Speaker, Collaborator, Podcaster and Serial Entrepreneur, Tanya Fox has owned businesses from retail to service to franchise. She now spends her days helping others to discover the fun in business and how to retrain how they think about failures.
Tools / Books / Resources mentioned:Tools: None
Tanya’s entrepreneurial journey started at a young age of 11 with a lemonade stand and apart from a 2.5 year stint in the corporate world, it restarted with an accounting firm after college.
Tanya talks about her specialization which is to look beyond the numbers. As an example, her keynote speeches focus on ‘firing a bookkeeper who doesn’t ask business questions.”.
Tanya expands on her journey with stints in a bread making company (along with her husband), a Taekwondo studio etc. At one point, they had 5 simultaneous businesses but they made sure that they never start 2 businesses at the same time.
Tanya talks about one of her popular keynote speeches ‘I am Tanya, and I am a failure’. The genesis for this was her conversations with other business owners who focused on failure a lot and not enough on the learnings from these failures.
Tanya talks about people who inspired her starting with her mom who started her own business in her sixties. Her social media coach for 10+ years, Ashley inspires her as well. Tanya also talked about the 5:00 AM club.
Tanya talks about 3 major attributes of successful people she has seen over the years coaching. (1) They embrace their fears (2) They are willing to reach out to others with expertise (3) They have inner confidence in themselves.Tanya’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to collaborate (and look at that as competition) a lot and reach out for people with expertise that you don’t have.
Episode Transcript (Click to expand)
Ramesh: Hello everyone. Welcome to the agile entrepreneur podcast. This is your host Ramesh Dontha. This podcast is about starting and building your own business with purpose, passion, perseverance, and possibilities. So today I have a guest who has a broad spectrum of experience. Her name is Tanya Fox. She is a
Speaker, collaborator, podcaster and serial entrepreneur, a lot of things. Tanya Fox has owned businesses from retail to service to franchise. She now spends her days helping others to discover the fun in business and how to retrain, how they think about failures. Tanya, welcome.
Tanya: Thank you so much for having me. It's such an honor to be on your show.
Ramesh: Thank you. And then I liked the way I mean I introduced you and then you want to be introduced to discover the fun in business. That is very, very true.
Tanya: It is. And I think it's one thing that as you get going in business, you know, after you're about a year in, you kind of sometimes get stuck in the day to day tasks and we forget that it's, this is supposed to be a fun experience. It's not supposed to feel like, you know, quote unquote work.
Ramesh: That's right. So when it gets started though, it doesn't seem like a fun at that time, but so please tell us your story. How did you get into the entrepreneurship? How did you become an entrepreneur?
Tanya: I think it probably started when I was really young when I didn't realize what was, what was happening, but I was about 11 and I started a lemonade stand in my neighborhood, which most kids do. And I had some other younger kids who kind of looked up to me because I was the oldest one in the neighborhood and they said they wanted to help. So I ended up opening like five more lemonade stands. And I didn't realize at the time that I was franchising my little lemonade stand of course, because I was just like, Ooh, free money, free labor. But I think that's kind of what started it. And when I got out of university I just discovered, like I did go into the corporate world for a little bit, but I found that I was really restricted and I wanted to have the opportunity to be able to really spread my wings as wide as I wanted to. So I started my own business and have just kind of went from there and just tried to experience all different aspects of business, which is hence the such diverse things that I’ve done in my life.
Ramesh: So you are not one of those people who worked in the corporate world for quite some time and then got fed up or you know, got laid off and then started the business?
Tanya: No, I think I lasted probably about two and a half years before I really just sort of realized, you know what, this is not, I don't want to do this. I saw sort of the droning that was happening with people and I come from a family that are not entrepreneurs, that were nine to five. So I sort of saw, you know, I sort of was paying more attention when I was a teenager to sort of how they were feeling and it, it always seemed like, okay, I got to go to work. And it was just sort of a means to an end kind of, and I didn't want that for my life. I wanted something that excited me and thrilled me, and I just didn't feel like I would be able to find that working for someone else.
Ramesh: Yeah. So what was your first business, Tanya?
Tanya: The first one I did, I went to university for and got my accounting degree. So I opened up an accounting and bookkeeping company was my first one. And I still have that company today. I just can't, that's the only one that I can't let go of. But that was really kind of where my passion was. And I wanted to not only just do the books for people and do taxes for people, but I really wanted to help those businesses understand what the numbers meant and understand that although financing can be boring, it's also the most crucial thing. So I really wanted to dive in a little bit deeper and to be able to help them to grow when they wanted to grow.
