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Women in Business: Q&A With Monica Smith, Founder of Marketsmith

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Monica C Smith is the founder of Marketsmith, Inc -- a strategic, direct response marketing firm specializing in accountable, omnichannel media to drive business growth. Recognized as an NJ Fifty-Finest company and twice honored as a Top 50 Fastest Growing Company in NJ, MSI now ranks #389 on the Inc. 500 List.

In 2011, Monica launched I.Predictus, the first-ever day trading platform for programmatic buying and the only cloud-based media management platform designed specifically for the direct response industry. By managing all aspects of the media transaction from agency schedule to call center, web, and retail, IP's SaaS based system eliminates the challenges of disparate systems, manages the consumer life cycle, and monitors LTV and ROI at the network, airing, and household levels to deliver buy/sell recommendations based on real-time and historical performance data.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
There are two points that I believe formed me as a leader. First, I was the only girl in a family with six sons. My mother expected that I help keep them in line. Second, my mother demanded I play sports, and that made all the difference in the word for me. Playing sports taught me how to take direction; it forced me to work with other people and to be able to assess weaknesses and strengths - on the field and off. Ultimately, collaboration is what you really get from team sports. Those experiences taught me how to deal with multiple personalities - both male and female - and exposed me to a wide array of different people from age groups and genders.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the Founder of Marketsmith?
I've learned what I like and what I don't like, and I've come to realize that when you do something you love, you become extraordinary. When you do better work, people take notice. And, when you're in a position that makes you unhappy, it shows in your work. When I first started MSI, what made me 'unemployable' in the corporate sense was my intense desire to innovate, move fast, and make a difference. In my experience, most people in the corporate world just want to go to work and collect a paycheck. I believe that there's an enormous difference between people who just want to go to work, and people who want to make a difference.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't (at least not in the traditional sense). When I look at my profession, I see it as a partnership. My wife Amy and I made the decision to go into business together, to have a startup together, to launch a nonprofit together, and to have children together. I work so that my family can have the life I want for them. I work so that I can create and support initiatives to better the world. Amy and I chose this life. I don't know if it's a work-life balance, but we DO have balance. This is what we've chosen, and we're not being denied anything. We've decided to live a very specific life with a lot of goals, and we're hitting all of them. We're doing exactly what we want across the board, and that's a gift. 99% of the time, I'm absolutely loving what I do.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure as a business owner?
I have had great moments in my tenure as a business owner, really great ones, and I have had moments where I could not pick my head up off the pillow. But, then I realized that there were so many people relying on me - I could not give up. So I didn't. Now I try to look for a highlight every day. They can be as simple as making payroll without issue, or having one of your employees recognized by a client. The downsides are obvious - someone resigns, someone doesn't say thank you for a bonus, hitting payroll is tough - those are the downtimes. In almost every case, there's no one to share it with.

What advice can you offer those seeking to establish their own business?
What I tell everyone: Be very sure of two things - that you have great support at home, and that you have a long enough runway. The risks are extraordinary.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Work life balance - the kids are at home and you are not there. It is an impossible task to manage; only the skilled, the ones that do not sleep, and those with an awesome support system or very deep pockets can swing it. I am blessed in that I have a wife at home. How many people have that? I know women who are straight as can be who need a wife. It's all about the support system.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
She's a great role model, and I believe a good portion of her success can be traced back to the infrastructure she has at home. I see so many women who are forced to work multiple jobs just to try to make ends meet and still have to raise their children either by themselves or with a spouse who also works. I have a great deal of admiration for these women, because that's extraordinarily hard. No matter where you are in the country or the world, that's a tough, tough job and my hat goes off to them. Sheryl Sandberg and I are extremely fortunate to not have to be in that situation. We were both blessed with strong support systems, and I think that's key.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been mentored by plenty of both men and women. I seek it out, I'm fortunate to have it, and I would be lost without it. I seek advice constantly and I like input on everything I do - even on which dry cleaners is the best to go to. I don't need to repeat history just because I don't want to be the one to ask a question. I'll ask what people think even when I think I know the answer.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I just think the world of Meg Whitman. Meg was a female leader, innovator, and transformer at a time when no females were doing it. She was one of the first. Not only did she do it, she did it well and with grace. She was feared and respected, loved and hated, and I think she served eBay well. About five years ago, I saw her at a restaurant in Washington, DC before her run for governor and couldn't stop myself from interrupting her dinner - which I've never done before! - to say hello. Despite my intrusion, she was absolutely lovely!

What are your hopes for the future of Marketsmith and your new platform, I.Predictus?
If I can create two environments where talent comes to thrive and where we do great work, give back and make more global citizens - I will rest easy knowing I did part of the work I was sent here to do.