Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Building a Business on Difference

by Tammy Barton
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While managing a small debt collection company for a solicitors firm, it became evident to me just how many people struggle with money. The debtors I spoke with were, on the whole, well-intentioned people who wanted nothing more than to get on top of their finances and back to living their lives. But many lacked basic money skills and nearly all of them were so stressed they found it difficult to make sound financial decisions. With nowhere to send these people for help, I decided to help them myself. 

MyBudget was conceived from the simple but audacious idea of eliminating financial stress in the community. I started meeting with clients at my kitchen table. I showed them how to create a budget and manage their cash flow. They trusted me with their income and I paid their bills for them. When a budget wouldn’t balance, I helped them talk with their creditors about payment arrangements. For some of my clients, it was the first time in their life that their bills were paid on time. 

Meanwhile, a gallery of naysayers gathered on the sidelines to share their million-and-one reasons why MyBudget would fail. “People can create a budget for themselves”, “Nobody’s going to trust you with their income”—I heard them all. On reflection, it was pretty outrageous that a 22-year-old woman would dare to create a new category in the financial services sector, a space traditionally dominated by men with greying temples and pinstripe suits. Only later did I realise that my gender and youth was an advantage.

5 lessons I’ve learned along the way

  • Never underestimate the power of passion and enthusiasm
    Passion is the fuel that will get you through tough times. I’m so passionate about helping people that I’ve never let roadblocks get in my way.  

  • Never stop learning and growing
    In today’s world, everything changes quickly from technology to the latest business philosophies. I can’t know everything, so I focus instead on learning from those who are doing it well. For example, I try to read a new book every month (easier said than done with three kids at home), and I also squeeze in TED videos, webinars, blog articles and other information snippets that keep me thinking and growing.  

  • Trust your instincts
    Your first impression is usually right, especially if it’s a strong one. On the occasions I’ve let my head overrule a strong gut instinct, my gut has usually been proven right.  

  • You can analyse the past, but you have to design the future
    I’ve learned to embrace change and move with it. How we did business five years ago is irrelevant today—just as today’s model will be irrelevant in five years’ time. We’re living in exciting times where we have the power to shape our own future.  

  • Never give up
    It’s been said a million times, but it’s true: It’s very hard to beat a person who never gives up! 

  • These days, I’m still a very hands-on manager, but I see myself primarily as a storyteller who communicates our vision and values to staff, clients and the wider community. It is no surprise that MyBudget’s values and my values are the same: caring, making a difference and financial responsibility. My job is to ensure that these values inform every decision we make in the business. 

    MyBudget’s plans, strategies, policies and procedures will constantly change, but our core values will always be the same—they are the spirit of MyBudget, the reason we get out of bed in the morning. This, I believe, is what sets great companies apart: the courage to be different and an ability to bring values to life.

    What opportunities do you have to differentiate yourself or your business/services/products? What differences already exist and how do you leverage them as strengths?

    Author Bio 
    Tammy Barton (formerly May) is the Founder and Director of MyBudget ( Follow her on Twitter: @budgeting_guru


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