Ramesh: Okay. So you're doing more than bookkeeping, you're consulting, coaching them as well.
Tanya: Right, yeah.
Ramesh: Okay. So by the way, so I checked on your website, www.Foxstocksbusiness.ca, and then I found this interesting keynote or workshop, it's titled five reasons to fire your bookkeeper. What is that about?
Tanya: So that one sort of came to be because in, I'm in Canada
And there's not really, like really anybody can say that they're a bookkeeper. There really isn't, it's not like accounting where they're sort of like governing boards and stuff that you can check on. And so a lot of my, what was happening was a lot of my clients were coming to me after they had a bookkeeper that, you know, they felt really messed up or cost them a lot of money and, but they weren't understanding the reasons why. And when I sort of stopped and realized that the majority of my clients never interviewed me, like they literally would just be like, Oh, you're a bookkeeper. Okay, you're hired. And I thought, you know, this is something that people need to learn about. What are the things that you should be asking when you're looking for a bookkeeper? What are some of the signs to look out for such as, you know, are you paying attention to say your petty caches? Are you signing blank checks? And just allowing them full control out of all of your money? These were common things that I was seeing. Now among my clients, I was grateful that they had enough trust in me to say, know, hey, we trust you, here's our life. You know, here's our last cent and you deal with it. But I was seeing more and more that people were being taken advantage of, or they were just getting somebody who was inexperienced, they were getting somebody who maybe work in accounts payable or receivable at a company and then decided to start their own business and then just went, Oh, well I’ll be a bookkeeper. And there's a lot more to bookkeeping than just data entry. So that's really what that keynote sort of came in, was giving some of these points of what to look out for, the questions to ask, like, you know, have they worked in your industry before? Are they familiar with your product or your service? Because that's, you know, that can be really important. And also their references, who are their clients and how long have they worked with them? These are things that it's okay to ask, but it's almost like a, like a doctor. No one ever goes in and asks, well what are your credentials? They just kind of go, well, he's got the coat on.
Ramesh: Yeah. That's good. I mean just yesterday, I read this article somewhere I think LinkedIn or somewhere that her husband is a bookkeeper and he was stealing from the business, it's the wife started a case, I think yeah, it's very good advice there.
Tanya: Yeah. And sometimes it's not even, it's not even theft. Sometimes it's just inexperience that they're not coming to you and saying, Hey, you know, something as simple as, hey, I’ve noticed that your, you know, your phone bill went way up this month. Is there a reason for that? These are questions that your bookkeeper should be bringing up to you. And sometimes that doesn't happen. They just go, Oh, I get the bill, I put it in. So you have to decide what it is that you need for your business and then really make sure that whoever it is that you're hiring is doing that for you and always check up on them. And that biggest thing I always say is, if they're not willing to answer your questions, it's time to look for someone else.
Ramesh: Yeah. That makes a lot of.
Tanya: And ask if you don't know what a profit and loss statement is or you don't understand what cost of good soul is, they should be able to tell you that, they should be willing to sit down and talk with you about that.
Ramesh: Excellent. Yeah. I am I 100% with you. So then you got this business going, then how did you diversify and why did you want to diversify?
Tanya: Well, I think for me it was just opportunities that came to me and I’ve always sort of been one that if something comes my way, I'm kind of willing to always give it a try and see you know, what comes out of it. So when I met my husband, we decided that he wanted to buy a part of the business that he was working for. He sort of had a corporate job with a commercial bread company and they were looking at franchising. And so we kind of got in on the ground level of doing a franchised route. And so I got into the commercial bread and dealing with franchising and corporate offices. And you know, all the stuff that that entails. And I really sort of dove into that one, because I didn't have any experience in commercial bread. And it really educated me a lot also for my bookkeeping clients, because I was then able to open up my doors a little bit more and say, you know what, I have experience with the food industry now. And so I was able to sort of broaden my horizons in my other businesses. At the time too, he also owned a taekwondo studio, which he taught in the evenings and I got my hands stuck in that and then we grew that to be a full-time business. Cause I was like, part time is so boring.
Ramesh: So you had this multiple things going on. As an entrepreneur, I know you had your husband's health because both of you are doing it. So how did you guys manage these multiple businesses?
