[quote style=”boxed”]Working on priorities. As an entrepreneur, there is always more work than you can physically do. Setting priorities is the key to being a good entrepreneur.[/quote]
Mary-Alice Brady is the founder and CEO of mosaicHUB, an online entrepreneur community and resource center. Prior to making the leap into entrepreneurship, Brady was a corporate attorney advising businesses from startups to public companies for over 12 years.
She started her career as a corporate attorney at Ropes & Gray, where she worked for seven years on venture capital financings, leverage buyouts and general company representation. She then spent three years at Fidelity Investments as Vice President, Associate General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, where she focused on financings, board governance matters and corporate restructurings, as well as working closely with the business development team on strategic ventures. For the past two years, she has worked with the venture capital firm General Catalyst on their seed, venture and growth investments.
She was recently named one of Boston Business Journal’s “2012 40 Under 40,” which honors business and civic leaders who collectively represent the next wave of talent and commitment in the Boston economy. She graduated summa cum laude from Boston College, where she was captain of the track and field team, an All-American and was named NCAA Massachusetts’ Woman of the Year (and a top ten national finalist). She went on to graduate magna cum laude from Boston College Law School. She currently resides in Medford, Massachusetts and enjoys competing in triathlons and skiing with her husband in her free time.
What are you working on right now?
I am working full-time on mosaicHUB, an online entrepreneur community and resource center that connects entrepreneurs with each other and with experts and resources to help launch and grow great businesses. We have a small team dedicated to building our community, getting customer feedback and continually improving our product to provide maximum value to members of the entrepreneur community. We are excited to be facilitating the connection of entrepreneurs from around the world and the sharing of valuable knowledge and advice to make entrepreneurship easier.
Where did the idea for mosaicHUB come from?
The idea for mosaicHUB came from several sources and gradually built over years of practicing law. While at a law firm and then at a financial services, company I saw many smart, driven people slowly lose their passion and become complacent. I am not saying everyone loses their motivation as a corporate employee, but there are many people sitting behind desks miserable because they don’t like what they are doing and don’t see any other options. They think they are too old or have too many responsibilities to do something different, or they just don’t know where to start.
I then spent several years at a venture capital firm working with early-stage entrepreneurs. I saw their excitement and vision, but also saw many wasting time on things that shouldn’t be that time-consuming. I wanted to see these entrepreneurs succeed, as well as to encourage more people to explore entrepreneurship as a way to follow their true passion.
What does your typical day look like?
The first thing I do when I wake up is to check our website and my email and respond to anything urgent. I then make a cup of coffee and take my dog Kaylee, a 90 lb. yellow lab, for a walk. I then usually go for a run or do some yoga. This is usually a great energizer for me and gets me excited to jump into my daily tasks. On most days, I then take the T into our Boston office. On my ride in, I try to spend some time thinking about the day and prioritizing my tasks.
As soon as I get into the office, I write these tasks down and start ticking through them. These tasks are often responding to email, spending time on product enhancements, meeting with team members to review their tasks and priorities, attending meetings and conference calls and trying to squeeze in some social media. I often attend events at night—networking or seminars. When I get home, I spend what time I have left in the day with my husband.
How do you bring ideas to life?
This is a great question. Bringing ideas to life is the key to being an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs need to make things happen. For me, it’s developing a long-term, medium-term and short-term vision, coming up with concrete, actionable tasks, setting priorities and determining the right delegation of the tasks.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Connecting online. Online communities are still in their infancy. We’ve had the first waive, which tend to have a broader member base. We are now seeing more focused and valuable communities. That’s what we are working on with mosaicHUB, and it’s really exciting to see people using these online tools to improve their lives.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I worked in a plastics factory. It was so boring for me. I realized that I needed to be mentally challenged. Repetitive tasks all day is definitely not a good fit for me. I went off to college and studied extremely hard after that job.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I probably would have gone for my joint degree (JD/MBA). When I went to law school, I hadn’t been exposed much to the business world, so getting my MBA was not something I ever thought about. I value my law degree tremendously, but also having my MBA would be pretty cool. It’s definitely not necessary to being a successful entrepreneur, but I think the experience would have been fun.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Working on priorities. As an entrepreneur, there is always more work than you can physically do. Setting priorities is the key to being a good entrepreneur.
