Let's get to know, Mary Grace, in this week's SOULACY Spotlight
Mary Grace Gardner is co-founder of Human Centered Reliability, an education and consulting company that helps companies reach and sustain their performance targets.
With a focus on performance improvement, lean six sigma, and neuroscience leadership, Mary Grace has led multiple company-wide transformations in their efforts to improve quality, service and affordability.
Mary Grace graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of California, Berkeley, earning a degree in pure mathematics and a Masters in Public Health with a concentration in maternal & child health and with an international health specialty.
After graduation, she rose quickly in her career, becoming a hospital Chief of Staff, a Director of Operations, a Chief of Staff for a surgical robotics company, and start-up founder.
Mary Grace has been featured in Business Insider, CNBC, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News and World Report, and Fast Company. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
Let's jump right in...
Who/What are you watching or listening to right now? What has you interested in them/it?
I'm enjoying listening to personal finance podcasts like "I Will Teach you to Be Rich" by Ramit Sethi and "So Money" by Farnoosh Torabi. I appreciate hearing the different approaches people are taking to wealth building. I am also enjoying listening to business podcasts like "Hello 7" by Rachel Rogers, "Online Marketing Made Easy" by Amy Porterfield and "Legalpreneur" by my small business lawyer Andrea Sager. It helps to keep a pulse on what's new in business. My favorite show continues to be Shark Tank because I love seeing the different entrepreneurial paths people take.
How to do you spend your free time?
I love to travel with my husband and our two young kids. Pre-pandemic we were avid travelers taking 3-4 trips per year. I love dance and like exploring all different genres like hip hop, Bollywood and Latin. I also love to learn and challenge myself to try new things -- each year, I choose something I know nothing about and take a course -- I've tried swimming, improv, parkour, singing, acting, aerial arts -- to name a few. I'm now learning how to do modern calligraphy. You can also find me oftentimes at my kids' sports or extracurricular activities.
What was your first business and why did you start it?
My very first business was as an eBay seller. People always complimented my clothes (I was voted most fashionable at UCLA!), so I decided to cycle out my closet by selling last year's wardrobe. I learned SO much about customer service, profit margins and scale. I still thank my husband to this day for waiting an hour at USPS to mail out a package for me that I was sending out at a financial loss -- I wanted to avoid the negative rating despite knowing I wasn't making money from the sale.
What book changed or greatly influenced your life and why?
I Will Teach You to Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. I credit that book for teaching me about how to negotiate for myself and creating systems in my financial life for wealth building. So much of it for me is now on auto-pilot, freeing me up for other things I care about.
What is your favourite quote? Why?
It always seems impossible until it's done. Nelson Mandela
What's the scariest thing you've ever done in your business?
In my college admissions and career consulting business, I decided in 2021 to decline any additional 1-1 work. While I love it, I recognized that if I wanted to scale, that was not going to be possible with my business model at the time. It's hard to say no to money that can be more easily made and bet on a different strategy.
What has been the biggest mindset shift you've had since you started your business(es)?
Pricing and product offerings that are most successful can be counterintuitive. When I first started in my college admissions and career consulting business, I had a low priced offer that had a long list of features and benefits. I had only a few buyers. I reworked my offers to streamline them to the essentials and raised prices -- I sold a lot more. What I learned is that clients oftentimes want results in the fastest way possible and sometimes less features can be better.
What excites you right now - outside of your business?
Raising my little boys. I have a 6-year-old, 3-year-old and a third on the way. Raising boys in this current climate has been such an adventure. My 3-year-old was upset about something and announced he needed to step out of the room to catch his breath. He returned re-centered and ready to reengage. I didn't teach him that. His 6-year-old brother did. We are raising a very different generation and I think this is so powerful.
What is the legacy that you're creating?
In my college admissions and career consulting business, the legacy I am creating is the next generation of future leaders who are pursuing careers that they love while feeling inspired and empowered. For my Human Centered Reliability business, the legacy I am creating is businesses and individuals that can achieve their personal and professional goals with more ease and flow and without the traditional burn out we are used to seeing. Personally, I am teaching my young kids that their mom can be successful in her corporate job, run multiple businesses, take care of herself and still be there for them.
Favourite time of year? Why?
My favorite time of year has always been the summer. While everyone recalibrates at the beginning of the year, I like to recalibrate in the middle of the year. It aligns with the seasonality of my college admissions and career consulting business and also with my husband's schedule as an educator. I enjoy taking trips with my family at that time to unwind and enjoy each other's presence.
Who/What's making you belly laugh right now?
My kids' jokes. Literally, they are reading joke books to stock up on material to share with me.
What big, wonderful, cannot-wait-until-it-happens goal are you working toward or dreaming of right now?
For my college admissions and career coaching business, having a bigger cohort of students who are launching passion projects that change the world. For my human centered reliability business, debuting our high reliability organization certification program. Personally, buying a bigger home for my growing family.
When overwhelm creeps in, what is your go-to solution to moving beyond it?
I'm an external processor, so I appreciate the change to talk to those who I know support me. Even if they just listen without commenting back, having a chance to sort out my thoughts helps so much.
Best business advice you've ever received? Did you follow it when you first heard it? Tell us about it...
Nagina Abdullah runs a successful healthy eating practice and was my accountability partner for a business course we were both in. We met up in New York and I remember telling her about my desire to create an online program during my first steps in business. She highly encouraged starting with 1-1s first -- the opportunity to learn what makes a business is much quicker in this format. I did that my first year and it has made such a difference.
What do you have going on in your business or coming up soon?
I currently have two free classes available for my college admissions and career coaching business: one for college application essay writing and the other on launching passion projects. Both can be found here: https://www.theyoungprofessionista.com/free-webinars. My Human Centered Reliability business has ongoing webinars on achieving goals, and you can sign up for the next one here.
What's the best way for people to spend more time with you and learn more about what you have going on?
Find me here. I'd love to connect.
Mary Grace is a featured writer inside our RELATE Special Edition · April 2022