Women of the Year 2021: Xero’s Faye Pang is Helping Small Businesses Focus on What’s Important
From Olympic athletes and tech startup founders to social impact champions and business changemakers, our inaugural 2021 Women of the Year guide features 37 impressive leaders who are making a difference, both individually and as a collective. They’ve all navigated incredible obstacles to get to where they are (often on an uneven playing field) and yet, despite this, have still managed to summit their industries and change Canada—and the world around them—for the better. In our series of one-on-one interviews, get to know each honouree a little better: their values, mission, lessons learned, and the other women that inspire them in their own lives.
Canada Country Manager, Xero
What is your elevator pitch to the world?
Faye Pang: We are on a mission to make life simpler and more beautiful for Canadian small business owners by providing them with the technology and support to seamlessly manage their books, which ultimately gives them time back to focus on doing what they love.
What excites you most about the work that you are doing?
Faye Pang: If I’m successful in my role here at Xero, it will fundamentally mean that Canadian small business owners and their teams can be more successful in turn. Playing a small role in improving the livelihood of small businesses is what gets me pumped.
Where do you think you have made the most impact in your company and community?
Faye Pang: I’m most proud of the team and the relationships that I have built during my year at Xero. I enjoy the coaching and mentoring aspect of my role—knowing that I’ve had an impact on how someone views their future and themselves is super gratifying.
What kind of problems are you trying to solve?
Faye Pang: It’s the classic tech adoption challenge: we are trying to educate and engage an industry (in this case, accounting and bookkeeping) that there is a better way to do things through technology. In the case of small businesses, we are trying to demystify the technology and help them understand the impact that it can have on their most valuable resource: time.
What are you doing that no one else is doing?
Faye Pang: Our team at Xero is amazing. We take a human approach to everything that we do, and go the extra mile to support our customers. Our intent is for our partners to feel as if we are an extension of their team and alongside them every step of the change management journey.
Why is your work important?
Faye Pang: 98 percent of Canadian businesses are small. As COVID-19 has shown us, they are largely underserved by the government and other large institutions.
Was there ever a turning point in your career that fundamentally changed your business for the better?
Faye Pang: When I joined Uber back in 2015, it changed my career trajectory in a big way. I moved from a marketing focus to more of an operational focus but, more importantly, it introduced me to a completely new scale when it comes to innovation and pace. I have taken a lot of those lessons with me when it comes to building out teams and businesses since then.
What have you learned about yourself as you’ve led your company?
Faye Pang: It’s very difficult for me to walk away when I see something that could be better. I instinctively want to help, roll up my sleeves, and do. I’ve been reminded over the last year that you have to pick your battles and get ruthless about prioritization if you have any hope of accomplishing your most important goals.
What has been the most challenging part of building the business?
Faye Pang: The last year has been incredibly hard: the stressors of COVID-19, mental health challenges, not being able to see family and friends. This has spilled over to work life as well. I’ve still only met a handful of other “Xeros: in person! For someone who trades on relationships, I’ve found it more challenging to build deep and meaningful connections with my colleagues and our customers. Visiting our partners and working alongside them in the field has been the secret sauce for Xero over the years. While we’ve done our best to replicate it virtually, it continues to be a challenge!
What has been the most rewarding part of building the business?
Faye Pang: Hearing the customers verbatim is the best part of my job. Knowing that Xero has helped them save hours of manual data entry, surfaced game-changing insights, or enabled greater staff satisfaction is what keeps me going. It makes the long days all worth it!
What questions do you think all leaders should ask themselves before building a company?
Faye Pang: You could have the best idea or vision in the world but without the right team you’ll be nowhere. Ask yourself whether you have the right people to create the type of business and culture you are looking to create.
In your experience, what do you think is the quickest way to get people on board with your mission?
Faye Pang: Storytelling is powerful, so I find that it really clicks for people when I share my own lived experience of being a daughter of two immigrant entrepreneurs. Watching my mom hunched over paper ledgers until midnight, trying to understand the cash flow position of the business, and then realizing that there has to be a better way. Who can’t relate to that?
What is your mission? The bigger picture?
Faye Pang: At Xero, our mission is to improve the lives of small business owners, their advisors, and the communities around them.
How do you define success? What does it mean to you?
Faye Pang: At the end of this ride, I’ll measure success by the relationships I’ve built and the degree to which I’ve been able to live my life in line with my own values and goals. It’s a dog fight every day to stay focused on that as life throws distractions at you.
What is one lesson that you hope people will learn or walk away with from your work?
Faye Pang: I hope that people can look back on the impact I’ve had on the business and the team and feel a sense of shared pride. Nothing I do is on my own, so I hope my team feels like they’ve been on the same fun ride.
If you could go back and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Faye Pang: Early in my career, I cared so much about what others thought and burned a ton of energy acting in a way that wasn’t authentic to me. I placed way too much emphasis on titles and corporate artifacts; things I now realize don’t matter. My advice to younger Faye would be: “Know your values, then live them.”
Who is a woman in the community that you admire?
Faye Pang: This is so cliche, but my mom has been a constant source of support throughout my career. She came to this strange land from China 34 years ago in search of a better life for her kids; she couldn’t speak the language, didn’t have any friends here, everything was upside down. In the three decades since, she’s worked many different jobs, started her own businesses, run the household, and still managed to live a full and happy life.