Vanessa Bell Mumbition the Podcast


The Podcast By Mums & Co

Episode 74: You’re not going to break it - with Tracy Sheen Founder of The Digital Guide

Tracy Sheen

Founder The Digital Guide

July 4, 2023
Tracy Sheen is the Founder of The Digital Guide working with small business owners to help them learn, leverage and love technology in their business. Tracy has a passion for working with regional and rural businesses. She is an author, speaker, presenter and media commentator, author of The End of Technophobia, which was Australia's Business Book of the Year 2021. She is currently writing my second book AI and You.

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The Digital Guide


Produced by - Lucy Kippist

Edited by - Morgan Brown
‍Interviewers - Carrie Kwan and Lucy Kippist
‍Guest - Tracy Sheen

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Episode 74 Transcript

Carrie Kwan (02:30.742)

We acknowledge and pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of New South Wales, where we record this podcast and all Aboriginal elders past, present and emerging. We respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands and waters of New South Wales and their continuing cultural, spiritual customs and practices. Tracy, a big welcome to you. We love educating and supporting women on pitching with confidence.

Carrie Kwan (02:57.955)

And I'd love to hear in your own words, your best elevator pitch.

Tracy Sheen (03:05.293)

So my name is Tracy Sheen. I'm known as The Digital Guide. I'm an author, speaker, presenter and media commentator, author of The End of Technophobia, which was Australia's Business Book of the Year 2021. Currently writing my second book AI and You. And I work with small business owners to help them learn, leverage and love technology in their business.

Carrie Kwan (03:34.95)

In the last four or so months you've clocked 40,000 kilometers driving across Australia hosting workshops, I believe you have run about 70 already this year which is just a phenomenal effort in upskilling and educating business women. Thank you for all your efforts there Tracy.I know that helping small business owners overcome the overwhelm of technology is something that we often see in our community as well, so I’d love you to share some of the more underrated tools that a small business owner could have in their toolkit?

Tracy Sheen (04:32.348)

So my hands down favorite one is AppSumo. So it's a website that is a marketplace for apps and platforms around technology. So it'll have everything from productivity apps to course building apps, you name it, it kind of holds the key. And what I love about it is they offer lifetime deals. So instead of you having to pay the the SaaS monthly subscriptions that you end up looking at your bank account and wondering what that $19 and what that $29 and what that $9 is, you pay once and you're in there for life. So love AppSumo, just don't get caught down the rabbit hole because I lose hours playing in that platform. The other one is a really basic one that we all have already on our phones, on our laptops, on our devices. And I think it's probably the most underutilized app that we have and it's our calendar.

Carrie Kwan (05:37.194)

Okay, so let's expand that a little bit more. What do you do with the calendar outside of putting, you know, the time blocks for meetings and to-dos?

Tracy Sheen (05:51.068)

So I use my calendar, I've got it, I use the calendar called Fantastical, right? Which is, it's kind of a step up from the basic calendar that you get preloaded. And what fantastical allows me to do is connect my reminders directly into my calendar. So anytime I write an event or anything in the calendar, it will cross reference that with any reminders and tell me if there's any clashes happening.

But I also think that we just don't potentially block our time or think about how much value is associated with our time as women and as business owners. So my opinion on this, and I'm neurodiverse, so I need to look for ways to help me stay on target or I'll, you know, go down rabbit holes every day of the week.

So if I can wake up and look at my calendar and look at the structure for my day, then I know what wiggle room I have to go off tangent, but also what I need to get done. So when someone says to me, hey, can we grab a coffee or can we do this? I immediately know without them getting to the end of the day and having to go right now, I need to work until 10 o'clock because I, you know, gave up two hours of my day to catch up with someone. So I think just, just knowing what your day structure is like, and really utilizing it for all of those things. And I love the visual colors that you can get with calendars. So I have different colors for travel and office and admin and family stuff and all that kind of thing. So I can look at my calendar on any day or week, and I can immediately see, does my life have balance? Have I got colours for family? Have I got colours for travel? Colours for office and admin colours for presenting so I can see if I'm kind of out-weighted one week and I need to spend maybe a little bit more time with my family or whatever to kind of bring that back to balance.

Carrie Kwan (07:56.066)

I love those tips and it's really important I think we would in terms of we've got quite a lot of different aspects of our lives and blending them all into one. I remember thinking that we had some one of the speakers from Life Admin, Life Hacks, they were saying that you know there are so many ways to integrate your calendar into even your mobile reminders so that if you're driving somewhere, you actually might get a notification by the time that you have picked up the kids and got back into your work mode. We kind of have to constantly flip between so many different identities. So I love that tip about getting your calendar underway. Now just because I feel like I'm hogging the microphone today, Lucy, sorry, but you did mention that I am open to technology. So one other question I had was, what has got your attention right now, Tracy?

Tracy Sheen (09:05.708)

Well, okay, so in the AI and tech space, every day is something different right now. So I subscribe to a couple of global newsletters and I'm really that geek that literally the first thing I do when my eyes open is I scan those newsletters and I'm looking at news articles for, you know, what latest something has dropped overnight or what's the latest hubbub around AI or whatever. So I think the big one right now, and it is launching officially in June, but it's the Microsoft Copilot. So I think if we look backwards to December or November, chat GPT was kind of a big line in the sand for business owners around understanding and seeing the shift that we're making towards AI. So that was a really big kind of moment in time. I see Microsoft Copilot as the next big moment in time. It's the integration of AI into a complete platform. So it means that you will now be able to converse with your computer like we do. So you'll be able to say to your computer, you know, what productivity tools can you give me and it will tell you, I wanna go dark and get some work done. So it will just set things for you rather than you needing to know all of the little minutia that is on your computer that maybe you haven't had the time to learn or the inclination to learn. But then, it will integrate across the platform. So you need to write a document, it will be able to summarize, translate, rewrite, create content for you the same as across PowerPoints. It will start to learn and be able to respond to emails for you, create calendar events. So I could literally say to it, I wanna catch up with Lucy next Tuesday, and it will send an email to Lucy with a calendar invite. So no more of this clicking around and trying to switch tasks or anything, just as you kind of get that thought or that moment, Carrie, as you said, you know, you'll just be able to pop it into the computer and it'll do it for you. So I think there's some really big leaps that we're seeing and that's probably the next one for me that's just making me go, okay, we're climbing this ladder now and the rungs are getting kind of bigger.

Carrie Kwan (11:46.442)

Again, what, how should we be approaching this? Because I know that a lot of women in our community and perhaps, you know, I'm sure men as well, they, you know, technology is overwhelming. So what's your piece of advice for them?

Tracy Sheen (12:03.932)

Curiosity, you know, tap into how your kids look at the world and how excited they get when something comes up. It's not like you need to spend a lot of time around it, but even just, you know, look to our kids, right? Like, Roblox and things like that are just amazing kind of games that the kids are right into right now. So ask to put on the VR headset and play with them.

You know, and just see what's going on in their world. It's not that we need to add something else to our plate because I'm not about that. I think AI used well is actually going to remove stuff from our plate and free us up a little bit more, but we definitely need to lean back into that sense of curiosity and wonder about what's going on right now.

Carrie Kwan (13:03.374)

I think it's vital and super, super important. And I love that. Just play, you know, just try something out, have a little snippet, muck around with it and use it like you.

Tracy Sheen (13:09.534)

You're not going to break it and it's not going to break you, you know, so just get in and get your hands dirty.

Lucy Kippist (13:20.942)

Actually, that line, you can't break anything, is something that Carrie says a lot to our team. So we do get that encouragement quite a bit. So I think you have a natural affinity for that anyway, Carrie. Just listening to you two talk is just absolute proof of my next point, which I was gonna bring up, that Tracy, you are one of our fabulous Mums & Co. experts, and you've run several workshops for us already and have plans in the works for more.

And we've had such terrific feedback from our members in terms of these sessions with you because as evidenced by this conversation you can just go to every topic. But I'm wondering what for you stands out when you're making a business connection. Can you tell us a little bit about maybe the last business connection that had some serious impact for your business and what the core ingredient of that interaction was?

Tracy Sheen (14:19.152)

Everything for me comes back to curiosity and community. So I'm genuinely a really inquisitive person. Even when I was a kid, my folks used to joke that I was like a tiny embodiment of like Michael Parkinson because I'd sit down with someone and I'd just automatically start interviewing them. You know, who are you, what do you do, what lights you up, you know, all that kind of stuff? So whenever I'm looking to make a connection with someone, yeah, I want the business stuff, like that's kind of a given, but I'll look for something quirky that I can connect to people with. So I'll look for something that will cause conversation and connection.

Because the business stuff's a given, right? Like we're just, we're in business to build business and do all of that kind of stuff. But I'll always look for like, so outside of business, I play with Lego. That's the way I can get my mind to switch off and I can be in the moment and I can go Zen. So that's something I'll always throw in because it always surprises me when people kind of go, oh.

I'm into Lego too, or did it or I just built this or my kids are working on that. So then you kind of you watch the the walls go down and you get to meet the human on a human level. So I'll always look for something that I can say. So hey, Lucy, I want to introduce you to Carrie and you know, in Lucy's spare time, she you know, she's currently reading this book or she's you know, learning burlesque classes or Carrie’s into life painting or something. So I look for something that people can connect to outside of business, because it's that old thing of like, we buy people and we connect with people. And again, the business is given, but if you've got values and ethics and all of that kind of stuff that align, then the conversation is much easier to get off the ground.

Lucy Kippist (16:29.778)

Such a wonderful tip and I was thinking as you're saying it that also helps your brain I think connect other people you might not have so if you're connecting people just on that linear business there's a customer for you there's a customer for you and you're just seeing them as a this is crude but you're seeing them as a cheque or a payment as opposed to seeing them as the whole person or as much as they're going to reveal to you in that setting and then that's going to send messages to your brain to go oh actually

I never thought about connecting Tracy with Carrie or Andrew or whoever it is. I love that tip, to keep that curiosity, which is obviously a major guiding principle for you. Now, further speaking about connection, Carrie mentioned near the beginning that you've got a passion for regional and rural business owners, having done some serious amount of kilometers this year already. So you're a federally appointed entrepreneurship facilitator and an ambassador for A-U-D-A? Am I saying that correctly? 

Now when we're thinking about the impact here, connectivity is obviously really vital for business owners outside of the big cities. But what are some of the other things you've identified, either as challenges that the women are sharing with you or as potential solutions and opportunities in these areas?

Tracy Sheen (17:56.564)

Yep you're right connectivity it's still a real issue in Australia and it was interesting I was chatting to someone in northern Sydney yesterday so still like 20 minutes out of the heart of the CBD and they were saying to me that they struggle to get mobile reception at home because they're in a really leafy area they're in a bit of a valley and the line of sight to the tower is pretty crude so when you think that even in our metro cities, there's still a struggle to get solid connectivity to do stuff that we kind of take for granted, that's still an issue, right? And we're always going to have that, I think, because just the nature of our country. And I've seen that, you know, I've been working in this space since, gosh, 1990. So, you know, I've seen a lot of different networks come and go for different reasons. So, put the technical aspect aside, the one thing I really love about working with regions, and I'm a country girl, right? So I'm unashamedly, I grew up in country New South Wales. So my natural inclination is to wanna give back to the country. I don't know that we see the level of community that we see in regional areas anywhere else. So I love that whenever I go somewhere and I walk into a room inevitably 80% of the room know each other. And I love that. But what I love even more is that they may not have connected the dots of, hey I can give you a shout out on social media and that’s going to help your business and my business because it's just they think about catching up with everybody at Netball on a Saturday or at the kids school for pick up or whatever but they don't see the connection that that goes across to business and the flow on effect that that can have. So just by getting them to lean into their natural wanting to connect and wanting to create community and showing them how that they can connect those dots into an online universe as well just blows my mind, right? Because then all of a sudden they've got much bigger networks, stronger networks and often better communities immediately. So their growth online is very quick because they're starting from such a really strong relationship base.

And when I go into a metro area, it's quite the opposite. So I see, I'll go into a room, barely anyone knows each other. And there's almost this, I come to the table as though you're my competition. So you've got to kind of take them out of that mindset in a way to kind of say, you know, okay, so you both might be digital marketers, but who do you actually want to work with and who do you want to work with?

You can see there's no actual overlap here. So why wouldn't you support and encourage each other? So it's just that different mindset and that different, yeah, thought process, I think, that happens between country and metro.

Carrie Kwan (21:56.527)

Yeah, and that's such a beautiful reflection that, you know, being in the community where you already know 80% of the people. It's a very special combination. And I know that we often sense that when we  often go to Dubbo and do some work with the Dubbo Exchange and the amazing group there. So we definitely sense that connection. I wanted to flip our conversation to the, the concept of, you know, running a business is a risky business in a risky venture in many ways. So how would you describe your relationship to risk as a business owner and thank you for sharing earlier that you are neurodiverse. I'm wondering if that adds an extra dimension to how you view risk?

Tracy Sheen (22:51.928)

Yeah, you know, it's been really interesting because I, I always suspected that I had ADHD or I had something kind of, you know, more than, you know, just looking back over report cards and stuff, right, and having conversations with people, I was like, I'm kind of, I don't fit, I don't feel the same way. So it's, it's only been since I got my formal diagnosis, which has only been a few years ago that I went you know what, I kind of need to lead with this in in workshops and things because I'm a big believer it's the same as depression. I'm a big believer that we can't change what we don't normalize. So it's really intrigued me over the last kind of 12 or 18 months as I go everywhere and I kind of lead with the like, hey, so, you know, I have ADHD and I have autism. So if you don't see me making eye contact all that often, or I'm looking away, it's not that I don't value what you bring to the table. It's just my way of thinking through a process or coping or whatever. So one of the things that I have realized in the journey to accept and realize my own neurodiversity is that I kind of don't see risk, or I do, but it's like “That's a future Tracy problem. So like, let's just go with that today”, you know. So I'm very blessed that my hubby and my business partner is quite the opposite. He's very cautious. He's very he's an electrical engineer by trade. So he's very process driven. He's very give me the facts, remove the emotion. Let's work this through, you know. If this then that. So if we do this, what's likely to happen? What are the scenarios where I'm just like, Oh my god, can we stop talking about it? And like, you know, let's just get this thing going. So I've realized that I need to have Michelle Obama talks about her kitchen table. So I've realized that I need to have different skill sets at my kitchen table to bring that stuff that I don't have and the ability to see risk is probably one of them.

Carrie Kwan (25:19.018)

I'm fascinated by that combination, because I think it's a really solid one. I think you need to move fast in running a business. And sometimes when you have too many scenarios, it prevents you from moving fast. So it's almost like how do you process as much information that's critical as possible and move forward still? But not at the expense of your growth. Because things move really quickly, especially with technology. Your idea that you had, if you take six weeks, eight weeks, 10 weeks to launch something, then someone's probably already done it. So that's fascinating. And you mentioned your husband, Peter. He's your right-hand man in your business. Do you have any secrets here about how to make this? Dynamic work across your relationship and your business work, any boundaries that you set, love to dive into how you make it work?

Tracy Sheen (26:24.992)

I grew up in a family business. So mum and dad worked together as long as I can remember. Some of it was healthy, some of it was not. So, but I loved  that dynamic of having that mindset, that conversation that need to grow as a family together. So really early on, I was kind of drawn to that. I don't know what this looks like for me. But I love this dynamic. So I kind of knew from the time I was like five that, you know, this was my norm. This was like, okay, I kind of want to do this don't know what that means, but I want my life to look like this. So I think the things that I took from mum and dad that I brought into our relationship or what we do together is you got to have a sense of humour. Good grief. Like if you're 24/7 365, you know, be quick witted and make the most of stupid situations and tough situations, because it's a roller coaster, you know, at the best of times when you're trying to run a business. But when you're trying to run it with your partner, it just adds a whole other layer to it, right? So you've got to be able to laugh at yourself and each other and the situation, or forget about it. Communication, I mean, I know that's I'm very mindful of language because I think sometimes we throw around words that can be taken in so many different contexts and things. So communication to me is probably key and we communicate quite differently and again I think that's my neurodiversity but I can be quite literal so and I can be quite blunt and Pete's a bit of an empath so he will often take the emotion of a room and soak that in, whereas I'm just like, oh my God, just, you know, come on, like, let's just, why is that upsetting you? Just, you know, it's just, it is what it is. I speak in dot points, like, you know, deal with it. So he's had to teach me about what we call inside thoughts, right? Cause you know, we'll be walking down the street and I would have seen like a mum wheeling a pram with like the cover over it, cause it's summer. And I go, “oh must be an ugly baby” and he's like, “inside thought honey”,” okay, good to know, right? “So, you know, like I just think I'm kind of being humorous and he's like, they might not see it like that. So we've had to kind of learn how to communicate with each other and obviously to have those boundaries too. Cause again, like my office is in my house, Pete's office is in our house. I walk out of one room and I'm in my home.

