Tell us about yourself, your business and your background with FSB.
I joined FSB in 2011, mainly because as a sole trader I wanted to have access to services that I wouldn’t normally have access to, particularly at the time the Tax Investigation service because I’d heard lots of horror stories of people having tax investigations and being run through the mill.
So, I did it as a safety net, and then over the years lots of new services have been added, and so I’ve stayed a member because you never know when you might need them.
What has your experience been like with FSB Care?
My mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease last year, and it took a toll on our family as well as her. And I was talking to an FSB member of staff and they said, “you should ring FSB Care and just get some advice.” And it just hadn’t occurred to me before. And I put it off because I guess you don’t want to waste anybody’s time. But then this year, she had a couple more health issues, and then I had coronavirus quite seriously. And at the back end of that, you know you’re just not right. And again, someone said, “just ring FSB Care and see where it takes you.”
So, I picked up the phone, and started the process.
I didn’t know what to expect from FSB Care, but what I got was beyond what I believed was likely to happen.
I got through to a receptionist who guaranteed I’d get a call-back within 24-48 hours, and I did. Again, you’re always cynical about call-backs but it was absolutely as they said it would be.
What struck me straight away was how relaxed I felt speaking to the person that rang me. I didn’t feel rushed. I felt like I was being listened to. I didn’t feel like anything was off-limits. Because quite often, health is complex – you’re not just talking about a dodgy arm, it could be “well, I’ve been feeling like this, and I’ve also felt like that, and something feels not quite right.”
When somebody’s listening and asking the right questions, you feel relieved. For a lot of it, you’re just carrying around worry unnecessarily.
The follow up was via some emails, which answered some of the questions I had, because not all of the answers were readily available. I had some PDF booklets sent to me and links to websites and other useful material.
It was reassuring. What followed that was another call a few weeks later, which actually came out of the blue, we certainly hadn’t scheduled it. And I just thought, wow, I feel valued. And I’ve got a third call at the end of this month, to assess progress, see how I am and take it to the next level. It feels like a really brilliant member benefit.
Having the same person follow up each time who understands you makes it feel like you’re having a chat rather than an assessment. You don’t feel under any pressure like you might do if you’re visiting a hospital, clinic or doctors.
What has been the impact of FSB Care on you as a business owner?
It’s definitely a holistic approach, nothing is seen in isolation. I was encouraged to backtrack to the point where you identified something is not quite right. That was when my mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s - that impacted my dad. My mum’s 88, my dad’s nearly 92, my sister lives abroad. I live 40 minutes away from mum and dad but I want to help.
I’m there sometimes every day, sometimes every other day. On the days that I am there, I’m making sure they can get through the day that I’m not going to be there. When you then fall ill on top of that, you feel incredible guilt that you can’t be there because you’ve got this sense of responsibility.
The whole caring thing for people like me, business owners and sole traders, it’s a real topic that we need to bring out into the open. I’m sure – I know – I’m not the only one who’s juggling my own life, my own relationships and my work with caring for my dear parents, and I want to do that. The support I got from FSB Care, there was a lot of ideas around managing my own health, welfare and wellbeing.
As I saw when I went down with coronavirus, I can’t be there for them. If you’re not well, you’re no good to anybody. It’s that idea that you put your own oxygen mask on first before applying oxygen masks to others, because you’re important. That was really hammered home. There’s a tendency for people like me to keep ploughing on, and when you’re told in no uncertain terms, “no, you need to look after yourself, and by the way, other help is available for those that you love and here’s a list of contacts that they can go to so that you can have a day off”, that was really helpful.
What would you say to other business owners who might be in the same position as you?
Pick up the phone. The process is very, very simple, and what follows is very comforting and reassuring. It’s not like any other experience of ringing a medical practitioner. It feels a lot more like you’re having your hand held, in the virtual sense, and you feel like you can open up, say anything and feel like you’re being listened to. There are some fantastic health practitioners out there, who are under immense pressure after coronavirus, but this just felt different.
I would say if you’re a member, remember that FSB Care exists and that you’re important. You’re the most important thing in your business, and if you don’t look after yourself, then your business won’t be able to operate. So, pick up the phone, ring FSB Care and see how they can help you.
What’s your top tip for small business owners and the self-employed during this time?
For me, whether it’s FSB Care or any of the other FSB services – remember to log in. Get into the back end of the website and all the useful documents and case studies that are there. Jump on one of our free webinars. It’s like being part of a family. Join in, remember that you’ve got your FSB membership and use it because quite often people forget.
Just like if you were working for someone and you’ve got an HR department, an accountant and support staff. You lose all those things when you’re working for yourself, especially when you’re a sole trader – but FSB provides those things. Tap into it as if you’re part of a work environment, like you would in a full-time job. FSB provides a fantastic network of people and services.
You don’t have to face it alone
Running your own business isn’t always smooth sailing, but when you’re the boss, who can you turn to? Access confidential and long-term support for physical or mental health conditions from FSB Care. We’re here for you.