Tanya: When we first started, it was just us. We didn't have any kids at the time, so our time was a little bit more freeing. One thing I do have to say is I never opened two businesses at the same time. Always made sure that when we opened something that previous businesses that were already running were well established and were kind of running on a good schedule. So because it takes so much time, when you first start a business. Like you, you know, it just consumes you. But yeah, we've had up to, five businesses running at the same time. The biggest thing for us is we have an amazing team of people that have sort of come with us for the last, you know, 15 years and sort of gathered this group. So it really wasn't just me. You know, I had my virtual assistant, I have my, you know, my secretary that comes with me. We have a controller that comes and helps me you know, get the startup and get everybody working. And then I have a social media coach who has also helped us with all of it. So it was really building that team. And once I had that really solid team, the other businesses became really easy, because I had the team to take with me to all of them to start off with.
Ramesh: Excellent. So let me ask you a tough question here. So did you have any failures in any of your businesses that you could talk about?
Tanya: Sure. Oh yeah. I mean many. A lot of the times I would probably say the biggest one, the hardest one was probably the franchise because you're so restricted and you have to follow so many rules. And we went through growing the route and the biggest failure that we had is we grew it too, too fast. And you know, a lot of people think, well, wouldn't it be good, like really fast growth? And it wasn't because it became really, really hard because we didn't stop to really assess how big we needed that growth to be, to be able to afford to bring more employees on. So we got this route so big, but it was kind of that in between that little Kuspit where it wasn't quite big enough to be able to fully pay somebody what we needed to, to have good work. So we were kind of stuck working, you know, 14-hour days trying to get to get this done. And so we really rushed into that too much. I think we should have really just enjoyed a slower growth. And it just ended up resulting in a lot of stress. And, and a lot of hurt feelings because of course my husband was out driving the route most of the time. And of course I was like, well, you're never home, you know, but totally our fault. But so that was probably the biggest eyeopener of realizing I really needed to sometimes scale back a little bit on my growth and go, is this, is this the right time for us to grow and do I have what it takes? Do I have the time? Do I have the mental capacity to grow right now? And really learning that it's okay to go, you know what, we're just not ready yet. Which is, can sometimes be a hard thing because people think, well that opportunity is never going to come again. I have to take it right now. But we sacrificed a lot in those, you know, first few years. And then especially with having our son around then there was, you know, times where we didn't spend as much quality time as what we wanted with him because we're always at the office or we were always on the road. And so that probably is the one that sticks in my mind the most.
Ramesh: Thank you for sharing that. I know many times people think the growth is good. You know, but you hear so many other businesses that because of fast growth, the cash flow management and then people hiring and all that stuff, they go under precisely because of that reason.
Tanya: Yeah. And sometimes you're fine just the way you are and that's okay. You know, and it's okay to let go too. I had a retail craft store was something I always wanted to do. I love the crafting industry. I'm a crafter myself. And I did that for about five years and then I was just, I was kind of done. Like I just, it wasn't, I loved the people, but the day to day stuff, putting stuff on the shelf and the merchandising, I was kind of like, like it just wasn't bringing me joy anymore. And so I sat down and really thought about it and thought, you know, I started this because I never wanted to have any regrets as saying, Oh, I wish I would have tried. And I said, and I tried, and it was successful. It was doing really well, but it just wasn't where I wanted to be. So I let it go and I closed the doors and I had a lot of people that said, you know, you're crazy. Why would you do this? It made me question myself quite a bit, but I realized it's okay to do that. Like it's okay to go undone. I just don't want to do this anymore and I don't want to have to go through selling it. And I was at a good point, so I was just like, I'm done. Like move on to something else. So that was probably the other biggest thing was, I'm glad I made the decision to do it. Yeah. But I think sometimes people are too scared of, you know, especially if you live in a smaller community, you know, what are people going to say or what are people going to think? And you can't stop that. And you know, my mom always says to me, what other people think of you is none of your business. And I’ve tried to live by that because people are going to say whatever they're going to say, you're never going to be able to stop that. But at the end of the day, you have to do what's right for you. And if that's closing your business, then that's a good decision.
Ramesh: Excellent. I mean, that way it frees up a lot of stuff. You know, the cashflow, time and then losses and all that stuff. Yeah. So Tanya, so let me go back to your keynotes and workshops and then I came across this other interesting one. My name is Tanya and I'm a failure. That is the title of your keynote and workshop. What is that about?
