Paige Arnof-Fenn: “Disconnect from technology”

Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring onboard people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision. Learn to delegate and empower people to take more initiative so they can rise to the occasion. Providing the team with autonomy and the opportunity to collaborate on tactics generates creative solutions. As […]

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Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring onboard people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision. Learn to delegate and empower people to take more initiative so they can rise to the occasion. Providing the team with autonomy and the opportunity to collaborate on tactics generates creative solutions.


As part of my series about the “How To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results”, I had the pleasure of Paige Arnof-Fenn.

Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and digital branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

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).

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Never! To be successful today you must be resilient because 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 but without resiliency you will not survive in business today. It makes 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. I stay motivated because I get excited solving problems and helping people. I have always loved fixing things and helping out where I can. I am naturally curious and get energized talking to people so when I meet interesting people it is just natural for me to ask a lot of questions and when I hear about things that they are dealing with where I can be helpful I want to roll up my sleeves and jump in. It’s just how I am wired I guess. I love the challenge of cracking the code to see what works. More challenges create more opportunities!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

It can be hard to laugh at mistakes but looking back I remember one week early on when I had 3 or 4 talks lined up over a couple of day period so I went from one evening event to a breakfast the next morning to a lunch and evening talk the following day. I enjoy public speaking and get a lot of referrals and business that way. The morning after my final speech I showed up at a meeting with a prospective client along with a few of my colleagues and I realized I was completely out of business cards. I was so embarrassed and my team laughed at me since I always remind them it is important to be professional and prepared all the time. I ended up sending a hand written thank you note to the prospect with my card enclosed and we won the business so I turned my mistake into a good outcome plus I have never run out of business cards again! It is a great lesson in the power of humility, resilience, persistence, manners and having a sense of humor.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

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.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

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. A mentor once told me and I have come to appreciate and realize is that to stay sane and be successful “me time” is not a luxury or pampering, it is maintenance! The mentor shared that 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, specifically I have encouraged my team to:

Give yourself permission to say no. Whether it means sleeping in (no to an alarm clock), meditating, taking a walk, or just turning off my phone and computer (no I will respond later on my own schedule), simple acts of letting myself relax and enjoy the moment are the very best gifts I can give myself. You can fill a calendar to stay busy but what matters most is having impact on people’s lives and that has nothing to do with volume of activity, 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. and it is a great way to get to know people better, their interests, hobbies, and dreams. 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. I used get out of the office 3–5 days a week for networking/meals which was a great way to stay connected, shake up my routine and get going before the virus hit.

Taking breaks with exercise — I do something active every day to stay healthy and break up my day.

Practice gratitude — I am so grateful I can work productively in my home office now with no commute.

As an entrepreneur it is easy to get overwhelmed. Staying healthy for me is about finding ways to unwind and relax as part of my day. It is about balance. I am a big fan of Tai Chi, but I also do Qigong, massage, acupuncture, knitting, reading, hanging out with friends, and watching TV to de-stress. I started learning Tai Chi >15 years ago and have gotten progressively addicted over the years. I now know the choreography of 2 different forms and I absolutely love it. It is a way to both relax and focus. I even guest teach when the regular backup cannot be there. I have met great people, it has helped my balance, improved my bone density and helped calm my mind. I just love it. I even wrote an article on it for Entrepreneur magazine a few years ago.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been so fortunate to have great mentors, champions and role models throughout my career including former bosses, my father, senior women in organizations where I worked but the person who has always encouraged and supported me as an entrepreneur and has my back every day is my husband. He started a company too so understands the journey of an entrepreneur and has been my sanity check and thinking partner every step of the way. He is both a cheerleader and butt kicker depending on the situation and I trust his judgment and advice because I know he always has my best interests in mind. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Delegating effectively is a challenge for many leaders. Let’s put first things first. Can you help articulate to our readers a few reasons why delegating is such an important skill for a leader or a business owner to develop?

