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Leanne Faulkner. Leanne Faulkner.
30 May 2018 Posted by 

From breakdown to breakthrough: Leanne's journey of business self-help

TERRY COLLINS
SEVEN
years ago, Leanne Faulkner spent three months on her couch, too immobilised by depression to report for work at the multi-million dollar company she had built from scratch.

Searches online for help proved fruitless.

Although there was plenty on offer for employees who were struggling, there was no visible support network for small business owners facing mental health challenges.

Fast forward a few years and Ms Faulkner is now one of Australia’s strongest advocates for mental health support for small business owners, working with governments and industry to provide a network of support for those struggling to run their own companies.
 
“In 2004 I had started my company, Billie Goat Soap, from my own home and for the first few years we experienced rapid growth,” Ms Faulkner said.
 
“But in 2011 things started to slow. Like everyone else, we were impacted by the Global Financial Crisis.

“Aussies weren’t spending and retail was in trouble all over. I had to make some hard decisions – had to make people redundant and have serious talks with the bank.
 
“I began to think that because the business was failing, that meant I was a failure. Even though I was making the best decisions I could and forces outside my control were at play, I had very dark thoughts.
 
“I would cry on the way to work and have to leave meetings because I was too distressed.
 
“I had taken the business from $24,000 in the first year to a multimillion-dollar company and was even named NSW Business Chamber’s Business of the Year in 2011.
 
“But I still ended up on that couch for three months, unable even to bring myself to go into the office of the company I had built.”
 
Ms Faulkner eventually sought help and managed to return to work, before finally selling the company later that year.
 
“But I was consumed by the lack of support for other small business owners going through what I had gone through,” she said.
 
“There are more than a million small businesses in Australia and these owners are doing long hours, under enormous financial stress, trying hard to find a work/life balance.
 
“I realised it wasn’t just about me – so started searching for support groups in earnest.
 
“There was lots of support around for workers, and for the general public but not for the small business operators.”
 
And so began her one woman quest to work with governments and organisations such as the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance and the National Health Commission to set up a network of mental health support for the small business owner.
 
One of her first successes was the establishment of the Heads Up program through Beyond Blue – offering support to individuals involved in running small businesses.
 
And she is now working on a mental health strategic plan, identifying the stresses which come into play wen running a small business, outlining the symptoms of mental health problems and outlining strategies to overcome them.
 
“I hope also to include information on strategies for returning to work after an absence caused by mental health issues and continue to agitate for a network of support for these struggling small business owners,” she said.
 
She is a much sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a variety of government and private organisations including the ATO, where she instructed call centre operators in what to listen for when talking to small business owners who may be under stress.
 
She has set up her own website offering various short courses and soon to include a Skype counselling service, a business mentoring service and training courses on how to care for your mental health and build a mentally healthy small business.
 
Ms Faulkner also offers a special program called Walk ‘n’ Work, where business owners can book her to accompany them on a 40 minute walk.
 
This is currently available only on the Central Coast but likely to expand to Western Sydney if interest justifies it.
 
“I give a bit of business mentoring during the walk, and some confidential advice to those who ask for it- but it’s also about getting these operators out of the office,” she said.
 
“We all know walking is good for creative thinking and resilience building.
 
“Business owners need to realise that their business is much more likely to be healthy if they themselves are healthy in mind and body.”
 
Ms Faulkner said it was also about educating business owners in what to look out for in their own lives.
 
“If a bad day becomes a bad month, it’s time to be brave and ask for help,” she said. “It’s really important to take action early.”
 
To find out more about the services Ms Faulkner has on offer go to
 
If you need immediate mental health help, go to
 
 
 
 

 



editor

Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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