Episode # 57
In today’s episode, I’ll be interviewing Tammy Johnston, who’s been working with small businesses for over 20 years.
This podcast is about entrepreneurship, spirituality, and self-care. My name is Lourdes, and I am the host of this show. Thank you for listening today!
And let me introduce you to Tammy Johnston. Like I said, she’s been working with small businesses for 20 years. She is a coach, and she specializes in helping solopreneurs as early in their journey as possible to teach them the basic foundational skills they need to first survive, and then thrive.
Lourdes: Tammy, welcome, welcome! How are you today?
Tammy: Oh, we’re awesome and looking forward to having a great conversation with you!
Lourdes: Sounds good! So, my first curiosity is, what does KSA stand for?
Tammy: Kick Some Ass.
Lourdes: I love it! That’s why your logo is like that too, it looks like a woman high kicking or kickboxing or something like that, right?
Tammy: Yes, it all ties together.
Lourdes: Wow, cool. So, you’ve been in business for a while. So tell me, who is your ideal client?
Tammy: My ideal clients are people that are wanting to start a business, or have just recently started a business. So I work with solopreneurs as early in their journey as possible, like idea stage up to two years, because that’s where I can have the most impact, and I am on a mission to fix the dismal dismaying and completely unnecessary failure rate of new businesses.
Lourdes: Wow! So, a solopreneur, let’s say it’s a virtual assistant. Could you help that person?
Tammy: Oh yes, I’ve got a few of those in my client base that we have worked with over the years.
Lourdes: So then are they confused about their niche or who to serve?
Tammy: Some of them are confused about their niche, some need help with figuring out their marketing, some need figuring out their systems, some need to be figuring out well what exactly is it that I’m offering, a lot of them need help with understanding their financials, a lot of them need to be figuring out who do you actually take your advice from, because most people are getting their advice from their broke-ass friends and family who have never played in the arena they’re trying to play in.
Lourdes: So true!
Tammy: A lot need to learn the difference between profit and cash flow, and what they are and how it actually works. They need to learn how to actually set up their life so that they are running a successful business, because especially when a lot of people start out, because we’ve been trained in the employee mindset where other people are telling us what to do and when to do it, and then when you start your own business you have to decide everything. People go I don’t know what to do, so they just react to whatever comes their way. And when they’re busy, like they’re working 20 hours a day and burning out, and then when they don’t have any booked clients, then they’re just wasting their time, and they’re wondering why isn’t this working.
Lourdes: I agree. So, you mentioned financials. That’s part of your background, isn’t it?
Tammy: Yes, I’ve been in financial services for over 30 years.
Lourdes: Okay, so financial services, what did you do with that, or what was it?
Tammy: So for the first almost 10 years of my career, I worked in back offices, head offices for companies. My job was to handle paperwork and then hire and train the agents in any problems that they had, I had to figure out the answer and help them with that, assisting on cases and stuff like that. And then, I was fired from a job I absolutely hated, and finally decided to go and start my own company after being pushed by many people to do it for years, and went and did that.
And I look after setting up budgets for people that actually work, going over their credit, making sure that that is set up properly for them, not just for the banks. Investments, insurance like the life insurance, disability, critical illness, health benefits, travel insurance, RSPs, TFSAs, education savings, retirement planning, a lot of business planning, that’s how I got into doing the business stuff. Because I was working with so many self-employed people, and I’d be helping them with their personal finances, I’d be going well one of the problems is you’re not making enough money. You’re not making enough money because there’s these things you could be doing that’d be really simple to fixing your business so you could be making and keeping more money.
And I started helping them with that, because I had a greedy motivated self-interest because broke people can’t afford investments or insurance, and I just really really love helping the business people. It’s always been something that I was interested in, like I’ve been studying money business and success since I was 7 years old, but didn’t know how to take that interest and turn it into something where I could help people make money until I was almost 30.
Lourdes: Wow! Okay, so then with a brand new business owner, let’s say they decided to have a business and they contacted you. And let’s say they’re either a sole proprietor or an LLC. Before they start that actual journey of becoming available to clients and start offering their services, do you think they should have their books set up? Meaning their financials set up first, or what do you think?
