The Peak spoke with Faye Pang, Canada Country Manager, Xero, about small business and entrepreneurship. She shared her thoughts on:
- Why Canada is a such a great place to start a business.
- Challenges facing small businesses.
- And her advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Hi Faye! Can you share with the Peak Pals, as brief as you can, your career highlights before joining Xero?
I started my career in consumer packaged goods and marketing, working on some iconic brands such as Cadbury, Palm Bay, and McDonald’s, but the fast pace of the tech industry drew me in. I started at Uber Canada in 2015, and I was lucky enough to be a member of the original team that launched Uber Eats in Toronto. We started with 80 restaurants on launch day, and had scaled up to 20,000 partners by the end of my tenure. I also helped launch Uber Freight into the Canadian market.
Why are you so passionate about helping entrepreneurs and small businesses?
My parents were entrepreneurs. As newcomers to Canada, they started a wholesale meat distribution company in Mississauga, which they ran for 23 years. I saw how hard they worked and the way they struggled to build their business. At the beginning, my dad hand-delivered boxes of meat on the TTC six days a week while my mother ran the front office and did the bookkeeping. They eventually scaled the business up to 10 employees and six delivery trucks, serving hundreds of restaurants and supermarkets in the Greater Toronto Area. I witnessed firsthand the work ethic involved in running your own business. That has stuck with me, and it happens to align perfectly with Xero’s mission, which is to support small business owners by providing them with technology that will help them achieve their goals.
What do you think makes Canada such a great place to start a business?
In Canada, small businesses are really the backbone of the economy. They employ something like 64% of the total labour force, and as the country emerges from the shadow of COVID, small businesses will be a major driver of our economic recovery.
In the tech industry in particular, the size and diversity of our talent pool is unparalleled. There’s a reason global technology companies including Google and Amazon have set up offices in Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver. They help drive innovation and stimulate economic activity that benefits our homegrown small and medium-sized businesses as well.
One of Canada’s great strengths is our diversity; our multicultural society brings so many different viewpoints and perspectives to the table. That contributes to a business climate where people are unafraid to try unique things and explore new ideas. I find that exciting.
What are the biggest challenges you see small businesses facing day to day?
Obviously the COVID-19 pandemic has brought its own unique set of challenges, as businesses have had to contend with everything from lockdowns to social-distancing mandates. It has been an ever-changing and unpredictable business landscape, but the incredible resilience of Canadian entrepreneurs has given me so much hope for the future. The flexibility and creative problem-solving skills that small business owners and their teams have shown during the last year and a half have been beyond impressive. The businesses that have done well during this unprecedented and challenging time—and will continue to thrive long afterwards—have certain things in common. One is financial literacy, which our own research has shown is an area where many entrepreneurs—millennials in particular—tend to score poorly. Another good predictor of success is a business’s level of digital maturity. Possessing both the tools and the know-how to compete in an increasingly digital world became especially important during the pandemic, when so much commerce pivoted online..
What makes Xero such a powerful tool for small businesses?
It’s really about being able to have your finger on the pulse of your own business, without having to pore over spreadsheets or dig through shoe boxes stuffed with receipts. A cloud-based platform like Xero is an incredibly powerful tool because it can give entrepreneurs an accurate and up-to-date picture of where their business is at. Having real-time access to the data that will enable you to make important decisions about things like cash flow and spending can make a huge difference. Xero also allows you to collaborate in real time with your accountant or advisor to get additional support, which can prove invaluable to small businesses.
What advice do you have for the aspiring entrepreneurs who are reading The Peak?
Pour your heart and soul into your business, but never forget that, at the end of the day, work is important, but your happiness and well-being are even more important. It may sound counterintuitive, but a big part of having a strong work ethic is knowing when to stop working for the day. When we polled Canadian entrepreneurs for our Tipping Point survey, many of them said that one of the biggest misconceptions they had about starting a business was that being their own boss would equate to less stress and more control of their time.
If you’re an employer yourself, prioritizing the wellbeing of your employees is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for business. Happy, healthy people are more engaged in their jobs, less likely to experience stress and burnout, and they’re also more productive.
No matter how big or small your business is, making wellness and psychological safety key components of your company culture is always good for business.
Also, find a good accountant!
Outside of work, what gets you excited?
I’m passionate about diversity and inclusion, not just in the workplace, but in every sphere of society.
Like everyone else, I’m looking forward to the prospect of putting the COVID-19 pandemic in the rear-view mirror. If anything good came out of it, however, it’s that the widespread shift to working remotely established a degree of flexibility for working parents. I’m excited about what that’s going to mean moving forward.
As a mom of two, though, what really gets me fired up is when I can make it through an entire day without getting spit-up or sticky fingerprints on my clothes!