Simon Blake OBE returns for a second series of Just About Coping.
This series we're looking look at a new campaign by MHFA England; My Whole Self. To create mentally healthy workplaces, people need to feel safe to be their ‘whole self’ at work. So how can we create workforces, wherever that may be, where everyone has the freedom to do this? To find out, Simon has gathered leaders from across the worlds of business, sport, and more...
This week's guest is Mike Cherry OBE, who is Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). The FSB is a membership organisation which supports, connects and campaigns for the rights of small businesses, their owners, and the self-employed.
Mike is fiercely passionate about protecting SMEs and the self-employed, a community which many of our Instructor Members will be part of. Speaking in February, Simon and Mike chatted about:
The FSB have since also published a number of materials to support small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic in a number of ways, which we thoroughly recommend you check out if you are part of an SME or self-employed.
As always, we'd love to know what you think. If you could take a moment to rate and review wherever you get your podcasts we would very much appreciate your feedback. You can do this on most platforms including:
Don't forget to get involved on social media using #JACPodcast and check out all the My Whole Self fun on our website.
More on Mike and the FSB: fsb.org.uk/campaign/it-s-okay-to-talk-about-mental-health
Coronavirus advice and guidance for small businesses and the self-employed: fsb.org.uk/campaign/covid19
FSB Care: fsb.org.uk/join-us/membership/fsb-care
More on Simon: twitter.com/Simonablake
Simon Blake OBE is the Chief Executive of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England. His mission is to improve the mental health of the nation and help build an inclusive and society where attitudes and behaviours around mental health are normalised. Simon received an OBE in 2011, is Deputy Chair at Stonewall, and enjoys running, equestrian eventing, and walks with his dog.
More on #JACPodcast:
MHFA England: mhfaengland.org
More on #MyWholeSelf: mhfaengland.org/my-whole-self/
I'm sorry, Blake, and this is just about coping thiss week to hear the conversation with Mike Cherry. Oh, be chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses. Thie F S B is a membership organisation which supports, connects and campaigns for the rights of small businesses that owners and the self employed. You might have heard Mike on the radio or the TV over the last few weeks, fighting for their rights during the pandemic. We recorded this conversation back in February, but we did talk about a number of similar themes, which I hope will be of interest, including roll small businesses and the self employed pay in our economy. Positive and negatives that being a small business owner could have on our mental health and well being. Mike's own experience of mental ill health and the effects on small business within his family. Of course, many of our fantastic instructed members of England will be in this self employed or small business category. So I hope this is an informative podcast for you, especially Mike. Thank you very much for inviting us here to talk to you at the Federation of Small Businesses this afternoon. Could just tell us a little bit about the FSB toe kick off, please. But
the efforts Berry was established in 1974 on the vexed issue of the doubling or proposed doubling of class for national insurance for the self employed. So we're established over 45 years ago now to support the self employed on DH. Then small businesses came on about a decade later. We are the largest business organisation in the UK on DH. That gives us a lot of emphasis when we do our survey work to lobby policymakers at all levels. And that could be from Prime minister in number 10 all the way, right down to your local authority on dealing with car parking and potholes and things like that.
Thanks very much efforts people in the same year as me. A fantastic year to be bored. So, like you are the chairman. Can you tell us a bit about what that entails on the day to day basis?
Well, I'm privileged to be the elected chair of the FSB on DH that involves me in because I do. A lot of policy came in for policy, engaging with senior politicians, obviously on getting our message across from what our members tell us about the major issues of the day. Ah, but also the nicest bit is getting out to our regions. We have 12 of those. So the three devolved nations on DH, then nine across England, including London on DH, getting out, meeting members, finding out what their issues are on a course at the moment they are really struggling in certain areas. So South Wales, the Midlands on DH, Yorkshire in particular with all the flooding that we're seeing present.
Absolutely, absolutely. And where did your expertise? I'm sure you were elected on the back of expertise in so business. Where did you gain that?
Well, pure and simply dealing with the issues that we have faced in my own business. On bringing that to the forearm on various policy matters that's included home affairs that's included finance on then I was also privileged to be elected for six years as the policy director for FSB before taking up this role.
