Paige Arnof-Fenn is the CEO of Mavens & Moguls, and exactly the sort of person we love to speak to at FS Local. Experienced, open, willing to share, and with a resume that demands attention.
We asked Paige about why she started her company, what it takes to stay successful, and what the future might hold for her and Mavens & Moguls.
So tell us about Mavens & Moguls. What is it that you do and who are your customers?
Mavens & Moguls is a global marketing services firm that I started 15 years ago. We are basically a network of top marketing, branding, public relations and market research talent that comes together and forms teams to help our clients with their toughest marketing challenges. We do anything a marketing department, PR agency, ad agency or market research does on an as-needed basis. We work on both a project and retainer basis as needed. About 2/3 of our clients are mid market to emerging market firms $2-200 million but we also work with Fortune 500 companies, non profits and early stage startups. We work across all categories and all over the world.
We have clients in Thailand, Kuwait, Bahrain, Mexico, Canada, and all over the US. Everyone in the group is a seasoned marketer with a stellar track record throughout their career. We are a virtual business and people are located in 14 cities across the country as well as major metro areas overseas. The types of work we get called in to do include everything from designing a web site, logo, materials for a product launch or trade show, back filling a job for someone going out on maternity leave and keeping the marketing function going in their absence, to putting together a thought leadership program for a client wanting to raise their visibility and awareness in the market. You can think of us as a marketing team for hire and tap into us whenever you need help.
How did Mavens & Moguls get its start?
I didn’t 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 Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as my role models. My first career out of college was as a Financial Analyst on Wall Street in the 80s. I went back and got my MBA and then decided to go into marketing instead. I worked at large consumer products companies at first like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola in Marketing. Very well established brands and big budgets. Then when the internet took off in the 90s I joined a startup as the head of marketing and we grew fast, went public and were sold to Yahoo. Then I did 2 more start ups as the head of marketing and those did well too.
When 9/11 hit the economy slowed quite a bit and marketing staff and budgets got cut across the board. I call myself the accidental entrepreneur because I did not think I was starting a company actually. After 9/11 a lot of people started calling me for help so I was being inundated with work and it was too much for me to do alone and I knew many great people available who had recently lost their jobs post 9/11 so I had people and projects and just started putting them together. I called the women the marketing mavens and the guys the marketing moguls and it stuck. I built a web site with a college buddy and we were off and running. I have never looked back!
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
They say that to be successful you have to be passionate. Why do you love what you do?
I agree if you are not passionate about your business why should anyone else be? I am internally driven, I love helping people and find marketing really fun. I think when you are surrounded by people who also love this kind of work that is where the real magic happens. It is very fulfilling to work with clients you believe in and help them find the right words and pictures to tell a compelling story. I love working with and for people I respect and admire. Every day is different so I never get bored.
Has it been smooth sailing or have you overcome adversity to get where you are?
There are always bumps in the road and detours along the path but that is were you learn the most. The dead ends and setbacks make you dig deeper and push harder so you get even more creative and resourceful I think. That is where the real insights and breakthroughs happen in my experience. It keeps things fun and exciting!
We all know that crazy happens. What’s the wildest thing that’s happened on the job?
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 ;-)
What do you do with your time off? Are you familiar with that concept?
I work a lot but I do work out every day too. I rotate between Pilates, water aerobics, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, walking, etc. I make time for friends and family, love to read, go to movies, talk on the phone, etc. You have to find ways to be fresh and recharge to stay creative and energized.
This is the age of the social network. How important is social media to your business and how do you make it work?
I pick my battles. I do not think you need to be everywhere all the time. For me LinkedIn is the main social media I use. It is easy to get sucked into all the new things that are out there but for me it does not make sense to spend time on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook etc. unless I am doing it on behalf of my clients who pay me. It is important to know how and why your customers find you and stick to those outlets.
How are you involved in your community?
I am very active in the community with our networking group, non profit organizations, several boards I sit on, etc. I am a sports fan too and go to many games during the season of my favorite teams. I also volunteer and I judge for business competitions, guest lecture at local universities and am known to the local media for quotes and articles in my areas of expertise.
What does supporting local mean to you?
I always try to frequent the local coffee shops, restaurants, book shops, etc. instead of the national chains. I think it is important to support the local businesses year round not just the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I like having these options so close by and appreciate the personal touch and customer service they provide so you have to vote with your wallets and frequent them regularly so they stick around.
What does the future look like for you and your business?
Marketing is an exciting area with lots of growth and activity, there are always new tools and techniques to incorporate into your plans, pop culture is constantly changing so you have to keep up to stay relevant. I think Mavens & Moguls with continue to be a platform for me to do work I enjoy. I have no idea all the directions it could go. I am sure I will continue to do writing and speaking engagements. Many people have asked me to write a book but I have no idea if I will make the time to do that one day. I know I will keep having fun no matter what!
Do you have any advice for aspiring business owners just starting out?
The people you start with are not always the ones who grow with you. The biggest mistake and 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!
Also, prospective customers can come from anyone anywhere anytime so you should always be on your best behavior & make a great lasting impression. Be nice to everyone & make friends before you need them, you never know who is in or will be in a position to help! It is true you should never burn a bridge, that really is great advice and I can tell you dozens of stories over the years where that has served me well. You just never know when your paths will cross again with old colleagues, former bosses, etc. Kill them with kindness and don’t ever burn that bridge, trust me it pays off! Also, be the best prepared at every meeting, work your butt off and smile. It has worked for me at least!