Tanya: So that came to be, I took a really great trip and I was talking to people about just their lives and sort of what they had gone through. And I was realizing sort of that there was a consistent thing of people talking about stuff that they had done, and they say, Oh, this, I failed at this and it was so miserable and all of this other stuff. But then they would continue on with their story of what they did. And I thought, that's not, that's a good thing. Like that failure was good. Look how it taught you. Yeah and I really was starting to realize it in myself too, when I really sat and thought about what I felt my own failures were and I realized that I had the choice of whether I wanted to make my failures a mistake because I feel like I could have done better. And you know, you sit in that, you know, why me? Why is this happening to me? Why can't I ever be better? Or I could turn around and learn a lesson. And as soon as I looked at what I thought were failures and tried to, you know, figure out what the universe was trying to show me, I found that they became successes because I learned something from it. So I find that failure is the one word in the English language that never remains the same. And we have a choice whether we take a failure and leave it as a mistake or whether we turn it into a success by learning from it. And that's really what that workshop is about is sitting down and just retraining our brains to understand that the word failure is, it's not a bad word, it's not a swear word, it's actually a word of growth. Because in our failures is where we learn the most. That's where we get our inspiration. That's where we're like, I'm not going to stay down in this hole. I'm going to fight for this. You know, this is not going to get me down. That's where we really discover our true passions and our true strengths. But sometimes it can be hard to see that. So that workshop is really to help people understand and really rethink about how they look at their failures.
Ramesh: Yeah, so in the technology industry, there's this concept called fail fast. I'm a 100% believer in that one. If you fail fast, of course as I said, there are lots of learnings that come out of it, but don't many that would be entrepreneurs aspiring entrepreneurs, they take too much time thinking about it and then even when they start, they take too long to fail. You know, trying to get the perfect everything right. So the too long to fail is a problem because if you, if you fail, for example, from your own experience when your business was not doing well, you got rid of it. Because then you learned from it, you failed fast and learned and then you moved on.
Tanya: Yeah, and I think it's true. I think people, you know, just think of how many times, I think any one of your listeners think of how many times you an invention came up and you were like, I totally thought about that three years ago and I could've, I could have done that. Like that was my invention, you know. That was my word. And you know, we need to do that. We need, because I think waiting and causing ourselves to procrastinate because we think, you know, who are we to do this? Or who am I to think that I can do this, or I can offer this, that that in and of itself is a failure that turns into a mistake. I think just jump and try. Like what's the worst that's going to happen? It's not going to work you move onto something else. You know, you need to be smart along the way and make sure you're not, you know, losing everything, but you know, what are you going to regret more? Are you going to, you know, regret trying and saying, Oh, I tried that. It didn't work very well, or are you going to say, you know, I wonder, I wonder what could have happened if I would've just trusted myself.
Ramesh: That's true. So I'm switching back to the business side. So you did a corporate bread franchise and, and then then what happened afterwards? How did you end up in the current role of advising other people and then coaching them about the business?
Tanya: It really sort of came to me; I'd always been a speaker. I had done it even like way back when I started in the corporate world and it just sort of always came with me. I love getting together with people. I love, you know, talking with other business owners and it was a lot easier to do it in sort of group settings. And you know, since I was like three years old, I’ve always been told I was a chatterbox. So it was just natural for me to go into sort of the speaking profession. And I just find that that is where my passion has always been. That's where my excitement has always been, was helping other people to spark that flame again or to realize their passion again. And I really, really enjoyed that. So I decided that I wanted to really make the move to start that again on a fulltime basis. Because we're seeing such a surgence of entrepreneurship starting, whether it's, you know, just you know, what they call now a side hustle or if it's people that are working full time that are, you know, waiting to try to make this work you know, to make the transition. But I think that people are looking for somebody to help them along the way. Somebody that they can say, Hey, you know, is this right? Am I doing this right? And that kind of advice. So that's where all of most of my workshops come from is just from other clients that I’ve had that have said, you know, this is what I struggle with.
Ramesh: So looking back your journey, are there any people who have inspired you, motivated you, pushed you along?
Tanya: Oh, so many. So many. Probably the biggest one would be my mom. And I know that sort of sounds cliché to say, but she was always there, you know, when I would talk to her and say, you know, I'm thinking of doing this, but I don't know. And you know, she would always throw my own advice back at me, you know, and say you always tell other people to just jump. But when she was in her early sixties, she decided to start her own business. And that was really inspiring to me. And that's kind of when I decided that I really wanted to go and do the speaking and the workshops as my full-time job because helping her was so invigorating for me. It just inspired me so much and just her story of her entire life. And I thought people need to share their stories more. We need to get out there and we need to share our experiences. And that's how the podcast started for me as I wanted an Avenue for people to be able to share their stories and their experiences, so that we could learn from them and not have to make the mistakes that others have made. So she probably was the one that always pushes me and reminds me to, you know, to listen to what I tell other people. Sometimes it's easy to give advice. It's not always easy to take your own. And then my social media coach, Ashley Medol is such an inspiration to me. She always is the one that will push me. Always the one that doesn't accept the, I don't know if I can do that right now. And so she's been with me for about 10 years now. And she just, I just watch her, and her career and you know, it's just so great to have someone else who's, you know, in the same type of industry. And we go to a lot of conferences together and we traveled together, and we do a lot of speaking together. So it's really nice to have somebody who is like, you know, you got this, I got your back, you can do it. And I'm just really fortunate to be surrounded by, you know, those people that was a working relationship but now have really become friendships. And then of course there's, you know, all of the big ones, you know, the big people. I love the 5:00 AM club book. And you know, there's a lot of authors and stuff like that that I read on a regular basis that always inspire me and, you know, and the big names, I mean, I follow them all.