So definitely lots of yourself being attributed. Teo FSB. So thank you, Mike, If you were to choose five words or phrases or they're about to describe you, what would they
be asked an interesting one, isn't it? I'm not sure how anybody actually describes to themselves. Stubborn, I suppose, has to be one of them. Tenacious because obviously policymaking Khun taken awful long time to effect change. And people need to be helped to understand. Some of the issues obviously like to help others experience his bomb way of describing it, being in the position that I am. It enables myself on, of course, fsp to give all of our members and small businesses generally that voice they wouldn't have by themselves helping others, definitely in there on DH, wanting to do something else other than just I have my own business, if you like. And I think that's reflected through most of our members that they want to give something else and do something else aside from what they do in their business.
Okay, thank you. And just interested. You use the word stubborn as your first word, and quite often on this may be projecting, but stubborn would often be perceived as a negative thing when actually being stubborn can be a really important thing to do when you're doing a role like this, so can you just give us a time when being stubborn was really helpful for you in in this thiss role, you mean used tenacious at the same time? I guess t two were hand in
hand, basically because Assad said, policymaking can take an inordinate amount of time to achieve change on helping people to understand that by affecting that change, there is a benefit from that. And there's a benefit to helping the environment around which small businesses can thrive and grow. And, of course, that delivers benefits for community on DH. It also enables the local economy on the wider economy to flourish on DH. At the end of the day, that's what we all want because then you get all of the stuff around climate change, the environment on the social elements that people want throughout their lives. So you can't get everything else without having thriving business.
Absolutely, absolutely. On DH, you're obviously small. Medium sized businesses are really fundamental part off that thriving economy. If you just talk to us a little bit about thie unique, perhaps opportunities that being self employed or running a small business bring when it comes to wellbeing, to mental health and to bringing your whole self into work.
I think it brings a lot of opportunities, particularly those who may be suffering or struggling with mental health issues or indeed any other disability. And I think that's one of the great things that small businesses generally, as we found from repeated surveys, have very supportive environment in which their employees can come to work for self employed. It gives them the flexibility off being able to choose how they cope with whatever they may be struggling with, whether that be mental illness, whether it be depression, whether it be bipolar issues on other disabilities, that they are able to choose the hours they were perhaps the days they were to cope with. Whether there's a problem they have to, I deal with on a particular day, and they can bring that flexibility into how they operate. Being self employed
on DH. If you were to think about you talked about you, so that's knowing people, the small, close knit communities that clearly also has potentially some flipside challenges to it as well. So they are their challenges around mental health, small business, bringing a whole self to work on the flip side, of those opportunities. Yeah,
I think everybody who either runs a small business or self employed well, except there is stress around that, whatever it may be. And of course, that can be exacerbated if you are then faced with people not paying you on time. For instance, that caused massive problems on DH. Certainly stress and mental health issues over and above what you normally be expecting. But I think generally you just have to make sure that you have that supported cohort around you, whether it be in a small business, the employees feel they're able to go and talk to the boss, which would normally happen in a small business. In any case, because we know our people very well. If you're self employed, depending on the sector that you're in, then you've got other people like minded around you. If you're working from home, that's a little bit more difficult on, of course, knowing like minded people or being able to get out of the home environment, being able to engage with others on the course For FSB, that means you can always support others by networking with us on DH reaching out to others.
You just talked there about late payment. This feels like us. Oh, my. My mother used to work in a four person business. So what's that? 1974 Probably first became aware of late payments in somewhere like 79. It feels like one of those issues which has never gone away and clearly causes huge amounts off stress and anxiety for your members. It does. And I think what you've seen
over I mean, you mentioned seventies in those days. Certainly in my own experience and for most of our members, I suspect you were normally paid on time on dawn. Time for those in trade probably meant and a month following supply or delivery of the goods or services that you were supplying your customers with. That has slipped and slipped and slipped over the last 23 decades. And you've now got large Corporates just imposing terms. We see many members struggling well over 3/4 of them have said that they struggle with late payment issues on that could mean that you are having to take terms of 90 days. Sometimes Mohr Often people say that they pay 60 days, but that could be from end of month supply, which end up being almost 90 days on. We really do have to change this culture that has crept in over the last two or three decades on get back to recognising that supporting our supply chains gives a benefit to the bottom line. And, of course, from the business owners point of view or the self employed individuals mental health that can have a massive impact. If you are having to wait for the money and you're having to play either employees or pay your own bills, it often means that you can't on DH. Too often it causes businesses to go bust. It's as fundamental as that.
