Tuesday, April 16, 2024

From Corporate America to Entrepreneurship: The Story of Paige Arnof-Fenn and Mavens & Moguls

Leaders Perception Magazine is currently running an interview series called – What Are The Top 5 Mistakes People Make When Starting A New Business?

Today, we had the opportunity to interview Paige Arnof-Fenn who is a Founder & CEO at Mavens & Moguls.

Interviewee Name: Paige Arnof-Fenn

Company: Mavens & Moguls

Paige Arnof-Fenn ‘s favourite quote: My favorite quote is “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 inspiring 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.

Meet Paige Arnof-Fenn: The Accidental Entrepreneur and Founder of Mavens & Moguls

Paige Arnof-Fenn never intended to start her own company. As a student, she looked up to leaders like Meg Whitman and Ursula Burns, dreaming of becoming a Fortune 500 CEO. After a successful career in Corporate America and several startups, Paige took the leap and founded Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing business that provides her with the autonomy and flexibility she craved.

In this interview, Paige shares her journey to entrepreneurship, the unique story behind her company’s name, and the passion that drives her team to deliver exceptional marketing advice to organizations of all sizes. As a former marketing and communication leader, Paige believes in being an extension of her clients’ teams, spending their money the way they do, and delivering real results that make an impact.

The Interview

Thank you so much for joining us today! Tell us a little bit about yourself. What is your backstory?

Paige Arnof-Fenn : I did not plan on starting a company. I always wanted to go work for a global 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 Mavens & Moguls after beginning my career on Wall Street in the 80s and having a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and then working at 3 different startups as the head of marketing. All 3 startups had positive exits. I took the leap right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. Running a global marketing business 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 (pre-Covid) 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).

In your opinion, what makes your company stand out? Any examples?

Paige Arnof-Fenn : Our name really sets us apart it think For my company 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.

Also everyone in our group comes out of industry so our heads and hearts are much more aligned with our clients than a typical agency or consulting firm. We are not professional PowerPoint makers, we have actually done the job as marketing and communication leaders so our recommendations come from having been in our clients’ seats before. We are an extension of their team and spend their money the way they do, not as a vendor so I think that is a compelling angle when they hire us. We do not see marketing as a necessary evil, we believe in the power of great brands and think all organizations regardless of size or budget deserve great marketing advice. Our passion comes through in our tag line and everything we do.

What are the TOP 5 mistakes people make when starting a new business? Please share advice/examples for all of them.

Paige Arnof-Fenn : As an entrepreneur mistakes are part of the learning process so learn from every setback. You cannot avoid them just don’t repeat them. Keep pivoting and moving forward, that is how you learn and grow. I recommend NOT spending money on things like fancy brochures, letterhead, business cards, etc. Until you know your business is launched I would say to put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers. Getting your URL and a website up and running is key. I created online stationery for proposals and invoices, ordered my cards online and made downloadable materials as leave behinds for people looking for more information to help me find clients more quickly. I know other business owners who spent thousands of dollars on these things and found it was a waste of money. Your story will evolve as you find your market, you need to look professional and have a web site to be taken seriously but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle. Find those reference customers quickly, use them to get testimonials and referrals. There is plenty of time later to dress things up!

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. 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!

Another big mistake is to assume that SEO is a one-time activity/set it and forget it. Search engines are constantly updating their algorithms/keywords/evolving so SEO needs to be an ongoing commitment for content to stay on top/page 1. Search engines will continue to find/serve up websites that contain the best content/information to meet its users’ needs so make it an ongoing priority. Google updates algorithms regularly to make sure sites aren’t tricking audiences with their process to move up the ranks unfairly. One big danger is making a lot of small SEO changes to your site. Although it’s smart to update your site with fresh content you have to be careful it doesn’t look suspicious/get penalized by the search engines. Another danger/rookie mistake is if you discontinue a product/service do not delete the page from your site. Once the page is deleted both the URL and the keyword for which it was ranked will disappear. Don’t risk losing your ranking if you delete a product/service, simply add a message for visitors to your site to redirect them to the relevant page. You work hard to get your strong rankings so don’t let that effort go to waste unnecessarily/by accident.

You get one chance to make a great first impression so if you want to improve the impression you are making and give your business a boost make sure your site is optimized for multiple mediums, searching by text, voice and image must all be addressed. A common web design mistake is not insuring the UX on your site is mobile friendly. The world is moving to mobile first or mobile only with fewer people accessing the web on big screens so everyone is tailoring their site, message and content accordingly to improve search rankings. Sites that contain long high quality content get more visibility and shares too which helps with SEO.

Beware of creating cluttered pages which makes following the navigation difficult. This happens when there is a lack of clarity, little strategic thinking, no creative brief or no focus to prioritize messaging and tone. Trying to say/do too much, when too many cooks are in the kitchen or design by committee the result can be confusing. To avoid this mistake conduct market research early with customers on messaging and user interface for best results. It is better to use bold colors and white space to stand out from the competition. The trend toward simplicity and minimalist design means less is more in the new year as the world becomes crazier and technology gets smaller, faster and more complicated, people are finding new ways to simplify their lives more than ever. If your site doesn’t load quickly (typically 3 seconds or less), your users will go somewhere else and the opportunity will be lost. Common site speed solutions can include image optimization/compression, browser caching improvement, server response time improvement, and JavaScript minifying. If you waste time and money with a site that makes these rookie mistakes the time is lost forever and you will spend a lot more trying to win them back so it pays to get it right from the start.

Leaders Perception magaizne would like to thank Paige Arnof-Fenn for the time dedicated to completing this interview and sharing their valuable insights with our readers!

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