They say that experience is the best teacher, but how about teachers who have a lot of experience? If someone can help you walk the talk because they have done that very walk themselves, then you are in for the learning of your life. Entrepreneur Dr. Tyra Jones is a living example of this, and she always strives to lead by example rather than theories alone. In this episode, she joins Alicia Couri in looking back on how her teaching career eventually led to the formation of a consulting business, JA Consulting and Corporate Tax Solutions, by going out of her comfort zone, turning her weaknesses into her advantage, and embracing the biggest mistake of her life.
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Confidence To Lead By Example With Dr. Tyra Jones
With me is my guest Tyra Jones. Let me tell you a bit about Tyra. We were introduced by a mutual friend, Corey Northington, who I also had the pleasure of interviewing. Tyra is a mother of two young adults and has a career as a business owner and entrepreneur. Her passion is writing, training, and leading the underground railroad of business finance. We’ll talk about what that means. She’s written all of the training programs for business credit and grant writing, training to foster an in-depth understanding of how business finances can leverage our personal finances. Welcome, Tyra. I’m so glad that you’re joining us for all the entrepreneurs that are reading.
Thank you. It’s a pleasure being here with you. I’m definitely looking forward to our conversation. I love talking about business and definitely my story as well. Anything that I can do to help others, I’m always willing to do that.
The reason I wanted to speak to you in this forum was how passionate you are about educating business owners about finances and how much we don’t know what we’re doing. I know there’s a lot I don’t know that I’m doing and that is your passion. What is the underground railroad of finances?
The underground railroad of finances have a lot to do with credit. It has a lot to do with all of those topics that we were not taught as far as financial literacy in school. They started teaching financial literacy in K-12. However, being the fact that I was a teacher at the time when they implemented that, it’s watered down. It still does not touch what we need to know when we send our kids out in the world or better yet, when the universities send our kids out in the world.
If you don’t have scholarships to cover it, you would have a lot of debt.
Maybe if you did not have a strategy. The underground railroad for me is about building wealth as opposed to making the dollar, making your money and paying your bills. Being able to pay bills is almost like wealth in a lot of communities. It’s not wealth. It’s like, “I pay all my bills. I’m good. I’m stable,” but we never go past that. In order to pull people out of their comfort zone, just like Harriet told me. She had to pull people out of their comfort zone. Many people were so comfortable staying. Many people wanted to stay. She went back to get her husband and he didn’t even want to go back. He didn’t want to get out because he was comfortable. He was like, “I’d rather stay where I know as opposed to going into an area or into a new land where I’m not sure if I’m going to survive. I’m not sure if this is going to work for me, because I’ve never seen anyone who looked like me that it worked for.”
That’s about breaking those generational curses and allowing people to break free of that and experience real freedom. Like you’re saying, what is real wealth? It’s all a mindset. You were a teacher, you said. How did you go from teacher to business owner?
The interesting thing is how I became a teacher in the first place because I spend every day that I was like, “That’s one thing I’m not going to do.” I was raised by an educator. My dad was an educator. I looked at what he was, I’m not doing that. The amazing thing is that throughout my childhood, I was being groomed as to how to be an impactful educator and coach. My dad was a basketball coach, and he was well-known in the city. To this day, I meet people who are from my hometown. If I mentioned my dad’s name, they know who he is. That’s how impactful he was positively and negatively. You can’t satisfy everyone, but my goal was not to be an educator, but when I did become an educator through working at Exxon and I realized, “This is not lab work. It is not what I want to do.” I had a science degree and I wanted to do something different. I had substitute taught when I was in undergrad. I had many jobs when I was in undergrad. I decided to go after a teaching position.
Because your father was impactful, you thought that you wanted to be impactful as well.
I realized that after I got in. After I decided that it was going to be my career and the only thing that made me come to that decision was income. I looked at my bank and I looked at the job opportunity that was in front of me and I said, “Yes, I can do this,” knowing well it was going to be the challenge of my life.Leadership is when you have the passion and proper ethics in doing what you're doing, even when no one's watching. Click To Tweet
It was not the right fit for you. Sometimes we make those decisions to get into business and to get into a job situation that we know it’s not going to be the best situation for us, but the money is good so why not?
I did not intend on becoming an educator when I went to college. However, I do have a sixteen-year track record. What I found on those sixteen years of teaching was me, who I am and how I can use my person, my character, my gifts and my talents to impact whatever career. To be impactful in whatever career that I chose. I chose to dive into the education career. It was familiar territory for me. My dad was an educator. I watched him. I was always up at his school and in his office doing all kinds of stuff.
You are confident in that space, the familiarity.
What I wasn’t confident in is teaching math, but over time I became a good teacher of mathematics and science. My degree was in science, but math was not a strong point for me until I had to teach it. That’s when I started getting tutored. I went back to the college that I graduated from because the school that I was teaching at was right across the tracks from the university.
What I love about that is you recognized that you lacked confidence in that area and you sought, “How can I strengthen this?” and strengthening it was going back to school. A lot of people don’t even want to think about going back to school. They’re like, “I can’t do that anymore.” I love that you said that. The other point that you said, I call them your tags, your talents, your assets, your gifts and your skills that you took. I always tell people to take inventory of what you have, because in any situation that you find yourself in, if you know what you have, you can be confident in it, even if you’re not familiar with the situation because you know you. I love that you said that too. You knew what you brought to the table. You knew you and you knew that you could succeed in this, even though you weren’t quite familiar with everything that you had to do. You sought the knowledge or the skill to sharpen the skillset that you weren’t that confident with.
I always tell people, “You can do anything as long as you have passion and ethics.” If you have passion and the proper ethics in doing what you’re doing, doing the right thing when no one’s watching and the passion, that passion would make you go and hit some tutoring. That passion would make you go and get the extra class or go on YouTube University and learn what you need to learn.
That’s my favorite place to learn. Now, you had more confidence in math because you’ve got the tutoring that you needed. You got all the tools and the skills that you need to do that. How did you end up transferring from teaching now into business ownership and helping other businesses to succeed?
My passion while I was teaching was tied behind helping others to overcome their mental obstacles. I had so many students that, “Math is not my strong point.” It will be, because I know what I had overcome.
Math is not my strong point either. I hate it. What’s so precious about that is you were teaching from experience now so that they could buy into what you’re saying, because you’re not telling them something. It’s like, “I walked that walk with you and I’ll walk it with you because I know what that feels like.”
In 2001, I was a GED coordinator at a charter school here in Houston. I was commissioned to write lesson plans for GED. I was like, “Why would I have to write lesson plans? It’s in the book.” It’s the big GED book. I was like, “Why should I have to do that?” I’m teaching five courses of the GED, but she wanted me to write lesson plans, like any other teacher. I was not happy about that, but I did it anyway because I wanted my job. After that long drawn out process, I realized what I had done. I had literally in the process created activities. I had created activity. I said, “Anytime I know that I’m creating something, I need to do it for myself.”
I started tracking everything that I was doing and that’s when I got the idea. I said, “I can market myself. I can brand myself to do this in multiple places in the City of Houston and not just here at the charter school.” That’s when I started reaching out to different people, trying to find out how to set up a tutoring service. I thought it was going to be a tutoring service at one point. It snowballed into a nonprofit organization. At a friend’s church, I started teaching GED. That was my first contract. My second contract was at a moving company to teach their employees so that they can advance in the company, they can get their diploma. They would come back after they were graduate and ask questions about the financial literacy part, more so the math part, the financial statement, the balance sheets and things of that sort. I found myself consulting. After so many people, I said, “I need to set up something because this nonprofit is one thing, but consulting is totally different.”
I knew this was going to be a rich interview after our conversation beforehand because you’re saying so many amazing things. A couple of things I want to highlight about what you said now is, you weren’t happy about having to do, having to create and build something but you did it anyway. Many people stop themselves. You could have stopped yourself going for extra tutoring to shore up your math skills. You could have stopped yourself when she said, “Build this,” and had a bad attitude and be like, “I’m not doing that. They already have a book.” God was leading you to create something of value. The fact that you recognize the value in what you are creating, as you are creating it, is priceless because you recognize that value.
You started to say, “I need to copyright this. Something’s going to come off this.” You had that foresight, that entrepreneurial spirit to think, “This is valuable.” You continued to see the signs of when things kept repeating. This show is called Leading With Audacious Confidence and you are demonstrating at every point that you were leading yourself, you were leading your life, but you’re also leading others and picking them up and pulling them up. That is amazing leadership that you wanted because you started as an LLC. You wanted the community to benefit and you wanted to lift everybody up. I think that is remarkable leadership. My question in this before we move on to more of this amazing story of yours is, what is your leadership philosophy?
My leadership philosophy is simple, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” I don’t expect anyone to do anything that I haven’t done myself and I don’t coach anyone to do anything that I cannot do for myself. I have to be the example first. For example, our business credit program. I had to make sure that I had knowledge, not only book knowledge, but activity knowledge. Experience and how to set it up and compare that with what’s in the market. What are other people saying that they can do? Are they truthful in saying that? How am I different? I have to make sure that I do my part before I expect anyone else to do anything that I’m telling them to do or inspiring them to do.
You walk your talk, you don’t just talk your talk. The other thing that I appreciate too with your story is that you saw a need. It was beyond, “I’m teaching this here.” You saw a need and found a way to fill that need by seeing, “I had the GED program for right here, but other places in Houston could benefit from this. The businesses of the communities can benefit. Let me see how.” You kept looking for the need and seeing how you can fill that need. As entrepreneurs, that’s important, especially solopreneurs, to start looking around because there is money to be made, but you have to see the need then know that you have the resources to fill that need.
Far too many times as entrepreneurs and business owners, we’re looking for the people. We were expecting people who don’t need our services to patronize our businesses because we’re too lazy or lack the confidence to go out there and talk to someone who’s a perfect stranger, but they may have been waiting on that call and they didn’t know it was going to be you, but you didn’t pick up the phone because you never said to yourself, “I’m going to find someone who needs me as opposed to expecting people to patronize my business.” It’s about understanding how valuable you truly are, having that confidence in who you are and knowing that there are millions of people out there waiting for your service.
This is like you said a snowball. It’s building one on the other and on the other. The financial literacy program, was that part of the GED course that you created?
It was. It was the math portion. It was a part of the math portion.
It was a small thing that ignited a huge fire.
I had the background of teaching because at the same time I was still teaching grade school when I started my nonprofit for the GED program. It was my comfort zone in teaching math. That’s where it snowballed because it was so impactful. I didn’t realize how impactful it was. They were coming back and they realize, “I’m out here trying to do this in my business. I learned this at this particular GED program. Let me go back and ask some questions.” I always kept an open-door policy. I was in the church. Most of the people who were in my class were members of the church. The moving trucking company that I was contracted with, they were a great resource for many things. They were referral through one of my teacher colleagues. There were great relationships where they were able to come back and forth.True leaders must not only offer book knowledge, but activity knowledge and experience. Click To Tweet
Did you get the grant writing experience from writing for nonprofit to get funded for the nonprofit? You started pulling all these skills together using them as a service for others to now purchase when you started your LLC. It’s like, “I learned all these different things and now this is a service that I have.”
What started the grant writing was because when I started teaching, math was not my strong point, but writing was. Ever since tenth grade, I remember Ms. Bonner. She is the reason why I wrote so well because we had to write these journals about our daily life and the fact that she took time to comment on my little life, it meant everything to me. I started writing more. Because of that, I became a writer. I knew that in my bag of talents, writing was definitely one of them. When starting a nonprofit, I can do my own grants. I know how to write persuasively. I know how to communicate literally. That aspect was another comfort zone. I had the math comfort zone and I had the writing comfort zone which typically most people are good at one.
My daughter is like that. She’s excellent at math and excellent at writing, but she leans more to the writing because she loves the writing.
That’s how I started in the grant writing. When I started writing for myself, then I was like, “Maybe I can branch out.” The first people I reached out to was the church that I was actually housed for the nonprofit. I was able to help them get started with their grant writing process. They were my first client.
Each step of the way, you gained more confidence in what you were doing so that you can help others in your community get better. Not only were you sharing your leadership and rising everybody up, but you were also helping to build confidence. One of the things I noticed too within your story is that you were never afraid to learn more. That’s something that stops people. They stop learning and growing because of fear or they’re afraid of failing or something like that.
At any point in your life, you can learn something new. You can continue to learn new things and you can find something. Maybe you weren’t interested in it as a child, but now you have a different perspective and a different passion for what you’re doing. When you talk about passion, it’s so true. One of the other secrets to audacious confidence that I talk about is that you have to be passionate about something. When you’re passionate about something, no matter what you have to do, you will find a way to get it done.
You will find a way.
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to do it. I want to highlight some of your services. How does your services help the small business owner or entrepreneur?
Our services are 100% tied to the right now solutions and we trademark that statement because so many times I’ve ran into companies or individuals who offer services. They’re so blanketed and watered down that we decided that we were going to offer right now solutions. Those are solutions that you need in your business right now and you can see a return on that investment of hiring us within the first 30 days, if not within the first week. The goal is to immediately impact every business owner. Even if it has to do with our initial consultation, so many times we get comments from prospects. These are not even clients, they say, “I’ve learned so much in five minutes than I’ve learned in the last few years in trying to run my business.” That’s what we’re trying to provide. In that we provide business credit solutions. We center most of our services around business credit because the challenge that most business owners have it always has to do with revenue. It always has to do with growth. Some people say, “I’m okay with staying where I am.” No, you’re not because if you were, you wouldn’t get up the next morning.
If you’re not growing, you’re dying. If you’re staying where you are, you are actually dying. Your business isn’t growing.
We focus on positioning each business owner with services that are right now solutions for them. For example, when we do a consultation, we make sure that the services that are applied or suggested to them relate to their right now solution because your right now solution may not be somebody else’s.
Are these established businesses or new businesses? Who is your ideal client?
I prefer established because we have to go through a long drawn out process for some new business owners but we welcome all business owners. Even if you have an idea like, “I want to start a business. I have some investment. Where do I go? Where do I start?” We work with those people as well as individuals who, “I’ve been in business for fifteen years. My revenue is between $500,000 to $1 million. I’m working on getting some federal contracts. Can you write proposals for contracts, procurement?” Yes, we can help you with that as well. Any of those dynamics we’re able to assist.
If you’re a business owner and you’re looking for a right now solution, you’ve got to hook up with Tyra. She’s got that right now solution for you. What has been your greatest challenge or mistake that you’ve made in your business as you were growing and how did you overcome that?
My biggest mistake was getting mad at God. I got so upset because my business was not bringing in what the vision he gave me. I’m like, “This does not look like that.” There was a big struggle with getting it to that point. I got so frustrated and the reason why I said my biggest mistake was when I got mad, because when I got mad, I quit. I say, “I’m not doing it.” I literally tried to sell my business to another professional and it did not follow through. When you know that you’re outside of God’s will, he will sit back and like, “Let me see you do this without me.”
“I’ll give you some rope. There you go. Keep going.”
She breached the contract because she did not follow through on her end. It was amicable. It was no problem but the frustrating part is that I couldn’t get rid of what I thought was a burden to me. When I realized, I said I needed to revamp my mindset because the vision that he gave me, I was not going to get there in the way that I thought that I was going to get there. Right now, the way the business is flowing and growing is exactly the vision that He gave me, however, I’m like, “Why didn’t I think about this years ago before I started tripping with God and started getting mad.” I was like, “I’m putting all that to the side. I’m going to go get a job.” That was my biggest challenge and the biggest mistake that I had ever made. I felt like I had wasted so much time, but I don’t harbor right there because even that was a growth process. Even that is still a learning process for me because when I think about that time now, I’m like, “I would never do that again.” It’s lesson learned.
You recognize it, but how did you recover from it?
The job that I wanted, I worked on it for about two months and that was it. I said, “What do I have in my hand that I can make happen now?” I’m an entrepreneur by heart. The job that I was in was welcoming my entrepreneurial spirit, but I was like, “I don’t have that anymore. Now, what do I do?” I say, “I do what I know I need to do. I’m going to do it to pay bills.” That’s the wrong thing but that’s where it started. When I started along that path, that’s when I found the flow. I found a flow because then I start connecting to different systems.
You know what not to do because you did that already. You know what systems to put in place in your business so that you won’t have those mistakes you had before. When I started putting systems in place, one thing I know about business is if you don’t have systems in your business, you’re going to work in your business for the rest of your life. Putting systems in before you try to bring on other people to help you with your projects, that’s where true success is. That’s what I started doing and it started flowing.When experience dictates your decisions, people can learn more valuable things from you. Click To Tweet
How many people do you have working now with you?
We have about six people that work with us. We have two grant writers that help with the grant writing now. That was also a vision of mine years ago. I visited a gentleman’s organization. I don’t think he’s CEO. When I saw that he had a team of grant writers that all they did all day was write grants for his nonprofit, I said, “That’s what I want to do for other people.” We have two people who do that, and we have four analysts and two business development specialists. I guess that’s a bit more than six. We have a couple of managers.
How does your team flow? What do you do to make sure that you have team synergy in your leadership?
We have a company call every Monday at 8:30. Any successes that, especially our analysts. The goal that our analysts have every day is to perform surveys with business owners. Whenever analysts get a survey appointment, they let their survey director know and we send shout outs. We have a group message where everybody is a part of it and everybody congratulates everybody. We have a training every Wednesday at 1:00 where we come together and we talk about our software. “Is there something wrong with our software? Do you understand the process?” We made sure that we come together officially at least twice per week. Other than that, we have our messaging app.
It’s communication. How do you solve conflict? Do you have conflicts in the office?
Yes. Through personal development, because the first thing when we hire, we share with them that it’s mandatory for you to read. If you don’t want to read, this is not the place.
You’re always doing personal development. That is strong leadership, because like you said, you won’t ask them to do anything you’re not doing yourself. Clearly, you are a reader and you’re reading personal development materials. What guides the success of your office is having that culture of being readers and leaders.
I always say, if you don’t want to read, Audible is great. Especially when you’re multitasking, if you’re doing something that you know that your brain can start retaining so much, I play my Audible all the time.
That’s another little tip. If you don’t want to sit down with a book because you have other things to do, turn on Audible and have it feed your brain while you’re doing some other things. Tyra, this has been chock-full of goodness. Are there any tips that you have for either business owners or people who are looking to start a business and starting to develop that leadership if you start looking at, “I don’t want a small business. I want a business that I’m leading teams of people?”
First thing, the vision that most people have for their business is not small. My advice is don’t try to start small. Initially setting up your LLC or your nonprofit, your 501. You can do it yourself, but can you set up these financial structures that’s needed in order for you to accomplish the goal of the vision? Far too many times, we get clients who we have to go back and fix some things on how they structured their business when they first acquired the LLC. “I did it myself or I went to LegalZoom.” Don’t go to LegalZoom. With your taxes, you start your business when you start doing things in your business. My advice is to understand that you are the entity first.
The only difference in setting up your structure is the government paperwork, the SOS, the Secretary of State, the IRS, that’s the official paperwork. Get advice on how to set that up before you set it up because it makes a difference in you getting funded. It makes a difference in you getting grants. Right now, we have a lot of grants that are being given for LLCs and that’s rare. Get the proper advice and make sure that that person understands the tax code if they’re giving you advice on how to structure your business.
Get in touch with Tyra, please. Get your business set up. If you didn’t do it right, get in touch with us so she can get it right for you because she is the right now solution. Thank you so much, Tyra. I enjoyed this conversation. Good luck with you and everything that you’re doing. I know you’re leading with audacious confidence.
Thank you for having me. I love this platform. I’m looking forward to coming back.
About Dr. Tyra Jones
Dr. Tyra Jones is a Financial Speaker and Coach, mother of two wonderful adult children and has a 15 year run in the area of Education and Business Development. Dr. Tyra Jones is the owner of JA Consulting and Corporate Tax Solutions. Her company helps business owners structure and financially grow their businesses. The company works with over 7 different lenders who finance her clients with Lines of Credit, Real Estate Investment Loans. She has created a customized facilitated online Business Credit program to assist business owners with continuous business funding.