I base my priorities in large part off of the feedback I get from our users, while keeping our long-term focus always in mind. We are constantly viewing the analytics to see how people are using the site and listening to what they want. Based on this data, we determine where the product is going. This feedback causes our task list to change regularly, so I am always having to re-prioritize.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I brought on a few too many people at times. It’s an easy mistake to make. You launch your product and start getting great feedback and think you need more people quickly. But the road is long, and you have to manage your cash burn rate carefully and keep things lean for as long as you can. I had to let a few people go, which was a hard thing to do. But, now that we have a lean team again, I feel that we have a renewed energy and more focus.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Not sure I have any earth-shattering ideas, but I do see a gap in office space solutions. There is co-work space for entrepreneurs and larger office space, but the growing startups in between are finding it difficult to find affordable space. A work environment that catered to this group would be really valuable.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
To remove the stigma around failure. I know there are bigger things, such as eradicating hunger or curing cancer, but I think this one is appropriate for the topics we are discussing here.
I see so many people afraid to try new things because of a fear of failure. Silicon Valley is actually a great place to look to for a solution. The community there has recently been seeing the value in failing, how you can learn from it and actually fail well. Talking about failure and respecting those who fail are important steps to changing people’s views around failure. And, as Thomas Edison said, “I failed my way to success.”
Tell us a secret.
I took singing lessons. I haven’t told many people about this experience—and if you heard me sing, you’d know why. I was learning to play the guitar and wanted to sing along. This one company’s website said anyone can learn to sing. Well, let’s just say that I think they have since changed their website to read “almost anyone can learn to sing.”
What are your three favorite online tools or resources, and what do you love about them?
1. mosaicHUB – I obviously would say that, but I do use it to get help running my business. I really value having a community of like-minded peers and experts that I can turn too for advice. For example, I recently asked a question about web hosting platforms, and the advice I received was invaluable.
2. Google Analytics – This is a great free tool that helps us get in tune with our members by seeing what features they are using and then helps us to improve our product based on the feedback.
3. Google – I use Google search numerous times a day. It’s nothing trendy, but it’s still an incredibly important tool.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. The balance between the entrepreneur, manager and technician really resonated with me. I started my career as a technician, then became a manager and finally an entrepreneur. You need all three personalities when running your own business, and I sometimes find it hard to strike the right balance. This book helps remind me to keep re-balancing, as well as to work “on” the business, rather than “in” the business.
Three people we should follow on Twitter and why?
1. @entmagazine – Great startup advice and stories.
2. @hubspot – They give free, practical advice.
3. @richardbranson – He is engaging, insightful and energizing.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Yesterday. My neighbor came home, and my dog usually runs up to her, but this time she quickly ran inside. My neighbor was sad that she ran the opposite way. Well, a few seconds later, she came barreling out of the house and ran right up to my neighbor…with a ball in her mouth. She was ready to play.
She is always happy and goofy. She even wags her tail when swimming. I love having a dog. No matter what kind of day I’ve had, she always makes me smile, even when I get home late and she’s been inside for way to long.
Who is your hero?
My parents (cannot pick one or I would be in the doghouse). I’m sure a lot of people say their parents, and I think that’s a good thing. They are the two people who have worked incredibly hard and sacrificed a tremendous amount to give my brother and I all the tools and love we needed to find our own success. And through all their hard work and sacrifice, they are still deeply in love with each other. I admire them immensely.
Was it an easy decision to leave a steady, well-paying job to become an entrepreneur?
No, and it wasn’t a straightforward path. I spent over seven years Ropes & Gray, established a great reputation and was less than two years away from partner. Keeping my head down and working hard would have been the easy thing to do. But I knew something was missing for me. I wanted to do something more and be more creative. I then moved to Fidelity. While this proved to be a great learning experience, it wasn’t a move in the right direction.
I found that for years, I kept clinging to the corporate jobs because that’s what I knew, those jobs were safe and people knew me as a lawyer. It took me a long time to start reinventing myself and finally take the leap into entrepreneurship. While the path was a bit long for me, I have no regrets. I am proud of myself for getting to this point.
How do you find balance in your life?
This is a tremendous challenge as an entrepreneur. Unlike many corporate jobs that have structure and set hours, you have to create structure as an entrepreneur and determine how you are going to segment your life. I have always worked very hard and usually long hours (both as a corporate employee and as an entrepreneur), but I’ve found that I obsess about work more now as an entrepreneur. I am still learning how to separate work from other parts of my life.
Scheduling time for non-work life is important, whether it’s my daily workout, dinner with my husband or time with friends. If I don’t block that time off, I find that I still work or at least think about work. This area is still a big work in progress for me, but I am gradually getting better.