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Podcast Interview with Monica Smith

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

In this episode of the CEO Chat Podcast + I AM CEO Podcast, host Gresham Harkless speaks with Monica C. Smith, the founder of Marketsmith, Inc. Monica founded the company in 1999 with the belief that technology and humanity are integral in creating successful consumer-centric marketing. Her goal is to provide clients with the most advanced tools to build robust marketing models that maximize ROI and growth.

Monica's company, Marketsmith, grew to become one of the largest women-owned and operated independent media and marketing agencies in the country with a collection of patents and awards to boot. She is considered one of the strongest active CEOs in media today, especially in omnichannel media strategy that drives retail success.

Throughout the episode, Monica discusses her insights and experiences in building and leading a highly successful marketing agency. Listeners can learn more about her and her company, Marketsmith, on her website or on LinkedIn.

Overall, this episode provides valuable insights into building a successful marketing agency and what it takes to become a strong and effective CEO in the ever-evolving media landscape.

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Monica Smith Teaser 00:00

If the marketing was easy, everybody would spend money wildly and then all of a sudden great things happen. If horse racing was easy, everybody would just be gambling. I learned that from my grandfather, he used to sell butter.

Intro 00:11

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of.

This is the I AM CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:39

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, you know that we hit over 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year. We're doing something a little bit different where we are repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call CB nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month we are focused on the visibility game, a.k.a. Marketing, Advertising, PR, and Sales. I often say the name of the game is being found and these tools will help you to do that. We have heard the philosophical question, if the tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? If there's a really, really great product or service and no one knows about it, how great is it really? What impact does it ultimately make? This is where we will go into this month, looking at visibility, branding, marketing, public relations, sales being the lifeblood of businesses, building media companies, and so much more.

This is probably one of the most exciting and probably the most excruciating topics, but we hope this month to demystify and maybe even vanquish the fear and help and arm you with the tools to be able to increase your visibility. So buckle up and sit back and enjoy this special episode of the I AM CEO podcast.

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I AM CEO podcast. I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Monica Smith of Market Smith, Inc. Monica. It's great to have you on the show.

Monica Smith 02:07

Hey, Gresham, it's good to be here. Thank you so much.

Gresham Harkless 02:10

Thank you for taking some time out and super excited to have you on the show. Before we jumped into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Monica so you can hear about all the awesome things that she's doing.

Monica founded Marketsmith Inc in 1999, on the idea that technology and humanity are inextricably linked when it comes to creating successful consumer-centric marketing. Her mission then, as now, was to provide clients with the most advanced tools to build powerful marketing models that mitigate risk, maximize ROI and drive growth.

She drove Marketsmith, Inc. to be one of the largest women-owned, operated, independent media and marketing agencies in the country. She's considered one of the strongest active CEOs in media today, especially in omnichannel media strategy that drives retail success empowered by diverse subject matter experts who share Monica's growth mindset.

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Marketsmith has become one of the premier MarTech agencies in the US with a collection of patents and awards to boot. Monica, super excited to hear about all your success and even more excited to have you on the show. Are you ready to speak to the I AM CEO community?

Monica Smith 03:06

I am Gresham. So thank you.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 03:08

Absolutely. Thank you. To kick everything off, I wanted to rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Monica Smith 03:15

So I think that I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn't know exactly what that meant. I just saw a bunch of folks that, mostly men, strike out on their own and create things that were really important to the nation, right? And eventually to the world. I wanted something to do with that. So, whether it was my own landscaping business or ice cream route, just those things that kids do. All of that money in my pocket and not having to ask my parents for some change really resonate with me.

So, fast forward, I had a chance that when I got out of college, I had a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities that were great. One great company after another. This was in the nineties, which was a really interesting time for business. It was really where brands started to rise. I tried my hands, like a classic entrepreneur two years here, two years here, two years here. Then I hit a place where I was doing extraordinarily well, but decided that it was really important for me to come out and tell my story and I fell in love with a woman at the time, which wasn't probably great for my career. It wasn't great because, don't forget this was the exact same time really that Matthew Shepard had been killed. So it was not the ideal time in business. It was just not.

so I decided at that moment when I was fired and it wasn't as pretty as you're fired for that, it was really subterfuge on what actually created the confrontation that created that moment. But I just didn't want to have that conversation again. I love the idea of overseeing people. I had great relationship with our bosses. I just was different. I knew I was different, not just because I just wanted to move things faster, right? That's a classic entrepreneur. And to be honest with you, a true CEO wants to move things through.

So I tried my hand at that. And that was Russia. That was a 20-something years ago, 22 years ago. And here I am today started out in a bedroom in my home and today we've got a great staff and doing some good things working for some extraordinarily fantastic brands. So I'm very fortunate.

Gresham Harkless 05:31

Yeah, you're very fortunate for everything you're being able to do and to take that baton or that torch, so to speak, and to run with it as well, too. Because I think so many times we forget that when we lean into who we are and stay true to who we are especially, not only is it really hopefully great for us, but also impacts and creates a lot of motivation and reminder to us individually, all of us individually as well, too, to lean into ourselves and be true to ourselves.

Monica Smith 05:53

I think it helps you make it. I think from a CEO perspective, I believe that it has been essential to me becoming the leader I am today because you don't decide that you've come into your own and you wake up. What happens is it's a journey you're on. When a CEO realizes they're on a journey, and it doesn't happen overnight either, but when you realize that, then you can look around yourself and say, all of these individuals are on a journey and the ones that are not right, those are the ones you have to sit there and say, is this a place for them? And then you sit there and say, okay, you have the ability to see people for where they are and who they are. And what they want for themselves.

When you have a good understanding of that, seeing people past what you think they should look like or be like, or act like, when you get past that and see people exactly for where they are, who they are and where they want to go, you become almost unstoppable as a CEO. I think there's really a lot of good examples out there, right? That talk, Tim Cook and you see a bunch of folks now that are just really embracing that moment. And we as CEOs no longer have to follow this idea that everybody's supposed to fit in this box. That box has been broken open.

So I think it's an amazing time to be a CEO right now.

Gresham Harkless 07:19

Yeah, absolutely and I appreciate you for doing that, and of course sharing that as well too. Because I often say if you run your own race, you can never lose. I think we in business sometimes forget about that human aspect of seeing people as individuals of trying not to put people into boxes and say you need to be this or you need to be that, you need to be right or you need to be left.

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You really get the opportunity to be truly who you are. Then the truly successful, I should say, CEO, entrepreneur, business owner, whatever title it might be, is able to understand that we are in the human business. We are in the relationship connection business to start to build and grow the business according to the people that are within it.

Monica Smith 07:50

That's right.

Gresham Harkless 07:51

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So I know you've been able to reach loads of success with Marketsmith Inc, I wanted to drill down, hear a little bit more on how you've been able to do that, what that looks like in terms of you working with clients and serving them.

Monica Smith 08:02

Gresham I like to tell people that I'm the oldest contestant on American Idol. To me, it's because I didn't get here overnight. It wasn't this complete skyrocket to the top, but I did enjoy incremental and still do incremental success every single year. That is because as a CEO I'm running a very large company that supports significant brands nationally, and there's a lot of media dollars that run through my shop. So that's one aspect of it. But, entrepreneurially, there is something to be said about continuing to beat yourself year over year taking the next big leap. What's that risk? What's the reward and, what's interesting?

I'm thinking about some of the things that you've been doing and speaking over on your podcast for, and some of your interviews. And one thing that struck me that I thought was important was when I had finally reached a real significant level of success and it wasn't overnight. Like I said, it was taking years and years and years. I didn't know I had gotten it. It wasn't until I got knocked down. For whatever reason, you can't control everything. One, you learn, first of all, that you are not in control. The second is that you know the marketplace and the landscape, the larger you get, the more risk you take on.

I thought, oh, this is the way it goes. I was on a great streak and I was at a really high level of success and I had not educated myself on where I had gotten to. It hurts to fall backwards and to rebuild. Now we've rebuilt, again and I didn't have to, but rebuilding 20% of your business is not easy when the average agency, the average growth is expected to somewhere between 3% and 6%. So, double digits are hard. It is so hard. So whether you're a CEO of your own company or a CEO of somebody else's company, public or private, you have to give props to yourself when you're taking something, no matter whether you got it to someplace and it fell back a little bit, or whether you were taking over from somebody that couldn't take it to the next level.