To be able to scale and grow leaders have to get comfortable delegating. I know because for the first 5 years of my business I was scared to go on vacation for fear all my hard work would unravel. Then my in-laws, father, mom and stepdad all started to get sick and I wanted to be there for them. They all lived thousands of miles away so I had to become comfortable delegating for my business to grow.

Can you help articulate a few of the reasons why delegating is such a challenge for so many people?

I think it comes down to trust and confidence. It is natural and more comfortable to be in control and delegating by definition means letting someone else take the reins and knowing they will ptobably handle things differently than you and choose an alternative path. Delegating requires you to trust that your team is well trained and be confident in their ability to rise to the occasion.

In your opinion, what pivots need to be made, either in perspective or in work habits, to help alleviate some of the challenges you mentioned?

It comes down to seeing so much opportunity that you want to hire great people who are smart, have a growth mindset and share your core values. With the right vision, strategy and team in place scaling is exciting and fun, you know they have the chops to do the heavy lifting and you trust them to make the right decisions or ask for help when they need it. You can trust them to have the best interest of the organization in their hearts and minds. “A” team players like to work with other stars so delegating helps you scale quickly and learn a lot with every new opportunity. Otherwise a bottleneck will form and the best people will become frustrated and move on to where they can contribute more. Hire the best people and give them the tools and responsibility to flourish. When they become the champions and ambassadors for your brand, growth will follow. That is how to build a successful business.

Can you please share your “Five Things You Need To Know To Delegate Effectively and Be Completely Satisfied With the Results?” Please share a story or an example for each.

Hire great people and train them well. If my team had not been able to step in when my family members got sick and started dying my business would have had to close. Delegating is how we did not just survive but were able to thrive when times got tough.

Create a culture that attracts people with a growth mindset. I have been fortunate to work in several world class businesses in my career like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola with growth mindsets and l have tried to create that culture in my company too. In my experience, having a growth mindset helps successful people realize that the more happiness and wealth they acquire the more they can help others succeed too. Their gratitude becomes a multiplier and virtuous circle creating a positive environment for future success. Fixed mindset people tend to feel that they know it all and see the world as a zero sum game, so if someone else is winning they must be losing. Growth mindset people never stop learning and experimenting, they are focused on the future and see opportunities ahead by creating a culture of learning and growth. The key is to make the know it alls see the power in becoming learn it alls.

Don’t be scared to pivot or course correct as needed, you learn more from the failures than the successes so make sure you conduct post mortems when things go wrong and celebrate the key learnings so you never make that mistake again. How you handle bad news sends a very strong signal to the team, taking smart risks leads to success over time but when someone is not a good fit it is best to move on sooner vs. later so they do not drag down the team, keep the bar high so the A players stay engaged.

Great leaders are confident and humble enough to bring onboard people who are smarter, more experienced, and capable of executing the vision. Learn to delegate and empower people to take more initiative so they can rise to the occasion. Providing the team with autonomy and the opportunity to collaborate on tactics generates creative solutions.

One of the obstacles to proper delegating is the oft quoted cliche “If you want something done right do it yourself.” Is this saying true? Is it false? Is there a way to reconcile it with the importance of delegating?

I would say if you want it done a certain way then do it yourself but if what you are trying to achieve is a goal or outcome then consider delegating which may help accomplish it faster, bigger and/or better by getting others involved who bring more ideas and energy to the process. Delegating is a multiplier when done well in my experience.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would love to spark a movement or create change through a new (domestic) Peace Corps (2020 version) and suggest we are all in it no application required. We have millions of people unemployed, the largest number in our history. We need our roads and bridges fixed, clean water in our communities, tutors, day care, senior care, census takers, contact tracers, there is no need to pay people to stay home or send them abroad to build infrastructure overseas we need it here right now across all 50 states! We also need peace to prevail and I think if we work together side by side to fix these problems in our communities we will all be on the same team.

How can our readers further follow you online?

www.MavensAndMoguls.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Thanks so much it’s been my pleasure!


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