Episode 50 with Tricia Taitt

How To Turn Your Passion Into Profit: Tricia Taitt on Dancing With Your Numbers


Tricia Taitt was navigating the intensity of Wall Street when she was laid off during the Great Recession. She turned to her lifelong passion for dance to guide her through uncertain times and it led her to tour with a Broadway musical. Now Tricia is combining her unique background in finance and dance to help others build a strong financial core. In this episode Tricia discusses how she merged her passions into profit, tactics and principles for managing money, and the entrepreneurial skills that drive success. Tricia’s story is not just about resilience, but rediscovery.


Stay in touch with Tricia:

FinCore Strong

“Dancing With Numbers” Book




Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Tricia, thank you so much for joining us. I’m so happy to have you here and to have this conversation.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Yeah, I’m glad to be here and have this conversation with you as well.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I want to start. Take us back to 2008, 2009. You were working in the banking industry when the recession hit. Tell us first, how did you enjoy working in the banking industry? What were you like at that point?


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

I was reflecting on this recently. I was a pretty intense person. You kind of have to take on that demeanor when you work in Wall street and corporate finance. After Wharton undergrad (University of Pennsylvania,) I worked at Merrill Lynch for four years because that’s what everybody did. Everybody either went to investment banking, sales and trading, or consulting track. And I picked the sales track on the private client side. And so I did that for four years. And when I went back to business school, I was like, I’m not going back to the trading floor, but I want to do something more meaningful in finance, whether that’s like finance for Victoria’s Secret or Disney or some sort of fun company. I did not intend to go back to a bank, but I ended up going, I say the easy way out, but I got an internship at Citibank, and then that turned into a full time opportunity in a program at the time that allowed you to work with different CFO’s of different departments within Citigroup.


And that was very interesting because I worked in the liquidity and balance sheet area right as all of the banks and broker dealers started to fail. So the CFO of Citibank was constantly being called into S&P and Moody’s and the rating agencies in order to validate that the company was strong enough to support itself. Once I was in that department, I kind of saw the writing on the wall in terms of just what was going on with a lot of financial institutions at that time. Right. And so then eventually we hit a Great Recession. They lay off a bunch of people like myself and banks and broker dealers.


So now there’s a sea of us that have no idea what we’re going to do with ourselves. Now, simultaneously, in my mind, I was praying to figure out a way out of corporate because, I don’t want to say the harshness of it, but I’m a person that wants to have impact and purpose in my life. And I didn’t see me moving basis points and looking and analyzing multimillion, multi billion dollar PnL’s as having impact, like me having impact in the world. Right? And so I wanted to do that, but I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know how to jump off of the treadmill of that Wall Street treadmill that I was accustomed to being in. And so the recession gave that opportunity. And I was laid off December in 2009, and now I wasn’t making a paycheck because I wasn’t prepared for that either. Mentally. Well, mentally, financially I was, but mentally I was like, well, I’m not making a paycheck. What does that mean? 


But I figured out what to do next to fill the time. I have a passion for something completely different than math and numbers. I figured, all right, I’m going to just take a breather and I’m going to spend some time in that, and that’s a passion for dance. And I started taking dance classes in the morning because that’s when the professionals take it. I started going to Broadway auditions. I had no idea what I was doing or what I needed. I was just going to see what it was like. I had always wanted to try that in my life, either that or something commercial in LA. And I just went in and I just immersed myself into the whole experience.


Simultaneously I was part of this program that was run by, well, that was inspired by Michael Bloomberg, who was mayor of New York at the time. And the program was set up for Wall Street refugees to find refugees. Yeah, I’m starting to introduce myself as a Wall street refugee turned entrepreneur.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Got it.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

So this program helped Wall Street refugees prepare for work in nontraditional backgrounds. And they allowed us these ten to twelve week consulting engagements. And the nontraditional backgrounds were either working with nonprofits, startups, green tech, new media, like that sort of world. And there was one engagement with a dance company. So which one you thought I chose? I chose the consulting engagement with Martha Graham Dance Company. And that was my first foray into getting behind the scenes of how do you financially manage a smaller budget entity?


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

But before we get there, because I want us to dig in, but I want to stick a pin in that, but go back to dance to really establish what it means in your life. You had been dancing since you were five years old, something that you loved when it came to a layoff. Layoffs are hard, even if you are like, I didn’t really want to be here anymore anyway. They’re always really hard. And especially, which is why I wanted to have the conversation now, is that a lot of people are experiencing layoffs yet again. We’re not in the recession, but people are experiencing widespread layoffs right now. And how did leaning into dance kind of help you process this moment in your life.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Oh, man. How it helped me process it is one, dance is a meditation, and it gets you out of intense mental spaces. If you’re a type A personality, it will get you of that intensity and that anxiety. It’s great for your body. It forces you to breathe, which also adjusts the nervous system as well. So there are many health wellness modalities to it. I continue to dance to this day. I’m not performing as much, but I still dance train because it’s very critical to who I am as a person. I really feel like it’s the air I breathe

I have great thoughts in the middle of it. After it. I don’t think about what’s stressing me out while I’m in the middle of it. And so during that transitionary process of not really knowing what’s going to happen next, I just knew I didn’t want to go back to Wall Street. I dove into it. The other thing for me personally is when I was younger, I wanted to pursue a full time dance career. But being a first generation American with Caribbean parents, dance is not considered a real job. And so I defaulted on the second thing that I was good at, which was math and numbers, which transitioned itself into a career in business. 


But that love for dance never died. It kept coming back, right? So from five to twelve, I danced. And then when I went to boarding school at Andover, I did sports. So I tried sports. I thought I was going to be maybe an athlete. That didn’t work out. I got shin splints.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

I knew it was track.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

I got shin splints. I was in the whirlpool. I was like, okay, that’s not going to work. When I got to college, I was at Wharton. But my saving grace, because Wharton was super intense, the undergraduate program is way more intense than the MBA program. The balance for me, spiritually and mentally was an African dance group called African Rhythms. And so being in that group for four years opened me up to the world of african dance. It was a spiritual journey for me, too. And that’s where I rekindled the love for dance. 


And I eventually became a professional African dancer and was on a Broadway musical that was based on the life of Fela, which is a Nigerian artist. So that time in college manifested into something beautiful later on in life. The recession gave me the opportunity, actually, before the recession. Last connection point with dance is I did that four years in college. I tried to continue dancing when I came to New York and I was working at Merrill Lynch, but Wall street took over my life. 


When I was in business school, I was having this internal turmoil, and now I know what it is, now I know how to identify it. But in my late twenties I didn’t know how to identify it. And I firmly believe that when you are meant to do something and you are meant to shift and change in your life, there’s going to be upheaval. And I call it the tectonic plates inside of you start to shift like the tectonic plates of the earth. And that’s what causes an earthquake, right? So when those tectonic plates start to break apart and shift and do, there’s a reason for that and you got to listen to it. And sometimes we fight against it and that’s when we get into anxiety and stress and all of those things. And tectonic plates were happening, shifting within me my second year in business school and I didn’t want to go back to finance and Wall Street. I just didn’t know how to transition.


Fast forward, I got the employment letter to work at Citi post MBA. Exciting. Six figures. Love it. Simultaneously, I auditioned for a company in North Carolina, dance company in North Carolina, and I said, what are the chances that the citigroup is going to allow me to defer a year of employment so I could do this thing? There was one decision maker, thank God she didn’t have to speak to a super HR person. And she said, go ahead, you should. And the wonderful thing is she was also thinking of transition in her life. So she connected with what was going on.


And I went and I danced with this community company for a year. I cut off my hair. I went natural. I was a full time dancer from nine to five. The aches, the pains, the making as little money as I’ve ever made in my life. And that switch was turned back on. But it was like, at that point, it was like, we got to do something. It was like, I’m not letting you go. We got to figure this out somehow. We need to have a relationship with dance. 


And so after that year, and I worked at Citigroup, and in the evening I would take dance classes. I joined a dance company in New York City that I have been with for 15 years. I’m not dancing with them, performing with them now. And that’s how that light came back on. So that by the time we got to 2009 and I got laid off. I was already in mode of discovery of what’s going to happen with my dance self. How am I going to feed her? Because she needed to be fed, and she continues to need to be fed. 


And the wonderful thing is, during the pandemic, I found a way to merge my creative dance person and my finance person together because it felt confusing. Like, both parts of myself felt confusing to present to the world. And then the world was confused on how to connect with me. They were like, oh, you do finance work for just dance companies? No, that’s not just what we do. I’m a dancer and I run a CFO company.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, that resonates with me because that’s one of the hardest things that I didn’t anticipate in my transition, is really, I love to do different things, but how to talk about it, because to me, it all comes together. It is all storytelling, But I do this podcast, but how I get money is something different. But to me, it is all storytelling. And I stumble and fumble and bumble when I have to explain to people. I just leave stuff out. And that’s why your story really resonated with me, because I’m like, wow, she has seamlessly kind of put this together in a way that I completely get and understand.


But in doing more background research about you in preparation for this, you had said that there was a point, though, that you felt like you kind of didn’t fit. You didn’t want to go to reunions because your business school people wouldn’t really get the dancer you. And the dance community, you were older at that time in dance terms, right? Like, you were older than other people in dance terms. So you were kind of an outlier there, too. How did you reconcile that?


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

It was challenging. And I would say people should have grace with themselves when they’re trying to figure this out. You’re right. The circles that I rolled in as a Wharton undergrad alum and a Fuqua (Duke University) MBA alum is very different than Broadway dance people. Right? Broadway dance people are yoga, pilates instructors. By the way, I became a Pilates instructor at some point, and I was teaching at Equinox. Nannies, bartenders, that’s the life, right? They make a dollar stretch. The passion is intrinsic, right? So they’re not dancing and rehearsing and sweating and spending all of this money because they going to make six figures. They’re doing it out of the passion and the love with the hopes of getting something big, right? They take a lot of no’s to get to a yes. There has to be a patience, and they’re very risk taking. 


My other world is like MD’s. MD’s at banks and doctors and lawyers, and everybody’s into lifestyle and traveling. So I have both. And the two worlds didn’t feel like they came together and they fit. So while it would seem natural that I would start an accounting and financial consulting company for creatives and nonprofits, that was not my intention. That was not what I created. 

And so it took me five years to settle into not having impostor syndrome around both. I felt at some point impostor syndrome being calling myself a professional dancer when there’s people who have been doing it consistently since 13, and they went to Juilliard and they went to the conservatories, and now they’re auditioning for Broadway, right? And I felt a bit of impostor syndrome calling myself CEO for the longest time, I call myself Principal, President, Founder, CEO. I have a business school degree. Why did that feel so hard? Because most people who come out of business school go to corporate route and become VP and managing director. Nowadays they’re becoming CEO. But when I started, it wasn’t right. So I got to a point where I was okay with both. And then I was like, you know what? I am going to present all of her to you all. 


And during the pandemic, which really was triggering for me, I did some soul searching. I found an amazing brand strategist. I was referred to an amazing brand strategist person, and she takes the industry you’re in and she tells you to twist your message, her organization plug for her. Julie Cottineau of BrandTwist, and she tells you take two different industries that don’t seem related in order to bring them together, right, to find your marketing message, your pillars, your blah blah blah blah blah. And for me, I already had that dance and finance. I just didn’t know how to bring it together. And through that process came Fincore. I was also looking for a new name, a new DBA, because Art and Money Matters LLC was confusing to people.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

That was the name of your first business.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Well, that’s the name of the legal entity, Art and Money. Because for me, when I started my business, that’s what matters, art and money. So I was being literal when I created my legal entity, right? That’s what you do in your first few years of business. I didn’t know about creating a brand, right. So five years later, the brand mission, the brand voice, it’s all connected. The colors, it’s all very connected right now. And I’m thankful to the BrandTwist experience for helping to unleash that. And so now we have the brand FinCore, which is short for financial core, which came out of me thinking about my dance experience and what I have to do in order to be ready for performance pitch level. It’s a lot of developing the body and the core and being in flow with the music and things like that. 


And so the metaphor is in the same way that dancers strengthen their physical core in order to be at peak performance, business owners must strengthen their financial core to grow and scale to peak performance. And that’s what we help business owners do. Because when I go into a business, whether they are half a million dollars, $5 million, $20 million, the financial department is always the weakest link. And I see that I could support our company, can support them in strengthening that. And so out of Fincore came the new website, came my book. And then it’s about to create a LinkedIn Live or some kind of podcast or something. But all of these creative projects, again, my dance self, my entertainer self, is going to spur out of me now sharing my full self, Tricia, 1.0 and 2.0 in a brand that I can stand by and wholeheartedly love.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yes. And your book, we’re going to shout it out again,”Dancing With Numbers. Grow a financially healthy business and choreograph the life you want.” I want to talk about that financial core that you were talking about. I think because you have a strong financial core, it allowed you to pursue dance. For so many people in their lives, because the financial core is not strong. If you’re choosing between the finance industry and dance is finance all day, right? We’re just going to have to make that (dance) a hobby. We’re just going to have to do that when we can on a Saturday morning, once in a blue moon.


But because your financial core was strong, you were able to give it more of yourself and it was able to give back to you. So what were some of the things that you do or had done to put yourself in such a good position?


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Okay, so the first thing I did, I maxed my 401k when I was in corporate at the age of 21. So I started maxing from that time and I always saved my bonus. I never spent my bonus because I don’t like to live paycheck to paycheck. I don’t like somebody telling me I can’t travel to wherever place and have whatever experience, because I love travel. And my grandmother, one of the lessons, one of the things that she always said is, for every dollar you make save 60 cents and live on 40 cents. I always lived below my means, and I always saved my bonuses. So the bonuses, I wanted to create a savings because eventually I wanted to buy a place. That was my first goal. Haven’t bought a place yet, but it’s in the docket. That savings from Merrill Lynch turned into money for business school and then out of business school.


That savings, after working at Citigroup was supposed to be the fund for the house. But then I got laid off. So it became the fund for the figure out phase right before I started my business and while I was dancing. And while I was dancing, I was doing part time a lot of these different consulting engagements with different companies, like Martha Graham, like Harlem School of the Arts. So I was making a little bit of money there, and I was teaching pilates. So I was making a little money there. So in all of these things, I always saved a percentage of what I was making, and I always have a bucket of cash. Now, whether the cash is yielding the most at any one time, we don’t know.


But I like to have a good amount of cash stash, right. And then I can pull from that cash stash when there’s a slowdown. It is difficult or challenging to manage savings and a bucket of money to invest in something, right? And that is, I know, a struggle that a lot of business owners have, right. I need this money to operate, and I need this money to grow or invest in more people or scale, right? So how do we generate more profits and stuff like that without investing in the stock market? So that’s what I leveraged for myself. Those are the things that I employed for myself, and I stayed personally diversified. But I think once you’re a business owner, you have to do extra, because when you’re applying for a home or something like that, the only thing you have is your business tax return and the profits that you make in the business and what you pay yourself. Right. So, with that in mind, I also came up with this calculator to help business owners figure out what’s the minimum revenue they have to make in order to cover the business and cover what they need to live to choreograph their life to the point of it.


So those are the tactics that I used and some of the principles I still keep to this day. I live below my means. I have no ego around lifestyle, though there are certain things that have to be maintained, and you can’t have both while you’re building. Or else go back and work for corporate or somewhere where you could just maintain this lifestyle?


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, 100%. What did you learn about yourself through dance? The finance world. And that path could not teach you.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Grit. Grit, problem solving, emotional intelligence. As a business owner, I was telling somebody this last week. No, yesterday, in fact. I gave a client feedback. They took on a client, which happened to be a friend of mine, and the client is a corporate client, and my friend is at the corporate client. Okay. So they secured a deal, and my friend gave me feedback. Not to give to the client, but they gave me feedback. I shared it with my client. 


The difference between corporate and a small business owner is that with corporate, when they close a deal, they have all of the details and the specifications and everything ready to go because they have corporate money behind them. They have thousands of employees behind them. They can run and execute. Small business owners don’t always have all the resources at the same time. But we could figure that shit out. Okay. Right.


The goal is to close the deal and sometimes to make yourself a little bigger than you are able and then go back and find the resource.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yes, exactly!


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Right. That hustle, I don’t even want to call it hustle mentality because it put us in a place of scarcity. But that, like, “figureoutitness.” Is that a word? 


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

We’ll make it a word today. 


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

That level of grit, and I’m going to figure this out. I did not have that just because I had an MBA. It was like, here’s a plan, and I’m going to work the plan. And I can’t see anything outside of the lines.

No, I color all the way out the lines. Everything is up for negotiation. Everything is a possibility. Every conversation could turn into an opportunity. We figure stuff out, and I fully appreciate that. And then entrepreneurship is going to stretch you, because invariably you’re going to bump into some part of your business that is not your forte. For many people, it’s finance. 


That’s where you hire us. Yes. For some people, it’s technology. And so people dealing with AI, they’re like, oh, my God. I have to deal with operations like, whatever is not your forte, especially in the beginning of your business, and you have to wear all the hats or sales. Sales wasn’t my thing. Now it feels natural because I bring my performer self into it and I am bringing my authentic self. But I just wanted to be in spreadsheets, and I just wanted to do that work. I didn’t want to have to go get a client and network.

But it stretches you. So those are the things that. Those are, the grit, the “figure outedness,” the stress, the stretch. And the ability to take on risks, like, every day and deal with the unknown. Those are skills that I’m not sure I would have gotten in finance, or it probably would have taken longer than it has these past eight years.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, I hear all of that. I hear all of that. 


ACT Up Segment: 


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Our last segment is called ACT Up. A-C-T, those are my initials, where we talk about how to get from where you are to where you want to be. And so in your book, again, “Dancing with Numbers,” what are some steps people can take right now to dance with their numbers so they can have more freedom to pursue their passions.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Love it. Okay, so I’m going to talk about the larger theme of the book, which answers this question, and then a mini theme within the book. Okay. So in the large context of the book, there are three sections, and each section has three chapters. This is my financial self that did the threes and threes. Okay. So the sections are stretch, strengthen, and soar. Also, metaphor for dance in the stretch section is the mindset part.


When I interviewed the 20 business owners for this book, I asked them all, what are your earliest memories in childhood of money? And then second question was, how does it manifest itself today in your business? A lot of people are not aware of how who they are around numbers has a lot to do with how they learned about numbers in the beginning, and they have not connected the dots. And I felt like in the conversation with these business owners, it awakened a part of their brain that they weren’t aware of. Old habits, destructive beliefs around numbers and stuff that they had either worked out or they weren’t aware of. Right. So I would say the first thing is, think about what are some destructive beliefs around money that you learned in childhood that you are bringing into your business today? Because if you’re not aware of it and you don’t free yourself of it, there is no financial literacy course that you can take to help you get better if you haven’t unlocked that and you’re not working with it. So that’s the stretch. 


And then the strengthen is now that you got that, you come and take all my workshops and trainings, and then you get the food on how to manage cash flow and profits and how to grow your business and manage business debt or leverage business debt in order to grow and scale. Right? So that’s the strengthen.

And then the soar for the business owners that had multimillion dollar businesses. They spoke about the additional things that helped them grow and scale like, the people they surrounded themselves with, like, the additional activities that they did, whether it was nonprofit or it was therapy or mindset mapping those kind of activities. It was connecting with themselves and the authenticity of who they are or connecting with their company. 


I remember one restaurateur, he was an artist. He was an accidental entrepreneur, and he loved creating the cocktails in his restaurant. And then he realized there was one cocktail that people loved. He hated selling it because it was, like, the cheapest, and it wasn’t, like one of the more high end cocktails that he designed. But from a business perspective, it generated the most profitability. And so they focused on making the best tasting drink with the cheapest ingredients and coupled that with a burger that was popular. And then one summer, he saw sales, like, people out the door. And then he made a whole Thursday night around it. Right. That is a business decision. Sometimes you got to make a business decision that was tied to him listening to the community for the benefit of your business, to get to the next level. Right. And it forced him to be out of his creative self. 


So that is the higher level theme of the book. To give you the answers, the stretch, strengthen and the soar. And then within the book, there’s a path to financial freedom, which are like my six step to the profit method of growing a profitable business. And at the heart of it is innovation. And how can you innovate within your business in order to grow and scale? And the way to innovate is to be very clear on what is the pain point you alleviate or the problem you solve for a person. Because if you are not doing these two things, and I learned this later on in my life, too, I was like, oh, yeah, everybody needs financial literacy. And what we do in financial consulting, they have to. They must. But nobody’s buying must. Right? What they buy is I help you feel confident around your numbers. Right. What they buy is I help you grow your business so you could pay yourself a bonus. I help you increase profits 20% to 30% so that you can afford to hire that next key person that’s going to take you to the next. That’s what they’re buying. 


I’m a solution. My company is a solution to their problem or alleviating a pain point. And so I have a lot of, when I bump into newbie business owners, when I’m speaking and newbie business owners, and they’re like, I just need more sales, more marketing. It’s not just sales and marketing. Sometimes it’s the product and the service that you’re selling and the thing that you say you’re solving for, no one really wants or really cares. And so creating something innovative, and I go through these ten innovation types and things like that is a pathway to profitability.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Tell everybody where they can get the book, how they can work with you.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Okay, wonderful. So the book is on Amazon and this summer I narrated the audiobook. So if you’re like me and you prefer to listen to the book as opposed to, there’s a hardcover, I had to create all the platforms for the people that just elitists around things. I have to have the hardcover or I have to listen to the audio. I just. Where they are.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah, just do all those things.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

So it’s on Amazon. And if you’d like to work with us, you can find us on fincorestrong.com. I am also on LinkedIn Tricia M. Taitt. So that’s how you can meet with us. And I would just quickly say our process is that I do a 30 to 45 minutes strategic conversation or call. I do not call it a free consultation. I don’t even call it a consultation. It’s a strategy call. Because what invariably happens is whether we book the client or not, they walk away with a roadmap of what are the next steps to take to grow and scale their business. Hopefully, we can be the ones to help you. And you are ready for a relationship. You have to be ready for a relationship with a CFO, either me or another CFO on my team. But it is a strategy call. So I’m digging into the numbers and your information and stuff like that. So I like to tell people that because they feel like it’s going to be like, on the surface, 15 minutes. No, I go in a little bit.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Yeah. Tricia, thank you so much. This has been great. I think it’s like setting people free and setting me free and just being more comfortable to lean in because you follow the breadcrumbs and then brought this beautiful thing together. And that’s what I’m hoping people take from this conversation. From all of your strengths. You don’t have to choose strengths. You can dive into all of your strengths.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

Yeah. And I feel that people connect with you more deeply when you have all of who you are. And so even when I’m networking, I’ll share this last little tidbit with you. Whenever I’m networking, I do a little networking game for the first ten to eleven minutes of our conversation. And it allows me to figure out, or both of us, to figure out how we connect professionally and personally from the beginning so that the conversation isn’t boring. I’ve networked and met thousands of people, and some people just dive into like, oh, what do you do? I’m not going to remember you. You’re not going to remember me. But if you went to Trinidad and Tobago at some point and you love the food, I’m going to connect with that.

If you have a passion for dance, I’m going to connect with that. Right. And you might connect with something in my background. So I think that bringing your full self allows you to be authentic and dive deeper, quicker. Love it.


Aundrea Cline-Thomas, Host

Thank you so much for being here.


Tricia Taitt, FinCore CEO

You’re welcome. Nice to meet you and thank you for having me. 

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