Absolutely so it feels like it's one of those issues which we have mohr understanding off the negative impact on DH. Yet, as you're saying, increasing trend towards late payment within your networks and circles other ways that people are supporting each other or things that really change to China dress what feels like an absolutely fundamental issue. More clearly, F a
spear is here to support our members on. We will take up individual cases with large businesses if we need to, and government if some of the government departments or other bits of government in the public sector are causing our members concern. And I think that's one of the great strength of FSB. We have been able to get people to understand that it is not good practise. It's not good, governs. It doesn't fit with what society would expect of business these days on DH. That culture has to change. And I think you know long last were beginning to get some traction, both within government, on within the wider business community that it is no longer acceptable and culture has to change.
And just because probably most people listening if they're anything like me, will not have any sense off the proportion of people who work in small business or self employed. Presumably, you have some numbers at your fingertips in terms of of what sort of a percentage of the adult population. I I I think
it's important that purple actually realise just how important that is, and it's 60% of the private sector workforce work in small businesses. More are self employed, 50% of GDP overall is down to small businesses, so we play an invaluable role both within society and the wider economy, but also within a ll the different supply chains that are around across all sectors.
So if think about self employed, where we where we started and about bringing your whole self to work as a self employed individual, you kindly said that you believe the campaign is important, that it is important that we can bring her whole self to work. What do you mean? If you're self employed or in a small business? To do that to take your whole self into the workplace? I think it actually means
that you got trust and confidence that if you bring your whole self into the environment in which you're working as a self employed individual, or indeed, within your the business as an employee that you are able to talk about matters, you're able to engage with those you're working with, Andi be open. And I think that's the important thing, that people shouldn't feel constrained these days. We have moved on a long, long way since the sixties and seventies when I started in business, and I think that's absolutely great. Its where we need to be so people do feel confidence enough to be able to speak about any issues. And, of course, if you are struggling a self employed press and then that has an impact back home on your family, you may not feel comfortable with mentioning it. Perhaps because there could be an impact on family life or on your partner, Andi. I think it's important that you do reach out to those around you and feel confident enough to rose issues
on Deficit is obviously leaving the way. I just use the bathroom and saw a sign which said, If if stuff are worried, anxious that a there's a support line. But also there's mental health first aiders. How did it come into your attention? Hear that mental health was really an issues needed to be addressed.
We're clearly mental health at work on DH, helping armaments to reach out to their employees or have enough confidence if their self employed to try and seek some support and help is absolutely crucial. In one way of achieving that is too put first aiders in place on mental health issues in particular, but more generally to provide that supportive element on efforts be because we're very clear lobbying policymakers We have a very strong he thoughts and beliefs that we need to believing that we cannot do it behind the curve. Said to speak. We have to be actually showing what we are encouraging others to adopt
and you're specifically the FSB chairman's charity. What is that?
That is heads together, eh? So it's under the Royal Foundation on DH, Delighted that we adopted that for my tenure, which is a three year 10 years. Andi, I also privileged to sit on the thriving at Work Leadership Council as well. So able to get at reach on DH spread the message more widely
for those people who don't know what the thriving at work leads. You counsellors do wants to say a little bit about that as well.
