local gallery can be a nice break to hit the refresh button in pinch. Mini-breaks and short vacations can be effective ways to avoid burnout and stay refreshed.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you on your journey in business?
A mentor once told me that to be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! I try to lead my team by example, respecting my time on the calendar and taking myself as seriously as I take my most important clients 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 have learned to:
Give myself 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 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's been the hardest part about the path you've taken and how would you advise someone facing a similar situation to overcome it?
My biggest challenge early on was 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. 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!
Are there any well-known Books, Podcasts, or Courses that you credit your current success to?
I do not think there is one silver bullet to keep your skills sharp and fresh, I recommend using a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks, networking, newsletters from influencers, TED talks, podcasts, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad. To stay relevant and keep growing I try to prioritize professional development to keep skills fresh and stay on top of new trends and technologies.
What do you think are the most important qualities for a successful business owner or executive to have?
=In my experience successful leaders today are adaptable/agile, are strong communicators and have a growth mindset. They are also persistent, determined, focused, tenacious and resilient. Having a can do attitude makes the biggest difference between success and failure because the road is always bumpy and you will have to overcome obstacles along the way, you get knocked around often so you have to be able to keep getting back up and trying again with enthusiasm and energy. A lot of people tell you no (investors, board, customers, candidates, etc.) so if you are easily daunted or do not have thick skin you will not last long in the digital age.
A success attitude also requires learning to say no to distractions, you cannot pursue every opportunity so be selective and concentrate on only those ideas with the greatest potential say no to everything else. Be intensely curious and always be looking for the next way to make something better, be a good listener to customers, critics, feedback, the market and your team to show respect for great talent and ideas, and be a great communicator. With these traits you will attract the best people so increase the odds to recover and succeed.
Having a growth mindset and being able to adapt to change is critical so staying nimble today is core to survival and ultimately success. You can never stop learning/experimenting, stay focused on the future and see opportunities ahead by embracing a culture of learning/growth. It takes effort and a commitment to excellence for people to continually learn/grow especially now in a virtual/remote environment.
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out as a business owner?
You do not exist today if you cannot be found online. Being invisible online is a terrible strategy and LinkedIn is the foundation for building trusted relationships in the digital economy. With LinkedIn, you don't have to wait for a networking event to make meaningful business connections. You get one chance to make a great first impression with potential partners/affiliates, clients/customers and recruiters/employers/employees so make sure every section of your LinkedIn profile is complete, with no blank spaces or gaps. Include a professional head shot and powerful headline followed by a summary with highlights of your personal brand, what you do well and how you can benefit potential clients/customers/partners. Keep this section brief and easy to skim for best results. Keywords are a great way to help professionals in your industry find your profile and strategic keywords in your profile give you an advantage in networking too.
To present yourself as an interesting expert in your industry post interesting and educational content by sharing a great article you've read recently or if you truly want to make valuable connections and represent yourself as a talented thought leader in your industry, you should be crafting your own articles on LinkedIn. This does not require big budgets but it does take time. It is a smart investment to get this right. Authenticity is the key, it has to be and feel real for it to work I think.
What are the top three things you think are essential for business success?
Show up, network and be resilient
If we learned anything pre and post Covid it is that your online presence is only growing in importance so online marketing is key and doesn’t have to break your budget. Making sure your site is keyword rich/mobile friendly/loads quickly/produces meaningful content is the price of entry/great foundation for effective SEO. Social media is critical too. Technology is 24/7 so it is easy to get sucked into it but don’t let it 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.
Most of my business comes from networking so for me it is essential. These connections have provided me with advice, referrals and contacts, which has helped me grow my business, make better informed decisions and ﬁnd opportunities. Your network is your net worth.
Success is about being adaptable/agile and having a growth mindset. Growth mindset leaders are successful because they never stop learning and experimenting, they are focused on the future and see opportunities ahead by creating a culture of learning and growth. It takes effort and a commitment to excellence for entrepreneurs to continually learn/grow especially now in a virtual/remote environment. I do not think there is one silver bullet to keep your skills sharp and fresh, I recommend using a combination of reading and learning online and off, attending conferences and talks, networking, newsletters from influencers, TED talks, podcasts, finding mentors and listening to all feedback good and bad. To stay relevant and keep growing I try to prioritize professional development to keep skills fresh and stay on top of new trends and technologies. Being persistent, determined, focused and resilient are traits that make the biggest difference between success and failure I think because the road is always bumpy and you know you will have to overcome obstacles along the way, you get knocked around often so you have to be able to keep getting back up and trying again with enthusiasm and energy. A lot of people tell you no (investors, board, customers, candidates, etc.) so if you are easily daunted or do not have thick skin you will not last long in my experience. A good sense of humor goes a long way too in the digital age.
Do you think someone can be a great business owner without having many years of experience first?
I think both ways are paths to being an entrepreneur. There are successful entrepreneurs like Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg who were clearly born that way but the majority of entrepreneurs like me I think get into it after working for others earlier in their careers. Looking back I am guessing the ones who are made can see signs of being entrepreneurial in their previous lives so maybe there is a little part of it you are born with but the rest can be cultivated when you get inspired by the right idea.
In general, do you think the world is producing better business owners in 2023 than it was fifty years ago?
Yes the world is more connected and complex now for sure and we have tools and technology that help us track, measure and provide better experiences.