Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global branding and digital marketing firm whose clients range from early-stage start-ups 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 that, she held the title of SVP Marketing at Launch Media, an Internet start-up that 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.
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 was 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 nonprofit 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.
Check out more interviews with entrepreneurs here.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET FEATURED?
All interviews are 100% FREE OF CHARGE
Table of Contents
We are thrilled to have you join us today, welcome to Valiant CEO Magazine’s exclusive interview! Let’s start with a little introduction. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your company.
Paige Arnof-Fenn: I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 20 years ago in Cambridge, MA. 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 leaped 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 is incredibly rewarding and gratifying. It has been a lot of fun, I joke that I am an 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 only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).
Who has been the most influential person(s) in your life and how did they impact you? How did that lead to where you are today?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: My father, both grandfathers, and great grandfather were all successful in business and ran regional companies when I was a child. Both my grandfathers were successful entrepreneurs and only one graduated from high school. My dad took a more traditional corporate path and I had always assumed I would. go into business (vs law or medicine) and follow in their footsteps. Like my dad, I got an MBA. They were all very active in their communities, well-respected leaders, and generous. It made a very strong impression on me from an early age that business can be a force for good and how important it is to lead by example, have a strong work ethic and be kind. They were very strong role models for me then and still are today. They set the bar high and I hope I have made them proud.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us, particularly for businesses. How did the pandemic impact your business? Please list some of the problems that you faced, and how you handled them.
Paige Arnof-Fenn: The biggest change for me, my team, and my clients from the virus was the shutdown of all networking events, travel, and conferences. This is typically a very busy time with many events, trade shows, business meetings on the road, etc. and for the past year-plus, everyone is staying put and meeting virtually instead. I have had more Zoom and Skype calls in the past 15 days than the 12 months pre-pandemic! Pivoting to online meetings, webinars, etc. is a smart and productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships, and move forward during this crisis period. So first and foremost I have learned to help small businesses to be flexible and open-minded so we can keep working together during the crisis and create more flexible capacity going forward over the next year as we deal with the variants as the economy reopens.
If small groups on the team want to talk through specific issues (managing anxiety, kids, parents, etc.) virtual coffee meetings online have been helpful too. A few colleagues continue to meet online after work for virtual happy hour/beer/cocktails as well when they had more time to chat. It is starting to feel like the new normal by leveraging technology to build and maintain our relationships. We have learned that finding routines and things we can control helps I think. Communication is key to all of our community, customer, and employee engagement. Another pivot because of the pandemic, is a great time to build your brand through online marketing and social media. Technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real-world communities and relationships too! If we can hold on to the very best parts of this pandemic personally and professionally the world will be a better place for it.
The pandemic led to a myriad of cultural side effects, including one that was quite unexpected that is informally known as “The Great Resignation”. Did this widespread trend affect you in any way?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: If anything it helped my business because people leaving corporate jobs prefers the flexibility of consulting virtually. We did not lose anyone and a few who had left to go back in-house pre-pandemic have returned. The future is clearly about being adaptable/agile.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4 million Americans quit their jobs in July 2021. How do you feel about this trend? Explain.
Paige Arnof-Fenn: It could be a good sign, I think there will be more entrepreneurs in the future for sure. Our country and the world will only thrive post-Covid if entrepreneurs create businesses at levels we have never seen before. Our future and the health of the global economy depend on it I think. It will be the key to our success and will include more diversity, more personalization, better privacy controls & regulation, and more of a focus on social responsibility, justice, and equality. Given the uncertainty in the economy and stock market I see growth coming from entrepreneurs around the world, it will only be more important in the future not less.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, Employees between 30 and 45 years old have had the greatest increase in resignation rates, with an average increase of more than 20% between 2020 and 2021. That can be quite an alarming rate. What advice would you share to increase employee retention?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Collaboration is key to our culture of engaging our team and ultimately our success. Retention starts with engagement so to stay connected and keep the team on track I try to set the tone up front with one rule, when in doubt over-communicate. Especially now that everyone is working remotely it is key to set up regular e-mails/video/conference calls. Don’t make assumptions of what people from different groups want or know, just ask or send an e-mail. It will save you a lot of time, money, and frustration down the road.
Be a good listener and make sure you hear the others, their hopes, frustrations, and intentions. If the lines of communication are open and everyone makes an effort to listen and be heard then collaboration will happen naturally and the information will flow. Pivoting to online meetings is a smart/productive way companies can continue to have conversations that educate/inform/build relationships/move forward during this crisis period. The key to retention is to find ways to stay fresh and excited without being able to get away from your job. Like most small businesses there are never enough hours in the day to fit everything in so when something has to give it is usually the time the team has allocated to exercise/relax. Give them space and stay connected for the best results. I have not lost anyone and get contacted often by talented people looking to join. I just wish I had more work.
According to a Nature Human behavior study, In 2020, 80% of US workers reported feeling that they have too many things to do and not enough time to do them – a phenomenon known as “time poverty”. What is your take on the work-life balance? Explain.
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Time is our most precious commodity. 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 about balance/integration. 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 and 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 like taking the stairs or parking at the far side of the lot. Pre-Covid there were gyms at the office or groups who walked at lunch but now you have to get creative to find balance. Can you take a walk (social distance or with headphones) so you can catch up while you are getting some exercise too? I have clients who play golf so we have met at a driving range to discuss things especially when you are trying to think outside the box. A venue change is always nice and you feel so much better when you are moving and not trapped behind your desk.
I think that 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 encourage my team to permit themselves to say no: sleeping in/meditating/taking a walk/turning off the phone/computer. When something has to give it is usually the 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! 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.
A more recent survey by Joblist asked about 3,000 respondents if they’re actively thinking about leaving their job. That survey found that 73% of 2,099 respondents who answered this question on their employment plans are considering quitting. How are you preparing for the future to counter this potentially persistent problem?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: Keep finding interesting clients and offering a flexible platform that attracts great talent to grow the ecosystem where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Expanding our culture that attracts more people with growth mindsets and having the right people and pipeline creates a foundation for success.
Thank you for all that, our readers are grateful for your insightful comments! Now, if the Great Resignation isn’t your greatest concern, what is the #1 most pressing challenge you’re trying to solve in your business right now?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: A key challenge has been about the importance of focus. There is so much noise out there with the pandemic, social media, 24/7 news, the economy, climate change, etc. that for my clients and me staying focused with all the distractions we are bombarded with daily can be tough. I keep reminding myself that less can be more. Staying small successfully is our goal.
Before we finish things off, we do have one last question. If you had 10 Million Dollars to spend in one day, what would you spend it on?
Paige Arnof-Fenn: There are so many worthy causes around the global pandemic, medical research, aid for disasters, food insecurity, homelessness, etc. I would probably pick 10 groups I thought were doing great work and donate a million to each.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Paige Arnof-Fenn for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Paige Arnof-Fenn or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
Disclaimer: The ValiantCEO Community welcomes voices from many spheres on our open platform. We publish pieces as written by outside contributors with a wide range of opinions, which don’t necessarily reflect our own. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team and must meet our guidelines prior to being published.