Indeed, that is a group off large businesses on DH. Obviously it includes FSB, which is basically there to help spread the message. We work with mind on that as well. On DH, it came out of the farmer review, which is encouraging right across all sectors, but particularly in certain ones like construction, for instance, it reaches into the public sector as well. So I'm hse are on board on just making sure that people understand that it is good to talk at work on DH. Bring full self, if you like into the working environment in ways that help them. Tio deal with any issues they may have
so clearly, you are absolutely walking to talk. Yeah, on on all of this issue, Mike, you talked about your the impact on the family when there are men's health issues in the workplace and you obviously have some personal experience off that which I'm sure dry some of that fire in your belly doing just you've talked about your father before. You want to just say a little bit about that, your experience of your father's mental health at work and what that meant? Yes, because
when we were younger, we didn't really appreciate what it meant, or we knew Wass that father would go away for two or three weeks and was away if you like. Nobody ever really explained what the problem wass, but as we got older, we could see that it wass very severe depression on DH that we could see when that was likely to occur, and it meant that he had to go away for treatment, which obviously had an impact on the business itself. One of the reasons I left 16 to join the business on to try and support the family in in that sort of way. And I think you realise then that the family struggles to cope when you have father, mother, partner or whoever. It may be a way, but I think also has on impact on the business on dawn. The employees, you know, if that individual is not doing what they would normally doing, there's nobody else there to cover for them. So again it it's almost self perpetuating on the individual concerned because they have the added pressure that I did stress off. Okay, I've got problems with the business Now. I know I'm going to be out of work for 23 weeks, whatever it may be that they have to take time out if it's that sort of mental seriousness. And it also they're worried about what happens with the family as well. But we've also seen this from the employee's side, where we've had an employee, a very young person who suffered from on an aneurysm. Andi, we were able, fortunately to give the family whatever support we could, because it happened almost overnight. They were distraught, but again it took one person out of the business on DH. You can't just find somebody just like that. So again, all the other employees have to rally around and try and cover that off whilst the person is hopefully able to recover. Perhaps. Yeah,
Andi, As you say then some of the issues around money you exacerbate well, being such a so it can feel really, really significant. So mental health First aid England has instructed membership of which many? Hopefully, we'll be listening. Teo, your wise words here, so on they will be self employed, knots them or operating on a small associate consultancy. So if you were to give them any pearls of wisdom, any advice about how to look after their well being or indeed anybody else who's he's listening here who may be self employed or personal business. What would your best advice be?
Or first and foremost don't hide it. Try and find someone you feel confident enough to talk to and have the confidence to be able to do that. I think that's the first thing on DH clearly, you know there is FSB. It's there to help members, but also recognise that there are other areas of help that you can try and go, Teo. But don't be afraid. I think my first message. Don't be reticent about worrying that you can't talk about it. Just find someone that you can engage with
on. So if people did want to reach out to FSB, how would they do that? Do you have to be a member? Do you have a helpful I What? For some people, I mean, I'd say from a place of ignorance about how you would get that support. So there will
be information that is available on you don't necessarily have to be a member. Find someone who may be a member, and they can probably find out how to point you in the right direction, at least. But also, there are other avenues that you could take. I mean, these days, most people, I would hope, are aware that mental health issues can be addressed on DH Comm point you somewhere
so one of things that I often hear when I hear people talking, whether that's in a charity, whether it's in small businesses. It's all very well to talk about this mental health stuff, this wellbeing things. We haven't got the money or the resources. Teo. Give people time. Let them go on the training. What would you say to that? I think it
is incredibly difficult for a small business. I think what we need to be making sure is that through FSB on and others are small businesses, nowhere they can go and get help from because they can't do it themselves is a very few can unless it actually in that particular sector, or know specifically how to access that support on that comes down often communication. And here, obviously FSB is calling on government to be or open about where business can go and get that support. That's the information we were pushing out to our members on DH. I think, you know, we just need to be very, very clear that we don't need to be told you must do this because clearly small businesses on self employed don't necessarily have the resources to do it. Time to do it money, Babs, but recognise where they do on can access that support and help
You talked just before we start recording, which was that lovely resource, which is the human relationships. They're there to recognise that we've got those relations and we will know people better than often is the case in those larger organisations and we will offer no where people Ah, well or not well, because we'll know them better. That's my sort of sense, you of it. But is there anything that you would add to that about that ability to know people and what benefit that brings tear abilities support? I think
it brings a huge benefit on most more businesses. Invariably, I want to keep their employees. We value them. A zoo, a key element of the business, can't work without goodness and therefore knowing more about their family life about any problems they may have engaging with them on the day to day basis. It's much easier in a small business. I'll accept that. But also it is a much more friendly and supportive environment in the small business because you you're engaging daily on def. You know, on employee has got problems. You can be more flexible, whether it be problems at home, whether it be mental health themselves whether it be problems with their kids, whatever on just finding a way forward. And this is why you know, often a regulatory big stick is not the best way to support small businesses, either.
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Just to move on a bit and thinking about it, said that my whole self is really about how diversity being true, being authentic AIDS and fuels wellbeing. So in the context ofthe small business, how important is a diverse workforce on DH? Yeah. Is there any work that you've been doing within FSB about diversity in the weapons? Well, there's some work being done around women led businesses usually talks a bit about that's and whites in forces.
