I had the pleasure of talking to Paige Arnof-Fenn, Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, The New York Times Company, Colgate, venture-backed startups as well as non-profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. Paige serves on several boards and is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get to be where you are right now?
Paige grew up in New Orleans, LA the daughter and granddaughter of bankers. She did not plan on starting a company in fact she always wanted to go work for a large multi-national business and be a Fortune 500 CEO. When she was a student she looked at leaders like Meg Whitman & Ursula Burns as role models. Paige started her 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. She became an entrepreneur and took the leap right after 9/11 when the company she worked for cut their marketing she felt she had nothing to lose. Being an entrepreneur provides her a platform to do work she truly enjoys with and for people she respects. She sets her priorities, makes time to travel and spend time with her inner circle, and work out every day. She loves the autonomy, flexibility and the fact that she knows every day the impact that she has on the business. Her DNA is in everything the company does. Like most entrepreneurs, she is working harder and longer than ever and has never been happier. She jokes that she is the accidental entrepreneur. She knew she had made it as an entrepreneur when Harvard wrote 2 case studies on her business a few years after she started it, they were very early to pioneer sharing resources on the marketing front (before her company it was really only done with HR, legal and accounting/finance).
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How did this quality help you overcome obstacles on the path of becoming an influential and inspiring leader?
I am an extrovert who loves down time to unplug and recharge but I get a lot of energy and ideas from being with smart people. I thrive in settings with curious and creative people where the energy magnifies as ideas are shared. I am organized and decisive and am able to draw a variety of insights and perspectives from diverse groups which helps me lead effectively and influence.
What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the hyper-competitive world of running a business or an organization?
Mental toughness today means you are resilient and able to focus but also pivot as needed when you get new data and market feedback with better information. There are a lot of distractions and noise so it is key to stay clear on your mission and vision while being true to your values as you grow.
A lot of people in the business world feel as if talking about mental health makes them appear weak. How do you feel about showing mental strength and setting an example of what it takes to have the strong mental stamina to succeed?
In my experience when you show your vulnerabilities is when you really connect with people. It is easy to see the CEO or leader as perfect or superhuman but when I give speeches I try to show some of the bumps and bruises along the way too and how those setbacks and struggles made us stronger and better. Everyone stumbles and falls sometimes it is how we get back up that inspires others.
Is there a particular person, a book, or place of wisdom that has inspired you to become a successful and mentally-strong leader?
I save quotes and this one really resonates with me:
I am strong because I have been weak
I am fearless because I have been scared
I am wise because I have been foolish
It is an important reminder that stumbling is part of the journey to success. As an entrepreneur you just have to keep going and pick yourself up and be smarter every time you get up and try again. It was true for Thomas Edison, Steve Jobs, Sara Blakely and it is true for me too!
Another one I really like is “you have to make mistakes to find out who you aren’t.” Again, making mistakes is just part of the process. Brilliant.
Can you give us 5 tips on maintaining strong mental health stamina to succeed in the modern business world? Tell us a little about why each point matters.
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.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I had to fire a client in my first year of business and it was absolutely the right decision! On a personal level the guy was a jerk who never paid on time and was rude to my team who was doing great work for him. He was mean, unappreciative and had terrible manners. I am from the South and expect people to behave with common decency. He hired us to do PR for his firm and I realized if we could get great press for a guy like him then people who knew him & knew how difficult he was might want to hire us too to help them thinking “hey these PR people must be really good and I’m not as nasty as this guy so imagine what they could do for me!” I did not want to attract other bad clients so even though he signed a 1-year contract I ended it after 3 months. It sent a signal to my team that the money was not worth an unappreciative client who was a jerk and treated us poorly. We replaced the income and more within a month with a much better client. I have never looked back. Optics matter and culture counts, as the leader you have to set the tone for your group you better walk the talk because all eyes are on you so your team is not just listening to what you say but also watching what you do and how you respond/react. When we say we have a no jerks policy we really mean it. Life is too short to work with or for jerks. When it is your business it is up to you. It attracts the right people as clients and colleagues for the ecosystem I am trying to build.
What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the age of information and technology?
For me it is about not getting overwhelmed because 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.
What works best to maintain strong mental stamina as a leader? Yoga? Meditation? Listening to music? Something else?
If the readers of this interview series would like to read more about you, how they can reach out?