I walk back into this room and I'm in my business. So how do we negotiate that? And then we're on the road. So then the car becomes an office. The work, so it's constantly evolving. And I think being prepared to not have rigidity, you know, like this week, this is what it's gonna look like. You know, are we gonna get much time to ourselves? Probably not. But hey, at the end of it, let's take three days to travel back slowly and, you know, take in the countryside. So I think that sense of curiosity and being able to be flexible with what's going on in any one time has kind of been the key. We've been working together now for 15 years. Some of it awesome, some of it not so awesome. It's definitely made us as a couple and as a business stronger. Like I can't see anything that would be able to penetrate us as a unit as a result.

Carrie Kwan (30:51.054)

Wow. And you know, when you mentioned the blurring of boundaries with business and home life, I think that's something that, you know, certainly half of our community, business owning women who have caring responsibilities, they are working from home. So we do need to set those boundaries because they can blur quite easily. And I love what you said about the communication point.

We've in my household, we've definitely been going, how can you be more specific? Or how can you, what is your, what are you really trying to ask here? And then I heard another tip recently with my husband and we were like, okay, so I know you're about to unpack on the day, unload and talk about it. Before you do that, are you asking for me to listen or are you asking for me to give you solutions? And I tried it, I actually tried it for the first time last night.

And it was good. It actually set the right tone. So if you haven't tried that, I'd recommend it.

Tracy Sheen (31:57.684)

It's an interesting point, isn't it? I think one of the things we did early on was read the book Love Languages and recognise how each of us actually show that we care because we do have quite different styles in the way that so Pete's very much, he's an action orientated person.

Tracy Sheen (32:23.608)

So we start our days very differently. So he'll get up, we've got fur kids, not real children. He's got real children. He did that for the country. I did not. So he'll wake up with the fur kids and brings me in a coffee and kind of leaves me. I wake up very differently. So I open my phone, I read about what's going on with AI. I look at my calendar, I get my head right with what I need to do for that day, but he's got to get up and go through a process. So bringing me coffee in bed every morning is one of his ways of, you know, showing that love language and that kind of communication for him. So it's knowing the roles that you play and being able to bounce backwards and forwards between them. So being able to say to your husband, you know, what do you want me to do here? Listen or offer advice.

I was reading that it's more natural for a guy to actually come in with advice, and it's more natural for a woman to just take it in and ask questions. So knowing where you sit on that conversational spectrum, I think is really important to be able to say, you know, what do you need from me right now? I did a mental health first aid certificate a while ago. And one of the things that really resonated with me was to say to somebody what does support look like for you right now? Because what I think might be helpful or supportive, might completely disempower you or might feel like I'm coming in over the top. So it's something that I'm always really cautious with because I feel like one of my superpowers is I see through the BS and I can see the answers for people. But that's often not what they want. They need to take that journey to get to that.

So just being able to say, what does support look for you right now, has been something for me that's made, that's been really helpful. Cause it's, yeah, it's been able to be the friend that I wanna be for people.

Lucy Kippist (34:38.878)

Love it. Such good advice. Tracy, it's time for the last question. The last question we had for you was in terms of offering you an opportunity to do a bit of a shout out to business earning woman or business earning mother in your community who you feel should be you know, needs a bit of recognition at the moment, so that we can support them as well.

Tracy Sheen (35:20.028)

How do you limit it to one? Everywhere you look, there's just lots of women, right? So like, first of all, to every, every business-owning mama that I have met and worked with over the last five months, six months, seven months, whatever, my hat's off to you. Like, I don't have kids, so the fact that you are doing business with a family, like, blows my mind.

So kudos to everyone that turns up and does awesome things. There's a few, right? So I think there's a beautiful girl I went to school, girl. Good grief. There's a beautiful lady I went to school with when I was really little, Melinda Schneider, who's known as one of Australia's leading country stars now. Musicians and artists are still recovering after the pandemic. So I think

I want to shout out to her and I would encourage everybody to get out and support the arts again now that we're able to, you know, do stuff. So go to a concert, go and see someone, play some music at a cafe, go and check out a local art show, you know, look on Etsy, see how you can support these fabulous people doing great things. So I think she would be one.

Probably the other one I want to shout out to is Jen Donovan. So Jen's an amazing, she's become one of my kind of kitchen table people. And she's another marketing person. So if you look at us on kind of like for like, a lot of people would think that we are head to head and in competition. But I just love and admire everything Jen does. She's based in regional Australia, she's got an awesome podcast and community as well. So I think the people that I love and respect are the ones looking to create community, create connection and build legacy. Like leave the world in a better place. Like you folks are doing.