One way or the other, it is hard and it is really hard in this landscape that used to change right every three to five years, right? We're already planning for potentially with resurgence of COVID again, a whole another change. So when you can't even say 18 months, like the average life of a CMO is 18 months, right? 18, 24 months. I used to say, okay, at least CEOs and presidents had that amount of time to try to figure out whether or not that's out the window. Right now, a CEO is on the field falling place more so than any other time in history. I can't think back to any story where I could sit there and say, the CEO was not more in play than they are right now.

Gresham Harkless 11:06

I love that you've been able to do that. Would you consider that to be like what I like to call your secret sauce? The thing you feel sets you apart and makes you unique. It could be yourself personally or the business or a combination of both.

But is it that I guess human-centric, aspect that you've made it a point to incorporate more into the business, but also the ability to be hit with sometimes things that don't go according to plan and be able to say, okay, I'm going to make these decisions and take a step forward in ways.

Monica Smith 11:29

I have always, and it could be because, just my gender. Giving back was something that I thought was important for all of us. It's a very simple thing for me. For those who have given much, much is expected.

Gresham Harkless 11:43

Truly appreciate that. I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. So this could be like an app, a book or a habit that you have. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Monica Smith 11:53

I think I mentioned it earlier. If you will have Microsoft Teams and you have spare moments before you get into your reading or your email and all that, if you're able to see folks that are green in down times or, off hours, I would focus on those folks first.

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Gresham Harkless 12:12

I love that hack. And so I want to ask you now for what I call CEO nugget. This could be a word of wisdom or a piece of advice. It might be something you would tell a client or if you hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self.

Monica Smith 12:23

What I tell people about just specifically is that, if marketing or running your business or like the horse races were easy, everybody would be doing this thing, If marketing was easy, everybody would spend money wildly and then all of a sudden, great things happen. If horse racing were easy, everybody would just be gambling. I learned that from my grandfather who used to sell butter.

So the reality is that owning a business, building a brand are difficult things and just because you're trying or just because you're spending money doesn't mean you get to where you're going. So I try to tell people, just make sure that you've got the right team around you. Shoot for the stars, but as you learn, in your mind, everything is perfect. As reality starts to inform your mind, make sure your mind is listening.

Gresham Harkless 13:20

That's extremely powerful. I absolutely love that. I think when you're able to stay present according to that, but also be aware of the process and the path that it takes and how it's not easy, where everybody would be doing and everybody would be excelling at it on top of that, then I think it's something that you, for one, get to embrace the journey, but also get to celebrate the wins and the parts of the journey as well, too, when you do get those winds.

So, I'm going to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO. We're hoping to have different quote and quote CEOs on this show. So Monica, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Monica Smith 13:50

A CEO is the ultimate leader. And however you see that leadership, it is such an important role and CEOs that have the title and that are active and CEOs that have the title and that are not active, all should realize that CEOs are important in today's community, are vital in the economy.

What I have learned is people look up to us in ways that we could have never thought about before. So if you have that title, recognize that you are very, very important to all the people that have are in your business model, whether it's your own or not. That is an awesome responsibility, more so today than ever.

Gresham Harkless 14:41

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. Monica, truly appreciate that definition and I appreciate your time even more. What I wanted to do is just pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know and of course, how best they can get a hold of you and find out about all the awesome things that you're working on.

Monica Smith 14:55

Thanks. I appreciate this time. It was wonderful. I love the fact that you were really able to and I admire the fact that you can take those nuggets of people, all those words that people say and find really what that nugget is. So I'm going to continue to listen to you.

I appreciate you very much, your time, but people can reach out to me at or Monica C. Smith on LinkedIn or Google me. I return every single call and email that I get, even if it's a bot that's for those lead gems because I think it's important. If you want the universe to respond back to you, you have to be open to the universe. So that's what I'll do.

I think that for anybody who is looking for growth strategies, I'd be more than happy to introduce my team who is really doing great things for companies like exporting goods and Game Changer, Love Sack Shark Ninja, Brother, and Blue Mercury and we're just so grateful for all of our clients. So we'd love to be able to work with anybody who needs it right now.

Gresham Harkless 16:01

Awesome. Monica, truly grateful for you for taking some time out and making a dent and an impact in the universe in the world with so many people. We will definitely have the links and information in the show notes. Thank you so much again, appreciate you. I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Outro 16:14

Thank you for listening to the I AM CEO Podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 media. Tune in next time and visit us at

I AM CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community. Don't forget to schedule your complimentary digital marketing consultation at

This has been the I AM CEO podcast with Gresham Harkless, Jr. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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