Ramesh: Yeah. We've got to keep ourselves motivated all the time. Yeah. So looking back at your journey, there are multiple businesses who have done that. Right? And then you're also coaching a lot of people right now. So you come across a lots of customers, lots of plans. And so what are some of the characteristics that you have noticed in the people that are successful? And what are the things that, who are not successful, things that are dragging them not to be successful. I mean, anything that comes to your mind?
Tanya: I think probably in the, for all the clients that I’ve had over the years is the ones that I see that have the most success are the ones that embrace their fears. So are the ones that go, you know, this scares me, but they pushed past that. And they just have that drive to go, you know, this scares me, but okay, let's go. You know, you're at the top of that roller coaster and you're like, okay, give her like, I'm going to be scared and I'm going to scream my head off, but I'm going to get down that Hill, you know? And so I think those that have that drive to constantly go, you know, okay, that didn't work. Why didn't it work? Let's move on. You know and can keep that sort of motivation going. Those are the ones that I see that have the most success and the ones that are willing to ask for help. That's a hard thing, because people think they have to do it by themselves. So the ones that are willing to step out and say, you know what, I don't know about social media or I don't know about bookkeeping or I don't know about, you know, how to franchise, I need to find somebody who can teach me about this. Those are the ones that I find go farther and, and, and are happier and more successful in their businesses. Probably the, on the other side of that you know, the ones that I see that struggle are the ones that lack confidence in themselves. So the ones that always think this isn't going to work for me and have that negative talk and aren’t willing to learn tips to get out of that. I find they really get stuck in that and it can really be hard for them to, because I think you have to have confidence in yourself regardless of what business it is that you have, whether it's a service or whether it's a product you're selling you, you're selling yourself.
So you need to have confidence in yourself and you need to have confidence in whatever it is that you're selling. And I’ve seen a lot of people start businesses because it's the new thing or it's the up and coming, but they don't really use the product, or they don't really believe in it. It's not in their heart. It's just, you know, get quick or a get rich quick kind of thing. So those ones that don't truly have like a soul biting passion for what it is that they're doing, I think that it just really drags them down because I find that that passion and that spark is what brings you through those low times.
Ramesh: Wow. Tanya, so we have covered a lot of ground and some excellent conversation discussions we've been having. Any things that we have not covered, you really want to share with the audience. They are either aspiring entrepreneurs or you know, businesspeople who've started but they want to go to the next level.
Tanya: I think the biggest tip that I usually give businesses is to really look into collaboration with other businesses. It's not all about competition. And that could be something as simple as maybe sharing an ad space in a newspaper with another business that's in your town or you know, really giving referrals. If you have, say, a retail store and you don't sell an item, really shop in your town and find those other stores that have that. Because it just sets you up really good, not only in the business community but with your customers as well. You kind of become the expert of everything. And by doing collaborations and working with other businesses, you sort of expand your reach really easily. And it's a lot more fun to go through business when you can share stuff. So as an example, when I had my retail store, we had it was a craft store and then right next to us we had a pottery place where you could go and paint pottery and stuff and we would do collaborations of like gift cards or we would do events together where people could come and buy some crafts and then they could paint with her. And doing those was less money for each of us. Cause of course now we're only paying half, but I got access to her customers and she got access to my customers. And it was really an easy way to sort of lighten load, especially when you're the owner and operator of a business. So just look for those other people that you like or that you enjoy going into their stores and seeing how you guys can maybe work together to create either a new product or to create sort of a combined service for each other.
Ramesh: Wow. So Tanya, that's excellent, excellent device. And you're probably the first guest on my show who has such a breadth of experience traversing from retail to franchising, to online coaching, and you know, the bookkeeping that's business being there all along. Thank you very much.
Tanya: Thank you so much. It was such an honor.
Ramesh: Thank you.