We chat to Telstra Business Women’s Award winner Tammy Barton, founder of the hugely successful financial planning business, MyBudget.
“Dealing with the stress of a financial crisis makes it hard for people to make clear financial decisions.”
While working at a debt collection agency, Tammy Barton had first hand experience with the effects financial stress can have on people’s lives. It became obvious to her that nobody plans to get into financial trouble on purpose and that no two situations were ever exactly the same. The one common denominator was that dealing with the stress of a financial crisis makes it hard for people to make clear financial decisions—and with nowhere to send these people for help, she decided to help them herself.
She began meeting with people at her kitchen table, showing them how to put a budget together. They would give her their pay cheque, she would pay their bills for them and then give them back a budgeted amount of money for living expenses. For a lot of people, it was the first time in their lives their finances were under control. And word spread from there. For Tammy, the payback was seeing the people she was helping start to be happy and excited about their lives. Her business, MyBudget was slowly being born.
“I believe it doesn’t matter what your age is on paper, you can take up that attitude at any stage of life when a project means a lot to you.”
Tammy once said, “sometimes you’re braver when you’re young.” In hindsight, she realised it was pretty audacious of her 22-year-old self to believe she could create a new financial services category from scratch and build a national company around it. Lots of people, many well-educated and experienced, said her business plan had no legs, but she couldn’t see it. All she saw were people who desperately needed hands-on, practical help managing their money and not how the business could possibly fail. She remarks, “I believe it doesn’t matter what your age is on paper, you can take up that attitude at any stage of life when a project means a lot to you.”
Reminiscing on her upbringing, Tammy spoke about how her parents characteristics contributed to her mindset and success. “We never had a lot of money growing up. My dad was a self-employed builder and my mum ran a pretty tight ship, but since they were good at budgeting, it felt like we never really missed out on the things that mattered. If I needed a new pair of sneakers for basketball, mum would juggle the budget and somehow come up with the money.” She learned a lot about generosity and determination from her mum and dad— both major qualities that have been put into her work in MyBudget.
“At MyBudget, we’re trying hard to address the reasons women fall out of the workforce, which includes providing flexible work conditions for women and men. We recognise that we can’t expect women to lean in at work if we’re not providing opportunities for men to lean in at home.”
Tammy discussed how women’s relationships with money had changed over the last decades also impacting and creating challenges around women’s wealth. “Female participation rates in the workforce are at an all-time high, so women are experiencing more financial independence than ever before. This is tempered by the fact that women still perform the lion’s share of society’s unpaid caring, cooking and cleaning.” If you look at Tammy’s industry financial services, as an example, there is an equal gender mix for entry-level professionals, but by management level, women account for just 37 percent of positions and, by executive level, only 15 percent. This female brain-drain is incredibly costly to business and, of course, to women who end up retiring with 40 percent less superannuation on average. “At MyBudget, we’re trying hard to address the reasons women fall out of the workforce, which includes providing flexible work conditions for women and men. We recognise that we can’t expect women to lean in at work if we’re not providing opportunities for men to lean in at home.”
Throughout Tammy’s career at MyBudget, she has had an array of special client experiences. From hugging her in the supermarket for getting their finances on track to completely overhauling people’s credit card debt allowing them the freedom to understanding finance management and the ability to live the life they’ve always dreamed of.
To get into Tammy’s brain just a little more, we asked for the “money mantra” she chooses to live by, “Live the life you want free from money worries!” Budgeting isn’t just about paying your bills on time and having savings in the bank—it’s about planning your financial priorities around the type of life you want to live.
Now, a two time winner of the Telstra Business Woman of the Year, Tammy recalled being interviewed the first time around for the TBWA in 2007, telling them that MyBudget was just about to become a national company. Fast forward to 2017, where she could tell the judges about MyBudget gearing up to go global and how the business had been transformed into a technology-driven organisation. Talk about full circle.
“As for my personal life, the kids just think of me as “Mum” and my husband Nathan remains my number one supporter no matter what’s happening on the work front.”
Tammy notes what an honour it was to win the award, share the recognition with her team and to experience how incredibly inspiring it was to sit on the same stage with entrepreneurs who she admires. It’s obvious her family are her biggest cheerleaders after she mentioned “as for my personal life, the kids just think of me as ‘Mum’ and my husband Nathan remains my number one supporter no matter what’s happening on the work front.”
Her self awareness and gratitude is seen through her deep appreciation of being a Telstra Alumni. “I can’t state the benefits of being part of women’s business networks enough, including the Telstra Alumni. I’ve found the support of fellow female entrepreneurs invaluable. In a group of business women, you can talk openly about juggling your family and work life, you can help each other find solutions, share anecdotes and stories, lift each other up and celebrate each other’s wins. It’s a safe, supportive, inspiring space.”
Telstra’s recognition of women creates an opportunity for much needed public conversation about how women contribute to Australian society and the economy. Women bring a different perspective to business. They see different opportunities and markets and they often work differently, all of which brings about cultural change and opens the door for future generations of women.
Tammy’s passion and advocacy for women in leadership is contagious. She says, “leadership means being so passionate in pursuit of a goal or mission that other people want to follow you. That’s why finding your passion and telling a persuasive story around it is so important. Of course, intelligence, prudence and planning — all of those things help, but it’s passion that gets you out of bed in the morning and keeps you going when others quit. It’s passion that makes you doggedly determined to keep trying.”
She’s built a successful national company that’s on the brink of going global and she still says, “I’m no more special or gifted or resourced or knowledgeable than anyone else. But I’m unapologetically passionate about freeing people from their money worries so that they can live the happy, stress-free lives they want.”
The Telstra Business Women’s Awards exists to recognise and celebrate women who are redefining the way we do business and creating new benchmarks for success. Undoing traditional business practices, championing inclusion and innovation, and using their own unique approach to inspire others to do the same. If you know a woman who’s thriving by undoing business, nominate them now for the 2019 Telstra Business Women’s Awards here.