Last week I had the incredible honour to be named the COSBOA (Council of Small Business of Australia) Small Business Champion for 2015. This wasn’t for my success in small business (we all know how that turned out!) but rather for my ongoing efforts to try to highlight  the mental health needs of small business owners.

COSBOA and mental healthWhen Peter Strong, CEO of COSBOA told me about the award, I felt panicked. Is it possible to be successful at failing? I just didn’t feel worthy of the recognition.  I’m certainly not a poster child for being in prime mental health condition (did you read my post about battling an anxiety attack?) however, just like Mick Fanning, I too have to face my fears and start punching the sharks. I’m not a role model, I’m not an “award winner”, I’m just me, and that has to be good enough. I’ll take a guess and say that often when someone experiences mental health challenges that’s likely all they end up with – their authentic self.

punching sharks

Photo: Creative Commons

When someone in big business becomes mentally unwell (a dreadful experience regardless of where you work) there is some sort of anonymity provided behind the walls of “the business”. There’s still this entity that is not particularly personal to everyone else. However, when a small business owner becomes unwell, there’s nowhere to hide because they are “the business”.  They are the entity. They are your partner, your sister, your father, your neighbour, your football coach. There’s no respite behind the walls of anonymity. If you are unable to work, chances are, all these people are going to know about it:

  • Your employees
  • Your family
  • Your suppliers
  • Your customers
  • Your bank manager
  • Your landlord
  • Your accountant
  • Your investors
  • Your business peers

That’s why I knew it was important to punch the sharks. To graciously accept the COSBOA title in the hope that my experience might help others who experience something similar. Thank you COSBOA for allowing me to stay in the water and to keep trying to put the spotlight on the importance of addressing mental health needs for small business owners. I hope that I can continue to build on the focus COSBOA has brought to this important issue. We’ve got a project now underway with beyondblue so it’s a positive start. Stay tuned for updates.