Tammy: Well, there’s so many different things that you say. Well, before they’re set up as a sole proprietor or even an LLC, because I’ve come across people that have made the mistake of incorporating before they were ready, which ended up costing them a lot of money and taxes and all sorts of things, because they didn’t do it right, or it wasn’t appropriate at that time. They just, oh I started a business so I need to incorporate. No. And then I’ve also had people that do it too late, or improperly, so it’s like okay let’s start talking to somebody first to be figuring out #1 do you need to? There are some people that do for various reasons, but there’s a lot of people that don’t. And, are you doing it properly?
I’m a big fan of yes, I’m all for business. Business is beautiful, wonderful, it can be one of the best things you ever do. But you don’t want to be putting carts before horses. There’s certain things that you need to be doing in a correct order. Which is one of the many reasons I specialize in getting them as early as possible. Because I’m going, I can save you thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars and unbelievable amounts of time and grief by walking you through the process and helping you learn from all the mistakes I had to go through and learn myself painfully, and all the ones I’ve helped my clients with.
Because that’s one of the many reasons most, like 90%, of new businesses fail within the first two years. Because they don’t know what they’re doing on the business side. They’re excited, they’ve got a great idea for a product or service, they’re technicians, but they don’t have the business knowledge and skills to make it through those two years.
Lourdes: Wow. Okay so, you mentioned you made mistakes in your business, and I’m thinking this is early on in your business. Can I ask you, what were your three biggest mistakes in those times?
Tammy: The three biggest mistakes in my first two years in business I would say is, the first one was not starting my business until the moment I started my business. So what that means is, like I said, I started my business because I was fired from a job I absolutely hated. And it was one of the best things that ever happened to me, because like I said, I hated that job, I was already looking for another one. Another week, I would’ve been somewhere else making more money with a better title and all this, but it would’ve been the same poo, different pile.
And I’d had people pushing me for years going “Tammy, you’d be really good at this, go start your business.” And I just kept coming up with all these excuses, and I’d throw myself into my job and do the absolute best that I could, which was a gigantic waste of time. So when I decided, literally the moment I was being fired, that nope, I’m finally done with this, I never have to work for another creepy incompetent old man again, that’s why I started my business.
So it took me the two years to get up and running and doing all this stuff. And I went in better prepared than the vast majority of people because of my background, but I go if I could go back and talk to me 1 year before that moment and go okay, here’s things that you need to start putting in place so that when you pull the trigger you are ready to actually go.
So, I would say starting too late. Like I said, I didn’t start building my business until the moment I pulled the trigger. It took me a while to figure out what I was marketing and how to put it together and things like that, so having to figure that out while I’m trying to do it was very very stressful.
And I would also say okay, if I had known that I was going to be starting my business, I would have adjusted my personal finances to make things a little bit better first as well.
Lourdes: Okay. I read somewhere on your website that you do something with an earth approach. What do you mean by an earth approach? Sorry, down-to-earth approach.
Tammy: I’m very practical, I’m very honest. Like I know my clients name the the hold your hand and kick your ass business coach, because I love them, support them, but I also call them on their crap and I hold them accountable. People come to me that want to succeed and are willing to do the work. I don’t candy coat anything, and all of my stuff is very practical and it works for people in real life. Like, I’ve been learning and studying, I’ve been in all sorts of programs, I’ve gone to courses and been part of things, and one of the things that always drove me nuts is, yes all of their advice is good, but a lot of it only worked for people, typically men that have wives that are looking after everything in the background. So they don’t have to worry about anything like that, so they can completely focus on, yup, you’ve got an 8 hour day where you can 100% focus on your business because somebody else is taking care of everything. Or, yes you’ve got this great big huge budget, you’ve got this huge cushion, so yes you can afford help and afford to pay for this and afford to pay for that right away.
Where, when I started my business, like I said, it was a spur of the moment decision, and one of the reasons why I finally made the decision is because my husband and I were talking about starting about our family. And we were going, well I don’t want to be having a baby and then I’m home with her for a little bit and then I have to get her up at 5 o’clock in the morning so I can drop her off at daycare so I can get to a job that I hate so that somebody else can be there for the first steps or the first words and all of this stuff, and then I’m picking her up at 6 o’clock, going home, maybe seeing her conscious for 15 minutes before she goes to bed. I’m going, I didn’t want a life like that. I wanted a business where I’m in control and can do what I want.
So, I got pregnant, and then had to build a brand new business and a baby at the same time. I took 30 hours of maternity leave. My daughter was seeing clients with me before she was 2 days old. I missed teaching one class because that’s literally the day I gave birth, she was teaching with me the next week. So I had to figure out how do I make things work, like I don’t have 8 hours. I have to work in between diapers, naps, and breastfeeding. So I have to do things differently, and how am I going to make this all work, and I need stuff that is what can I do now that’s going to help me build my business, help people, and make money. Not some theory or this sounds good, what’s gonna work, because I need to be making sure that there’s a roof over my daughter’s head.
Lourdes: And that is so true. I’ve watched so many videos that have master classes. Oh my god. And then of course, a majority of them sell you something in the end. And then, it’s like all these things that you have to go through, all their courses and their modules, it’s ridiculous. I don’t have time for that either, and that’s rough.
Tammy: How does it fit in with your schedule? And then here’s the other thing, is it appropriate for where I am in my business? Because I see this stuff all the time, and I’ve picked up so many clients over the last few years in particular, that they’ve dropped $5,000 for this Facebook ads course, or I’ve dropped $10,000 for this marketing course, and they’re going anybody that will give me money is my target client. And they’re going yeah the course is great, but if I was already in business for 5 years and I had all this other stuff so I could make it go, and I was wanting to go to the next level, that would’ve been perfect, but I’m just brand new starting out. And it was like, I’m like kindergarten level learning to play track & field, and they’re selling me an Usain Bolt level course. It’s not appropriate, and it doesn’t fit in with my life and I can’t even use all of the great stuff that they’re teaching because I’m not there, and all they cared about was I was willing to give them the money, so I was their client.
Lourdes: Exactly. Oh my gosh, that’s so true.
Tammy: And that just infuriates me, and it breaks my heart because I’m going, you say that you’re out there to help people, and some people you are, but if you are not being appropriate for, like I said, who are you for, and your only criteria is will they give me the money, I’m going, I’m sorry, that is morally ethically wrong.
Lourdes: So agree with you. And then they’re not even showing up to these classes, they’re all pre-recorded. Some of these classes are even a couple, 2, 3, 4 years old, it’s like, let’s update it.
Tammy: There’s a lot that do. And I do all of my stuff live, and I’ve had lots of courses. And yes, they’re giving you tons of stuff. But, there’s a few reasons why I do mine live. The #1 one is, with the evergreen courses, where it’s all videos and you have access to it all the time, I’m gonna be really really honest, I’ve signed up for a few of those. There’s one that I’m doing, I signed up for it 3 years ago, and it’s basically a 6-week course, I have lifetime access to it, it is amazing. Like, it is absolutely amazing!
But, because it’s evergreen, and I can access it whenever I want, guess what always can get bumped on my schedule. I’ve completed 4 of the 6 weeks. And it’s not because there’s anything wrong with the course, but it’s I can always bump it. Like I’m going through it, but when it’s live, it goes onto your calendar. You show up. Other people are seeing you and you get to know them and you get that positive peer pressure, and it’s dripping it out for you. But it’s something that’s on your calendar that helps you create those habits that move you forward. Because you can have all the best information in the world, but if you never access it, because let’s be honest, 99.99% of us need some external motivation to get through certain things.
Lourdes: That is so true, cause I can tell you right now, I’ve signed up for so many courses, and many of those are not done. I forget about them, and I move on to that shiny object.
Tammy: We get busy with other things. So that’s why I do my stuff live. So, when I’m working with people I do a weekend small business class, so it’s a Friday night, Saturday, Sunday. It’s intensive, but we go over all the basics, and people can ask questions, and we share information, we do some brainstorming so that you get more interaction to not just keep you there, but to help the information sink in. Because when we’re just consuming, it doesn’t have the same impact. And then we follow it up with a year-long group coaching program, where they’re meeting with me 44 times throughout the year, they’re seeing the people that they were in class with, and we’re setting them up with the habits. And we’re giving them the love and the support, and most importantly, the accountability to do the stuff that you’ve learned.
Because I’ve been to so many great courses or retreats and stuff, and it was amazing, and then as soon as you get back to normal life, well the kids need you to run you there, and the cat’s throwing up, and the dog wants to be let off, and the phone’s ringing, and you get sucked back into regular life, and you had all these great plans and dreams that things were going change. Like, this is going to be my year! And then 6 months, 6 years later, you’re walking by your office and you see that binder sitting on your shelf, you’re going oh I remember that course, that one was great, I was gonna make so many changes. What happened? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Lourdes: So agree with you! That’s happened to me!
Tammy: It’s happened to all of us! Like, I’m a hard working self-disciplined person, and I am just as guilty as everybody else. Because if it’s just a one-time thing, if you don’t have that support, and yes having those evergreen courses are wonderful, especially if you’re the person selling them. You build it once and you update it on occasion, and it’s great. But I’m going, I do what I do because I want to have a positive impact, a change, in the life of my clients. And that requires, through years of experiences, that requires some face-to-face, some live hand holding and butt kicking.
Lourdes: Yeah, butt kicking, okay. So, in your mastermind group, what is the #1 or 2 topics that seems to be brought up all the time?
Tammy: It kind of depends on what type of person I’m dealing with. So what I have found is there’s 2 types of people that basically start a business. And the biggest group, and I found that like 60-70% of them are what I call the bunny rabbits. These are the idea people. They’re very energetic, they don’t have a problem with sales, they love talking to people, they can close the sale. Where they have their difficulty is actually going back to the office or the store and getting it done, and sitting down and the discipline to something or deliver on what they promised. And it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s just, that’s not where their brains work. They’re typically disorganized, they don’t like systems and stuff like that. Like, can’t I just go out and make some more sales? That’s fun, that’s great. They need help with the back end, big time, and finding the right people to support them with and how do you set up your systems so that yes, you can keep making the sales. Better yet, you can have happy customers after the meeting where you’ve made the sale, because you’ve delivered what you promised.
And then I find 30-40% on the other side, which I call my owls, and they’re the ones that you give them a job, and oh my god they’re gonna knock your socks off. Everything is gonna be, wow! The quality they’re going to deliver, above and beyond what you promised, their offices are organized, everything is put together. Their problem is, okay, you have to go out and you have to talk to a real-life human being, and you have to make a sale. Well, you better have your defibrillators ready because they’re gonna go into cardiac arrest.
Lourdes: [Laughing] I love it! I fall in that second category.
Tammy: Yup, that’s definitely much more my strength as well, but I’ve worked with both. So it’s like, how do you get them to do what they need to do, or find the right people. Because when businesses start to grow and they’re making these sales and stuff, they’re going I need help. And the first thing they look for is I need a body. So they don’t go and who do I need, what’s the right personality, and they typically go find another person like them because they get along, this person understands me. And then they wonder why they’re just driving into the wall faster.
Lourdes: Wow, yeah that makes sense. I’m sure it’s hard to get a different body, either remotely or locally to help you with your business, cause that’s hard.
Tammy: It’s actually not that hard, if you know how to go about doing it. Like, this is why I don’t work with a specific industry, I’ve got tradespeople for clients, I’ve got coaches for clients, I’ve got retail people for clients, I’ve got professionals for clients. I’ve got men for clients, women for clients, I’ve got really young clients, I have senior citizen clients that are starting businesses, and everything in between. And I love that, because you get to see that you’re not the only person dealing with this, you get this cross pollination of ideas and things like that. But basics of business are the same, and geography doesn’t mean anything either. The basics of business are the same. Like yes, you need to have a local accountant, and for some of your legal stuff you need to be dealing with local for that. But the basics of business are the same everywhere. You learn those basics, and you surround yourself with business people that are willing to learn grow and share, and you’re doing 1000x better.
Lourdes: That makes sense. So, when people sign up for you and you have these weekly classes, they might even be in for about 6 months and meeting with you weekly or monthly –
Tammy: Well, I do it for a year.
Lourdes: Wow, okay so for a year. Has anybody ever dropped out because they couldn’t do it, or didn’t understand, or thought oh my gosh this is way over my head?
Tammy: It’s not so much that it’s way over their head, like you said I’ve been doing this for over 2 decades, so I have had a few drop off. And usually it’s just because their personal lives have just way too much stuff going on, and they can’t handle it at this moment. But, when it actually comes to being able, like are they capable of doing the work and stuff like that, I can’t say that that’s ever been a problem. The ones that I’ve had drop off, and there’s not very many of them, but it does happen. If you’ve been playing any game long enough, you’ll see stuff.
It’s the simple fact that a lot of the time, it’s just moms with young kids in particular, and they just, they’ve got way too much stuff on their plate and they just can’t handle it. Which is more than fair. Or something has come up, like I had one, she had small kids, and then her mom had a stroke, and had to start helping out with mom a lot. And she just didn’t have the capacity, she did not have the capacity. And I’m going, I get it, I do not want you burning yourself out either.
Lourdes: Yeah, that’s agreeable. Okay, so Tammy, you do this on weekends, and you also work with clients during the week, correct?
Tammy: Yes. So I do my classes on the weekends, and I did that because like I said, if I’ve got people that have a job that’re working on getting out, they’re hoping and praying for that layoff package, doing the class on the weekend doesn’t interfere, and people can block off a weekend to get through it. And then I do my mastermind calls on Mondays, so that it’s that regular habit, we get together for half an hour, you’ve got a little bit of homework, but you see your life, your business, progress because you were setting yourself up with the habits. You keep working on the stuff that you learned in small business class, we expand upon it, but more than anything, you get the support to create the habits that will get you to success. Because there is no such thing as an overnight success, unless of course you won the lottery. Most overnight successes are 10 to 20 years in the making.
Lourdes: So what do you do when you’re not working with clients or having a class or a mastermind class? What do you do to have fun?
Tammy: [Laughing] Oh, that’s funny! I’m a bit of a workaholic, because I absolutely love what I do. I like watching movies, I read a lot. We just moved last year to a new province, so I’m getting to know my local community and stuff after being in the same city for 30 years. Though, expanding on that, spending time with my daughter, who is now in university.
Lourdes: Wow, okay.
Tammy: Yeah, so I made it through being pizza mom, and field trip mom, while growing and maintaining a successful business.
Lourdes: Man, that’s awesome! So, before we end our podcast interview, I ask everybody a weird or a funny question which I don’t reveal beforehand. So, I’m gonna go ahead and ask you if you’re ready.
Lourdes: Alright, Tammy, if animals could talk, which would be the rudest?
Tammy: The rudest? Canada geese.
Tammy: Have you ever met Canada geese?
Lourdes: No, I have not. Are they different than American geese? I don’t know.
Tammy: Bears, you can give em space and avoid em. Moose are huge, but as long as you’re not… Canada geese will get right in your face, they are aggressive. They are like nastiness and spite with feathers.
Lourdes: Oh my gosh!
Tammy: So I’m thinking about what would be the rudest? Canada geese, there you go. This is why Canadians are so nice, we take all of our angst and our rudeness and our nastiness and we put it into our birds!
Lourdes: I have never met a rude Canadian, every Canadian I know are super awesome and friendly.
Tammy: Oh we are awesome, cause like I said, we put our nastiness into the geese.
Lourdes: [Laughing] I like it! So Tammy, tell our listeners how they can find you.
Tammy: Well, you can find me on my website, which is https://ksabusiness.ca. And as we said at the beginning, KSA stands for Kick Some Ass, and that’s .ca because I’m a pasty-white Canadian chick. Or you can find me on Instagram as another easy one, and that’s ksa.business.
Lourdes: Okay, perfect. Well this has been so fun, and I’m glad we finally got this interview going, cause we had been trying to get you on here for over a year. So yeah, so nice to have you here.
Tammy: It was my pleasure, glad I could be on.
Lourdes: Sounds good, thanks Tammy.
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