Well, I think that there are distinct issues that women in business find, whether that be around access to violence or any other issues. The fundamental policy issue remains the same whatever business you're in. But for specific sectors like women, their business like bane like LGBT plus there are very specific areas that they might have concerns about it. I think that's one of the great things about FSB. We managed to support those businesses on the individuals within FSB, perhaps on DH. One of my goals one of FSB goals, is to make sure that we are very representative off the complete business community, which means we continue to look at our diversity and inclusivity on make sure it is open to all.
And so, 2030 years ago, the idea of two men sat in the room. FSB talking about wellbeing, mental health diversity LGBT plus back a minority ethnic women lead business probably wouldn't have been something that the chair at the time either would have been doing or thinking about. If you were to look forward to and what, 2050 on the person who's sitting in your seat, then what would you hope they would be saying about small businesses and mental health, diversity and inclusion?
Well, they, I would hope, probably don't need to talk about because all the support mechanisms are there. People know where to go for it. They know it. It's something that they can easily discuss with colleagues with their employer or wherever it may be. And I think just being an open society that people don't feel restricted, whatever it is that is an issue on DH, we don't know toe have these discussions, perhaps
with so good is it? We don't need to talk about it. That's a good dream. One of thie things which we know people often really struggle with on DH, even more so when you feel as though you've got nobody else you can rely on are very few people can rely on is switching off on dth e mental health at work Reports showed that you're an increasingly always on culture is contributing Teo poor mental health and the economic cost of poor mental health. Present ism. Absenteeism going on holiday. You're all of those sorts of things. What do you think we can do to help? Or do you think, as individuals we can do for ourselves to ensure that our brains get arrest, that we do switch off and give ourselves a break?
Well, for self employed and many small business owners, that is not something that you do. Andi. It's certainly not something you are easily able to do. And I think recognising that fact on trying to almost self control that you get a good night's sleep and I'm waking up in the early hours because you've got a mental issue because you got the payment coming in, Whatever it may be is important. And I think just trying, Tio, take a step back yourself, recognising if issues are getting on top of you and they need to be going and talking to somebody about it.
And so, as the man at the top off this organisation, can you just give us a brief insight into how you make sure you sleep well and get the rest? In between travelling to the nine regions, the three country folk of the three other countries and the one we currently sat in, I think
one of the great things it is getting out talking to our members, engaging with others on on policy issues and just feeling yeah, I've done something to help others today is is a great way to help me.
Okay, so you rest by working. Is that what you just told us? I'm not sure That's the way that I wanted this particles to end E, I think. Did you on Sunday? So I think that I think the great thing is that
in this role, it is so completely different. Teo, in my own business that the two are mutually supportive. And of course, then whatever time off I have with my wife and family home ad to being able to deal with that
brilliant. The last sentence is the Saviour on that one. So spending time with the family is the way that you rest and recuperate. So Mike FSB has some resources and said materials that are helpful for others. Can you just say what is available
on our website for members? We've got the support papers there around. It's okay to talk, whether that be in your workplace or whether it be as a self employed member or person on then specifically remembers, we have a great offer, which is called FSB. Care on that enables you to talk to professionals whether it be around any illnesses you may have, whether it be around mental health issues you have on get some actual support on. This proves invaluable,
like thank you very much for allowing us to come here and talk to you. I think you know it is real credit to your leadership that you have meant so firmly on the agenda at the FSB, and I hope that people will take inspiration from that because clearly wherever we work it's really, really important that we look after ourselves. We are able to feel comfortable that who we are, where we are. So all credit to you for the work you're doing to make that possible. Thank
you very much. But if you need help, talk to someone.
Why, thank you. So thank you for listening to my conversation with my cherry off Federation of Small Businesses. It's so clear how passionate Mike it's about supporting small businesses and self employed people in this country. It is also clear was an effect. Lack of prom payments has on the well being of supply chains and small businesses. Since I spoke to Mike, the FSB is released free advice and guidance on covert 19 for small businesses and the self employed, including a webinar. On further resources, they've also got lots of other resources about wellbeing on their website. All of these will be in the description, so please do cheque them out. Remember also to cheque out the my whole self campaign on our new guidance around working from home, which is available on our website mh FAA England dot og. Things do take time to rate and review wherever you get to your podcast and make sure you let us know how you're enjoying this. Siri's using the hashtag just about coping for now. I'm Simon Blake. I'm still sat at my kitchen table. Thank you for coping with us.