Me And My Mentor: Through The Highs And Lows

 

Sydney real estate property manager Bernie Mitchell was diagnosed as bipolar in 1998, but went on to set up a successful business. His mentor is his wife, Sam, and their story proves that business success thrives on love, trust and inspiration as much as facts and figures.

MENTEE: Bernie Mitchell
My heart stopped when I met Sam at a party when I was 17. She’s my best friend. We’re always joking around and we roll with the punches.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1998. I’ve been able to function, but I’ve not always been able to see the future because of it. Sam’s always there to believe in me and I need that because I’ve been so ill. She holds our goals, reminds me of the things I want to achieve, and steers me there.

SEE ALSO: Me and my mentor: Confidence building

There were times with the depression that things were so bad I couldn’t even work full-time. But Sam was there for me and we still pursued our dreams. We’ve been together almost 21 years now.

Sam’s always looking out for my health, which is really important to help me manage my illness. If I’m pushing myself too hard, not getting enough exercise, or eating badly she’ll let me know.

I love the chaos with four kids and I look forward to going home each night. I don’t have the luxury of working crazy hours because of my illness and Sam reminds me of that. I learned my life lessons young, including time management, leaving work at the office and prioritising my family.

I love my work [managing rental properties] because it’s about people, trust and relationships. Sam’s a good judge of character so I go to her for second opinions on people, as I’m too trusting.

There have been tough times with the business and at one point I was ready to quit. Sam was there to remind me why I wanted to build my business and to make me ask myself if I really wanted to walk away from it when we’d always known it was going to be a long-term venture. She’s not the gentle persuader – she’s my reality check.

MENTOR: Samantha Mitchell
Bernie wasn’t ill with bipolar when we met. He’s always been determined to succeed, so I knew he’d get through it.

It was my job to keep him on track.

From day one with his bipolar, I said, “This is something you have to deal with. I’ll support you, but you have to take responsibility for it.” There’s been the odd occasion where I’ve had to put the brakes on him, but it’s important that he can look after himself.

I’m a sounding board for Bernie, even if I say things he doesn’t want to hear. Focus Property Management is his dream job, but about three to four years ago he was in a down spiral and he wanted to sell the business. But the reason he set it up was that he’d have a workplace where he could have time off if he really needed it because of his illness. I helped him see that and made him change his mind. He’s now got his passion back.

Bernie can be very trusting and I love that in him, but I can help him to look at things from a different perspective if necessary. There are so many promises made in business. If he trusts in something to happen and it doesn’t, that can affect his mood and his bipolar.

I’ve developed a more positive outlook to life since I’ve been with Bernie. The bipolar has helped us turn a bad situation around. He constantly looks on the bright side and I admire that in him.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: Illawarra Mercury Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.

“When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else. “Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Meanwhile, small business owners remain divided on the issue. Some are empathetic. But others, like Jenkins, say it’s not a wise decision. “I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. But I have enough on my plate as it is. It’s already a challenge to manage my existing staff. And I know there are enough people in the world without a mental illness who can fill the roles I need. Why would I hire someone who has one?”

Would you hire someone with a mental illness? Has this had a positive or negative impact on your business?

smh.com.au

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: Business Day, