Patrice TanakaMeet Woman Business Owner, Patrice Tanaka, Co-Chair, Chief Creative Officer and whatcanbe Ambassador of CRT/tanaka

Tell us about your business.

CRT/tanaka is an award-winning, national PR and marketing firm, serving clients in the consumer, corporate, health and digital space.

Please tell us what being a business owner means to you and why you became an entrepreneur in the first place? Being a business owner means that you have the exciting opportunity to realize (more of) your vision than would be possible by working for someone else.

I often refer to myself as an “accidental entrepreneur” because the only reason I started my first agency, PT&Co., was to avoid having to fire four employees when our PR subsidiary at advertising giant Chiat/Day lost its biggest account. I knew that if I told the head of subsidiary operations at Chiat/Day that we just lost our biggest client, he would instruct me to terminate the people working on that account immediately. I delayed communicating this news to him, trying to figure out a way NOT to have to terminate four valuable employees who would be critical to replacing that lost revenue. The only thing I could think of was to lead a management buyback involving 11 key co-workers, spin off our PR subsidiary and start an independent agency, which is what we did in 1990 to form PT&Co., an agency owned by the 12 (and soon after 13) co-founders.

What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?

Definitely my mother. She was always supportive of me, teaching me to “work hard, persevere and do my very best always.” She also ingrained in me from an early age that it was important “to share your cookies and toys.” That’s why when I led the management buyback to form my first agency, PT&Co., I felt it was only fair that everyone involved in this risky move, should be an “owner” of the business.

What would you say is your greatest professional accomplishment to date?

Building a PR agency with 12 other co-founders that was recognized as the “#1 Most Creative PR Agency” in America AND also the “#2 Best Place to Work” among all PR agencies.

What’s the best advice you have received in business that you wish to pass on to our readers?

“Share your cookies and toys.”

What has been the most effective marketing initiatives or programs you have used to promote your business?

In my new agency, CRT/tanaka, which I co-founded in 2005 when we sold New York City-based PT&Co. to Richmond-based Carter Ryley Thomas, to form CRT/tanaka, we have built an agency based on the brand vision and brand promise of whatcanbe. For us, whatcanbe means that whatever we envision we can create. We’re only limited by our imagination. And, creating whatcanbe simply means envisioning a bigger, brighter, better future whether it’s for the agency, our clients and the community-at-large and then creating a plan of action to achieve that vision.

We’ve launched a number of initiatives to promote the concept of whatcanbe, including:

• fostering a whatcanbe workplace culture (instead of a whatCAN’Tbe culture);

• introducing an annual whatcanbe Awards program recognizing 3 employees for creating a bigger, brighter, better future for the agency, our clients and the community (recent winners are featured on the home page);

• appointing every employee a whatcanbe Ambassador (this is on everyone’s business card);

• and institutionalizing our business process via a proprietary, three-phase planning rocess (“what” phase, “can” phase and “be” phase), etc.

What one thing have you learned as a small business owner that has served you well over the years?

That the “golden rule” is as important in business as it is in your personal life. People are people. They just want to be treated with respect and courtesy and, if you do, it makes working together so much easier.

Are there any resources or tools you’d like to share with other small business owners that have helped you run your business?

I’ve found it valuable for learning and networking to join business and professional organizations particularly women’s organizations. As a communications professional, I’ve found great value in organizations such as:

• New York Women in Communications

• Women’s Forum New York

• Asian Women in Business

• Center for Asian Pacific American Women

• Public Relations Society of America

• Council of PR Firms

Do you have any new projects coming up?

Our agency just created a campaign entitled, “Dance 4 Your Life,” to promote the health benefits of dance in partnership with “So You Think You Can Dance” executive producer Nigel Lythgoe’s Dizzy Feet Foundation and the Larry King Cardiac Foundation. And we have just embarked on a campaign to help our Girl Scouts of the USA client celebrate their centennial anniversary next year.

What do you do for fun/relaxation?"Patrice Tanaka Dancing"

Ballroom dancing (I’m a competitive ballroom dancer), tennis, Pilates, Zumba

What is Number One Business Goal you plan to accomplish over the next year?

Helping grow my agency to $20MM in the next few years.

You want to write a book on? . I have just written a book entitled, “Becoming Ginger Rogers…How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO,” which is being published by BenBella Books and available Sept. 6, 2011.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Yes, to pursue their joy and to share that joy with others. Life is all too brief so we mustn’t waste our precious time on earth.

What’s the best way for our readers to connect with you?

My agency website:

My book website: