Rebecca Gadd’s mental health journey led her to form Sprout Business & Wellness Coaching, a Wodonga-based bookkeeping and advisory practice that puts the mental wellbeing of both advisors and small business owners in the spotlight.
From starting as a trainee with a family-owned finance brokerage, to acting as a banking and treasury officer for a corporate head office, I’ve always thrived on working with numbers. However, as my career has progressed (and my own personal journey alongside it), my interests have deepened to encompass mental wellbeing as well as financial.
You see, like so many of us, I’ve been diagnosed with depression. According to Beyond Blue, one in six Australians have depression or anxiety, or both. But despite this, most workplaces don’t provide adequate support for staff experiencing mental health challenges.
Undoubtedly, running your own business is an emotional rollercoaster. Small business owners are the backbone of our local communities and the nation’s economy – but who's got their back? And as a trusted advisor, often shouldering the emotional burdens of your small business clients, who's got your back?
These are the questions I’ve been pondering as I figure out how to support my clients through their toughest year yet, all the while working to safeguard my own mental health.
The struggle against stigma
In the world of accounting and bookkeeping, we’re regularly expected to work long hours, especially during the end of the financial year period. It’s only natural that the lack of work-life balance can impact our relationships, physical health and mental wellbeing, often leading to dissatisfaction and burnout.
Sadly, there’s still an awful lot of stigma surrounding mental health in the workplace. Most of my previous employers weren’t accommodating when I struggled with mental health issues, and that’s what ultimately pushed me to create the change I was once looking for.
Seeking more flexibility and autonomy to work at my own pace, I started my first bookkeeping practice, Meticulously Managed Bookkeeping Services, in Perth in 2013. However, over the years, as the business grew, my mental health worsened. The pressure culminated in my marriage breaking down, which saw me look to alcohol and ultimately slide downwards.
Feeling isolated from my family and friends, I decided to move back to Victoria to be near a close-knit, supportive community that helped me to not only recover, but flourish.
All systems go
Thanks to an ongoing process that involves therapy, exercise, and self-care, I’ve managed to turn things around – all while maintaining my bookkeeping business. I attribute a huge amount of this success to the systems I have in place that kept the business running efficiently when I wasn’t at my best.
In the name of designing systems that streamline tasks and decrease stress, I’ve embraced everything cloud-based. Fathom and Receipt Bank have been game-changing tools for me, in that they’ve automated once time-consuming processes. By simplifying operations, I’m left with all the more time to take care of myself when I need it most.
Rising from the ashes
This year, like so many others, I’ve needed to draw on my inner strength more than ever. When the summer bushfires devastated North East Victoria, my family’s cattle farm was razed to the ground. I’d hear about another property that had been lost just like ours on a daily basis, and it was utterly heartbreaking.
The bushfires took a huge emotional toll on all of us, but it was this challenging period that was ultimately a catalyst for my business evolution. Out of the ashes, I made the decision to expand my focus and rename my practice Sprout Business & Wellness Coaching, with the name ‘Sprout’ heralding new beginnings.
Working closely with my clients during this challenging time, I realised that small business owners don’t just need bookkeeping services. Yes, they need access to real-time financial data to grow, but they also need guidance, support and most importantly, connection.
Right now, there’s a real market for holistic advisory services that focus on wellbeing and purpose, as well as the financials of the business.
Staying connected through COVID-19
Following the arrival of the pandemic, I received so many heartbreaking calls from clients in tears at the prospect of losing their business. With the added burden of JobKeeper and grant applications, they’ve needed my support more than ever.
As an empathetic person, I’ve learned to set firm boundaries when advising clients in tough spots. Being overly busy is counterproductive, so during this intense period I scheduled my appointments carefully, allowing time to pursue hobbies outside of work.
Apart from providing administrative support, I regularly called the clients I was concerned about because I care about them as people. Right now business owners need to know that someone cares.
I now realise that the connections I have with clients are what fulfils me. It’s the reason that I’ve adapted my practice to focus on coaching business owners to cultivate a healthy, balanced business mindset.
The past year has certainly been challenging, but it’s also been a blessing. It’s forced me to rethink my business model, placing the wellbeing of myself, my clients and the industry at the top of the agenda, where it belongs.
Rebecca’s tips for safeguarding your mental wellbeing while supporting clients through challenges
1. Set limits
To conserve my energy, I only coach one client a day. Don’t be afraid to say no when you need to.
2. Make referrals
I’m not a therapist. For this reason, if I’m concerned about a client’s mental health, I suggest that they see a counsellor or call Beyond Blue.
3. Take creative breaks
Pursue activities you enjoy. I take Fridays off to practice the art of glassblowing, a hobby that allows me to be creative.
4. Use systems to streamline
Automation and systemisation save time and reduce stress during busy periods, granting you more head space in the process. I look to Fathom and ReceiptBank to ease the burden.
5. Stay active
Physical activity is key to calming an anxious mind, so carve out time for regular exercise.
These days, it’s easy to feel like you need to be switched on 24/7 and be everything to everyone. Ensuring that you set boundaries helps avoid burnout, whether it’s a period of digital detox or clearly communicating to others when you aren’t available.
If you or someone you know needs support, call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636
or Lifeline on 13 11 14.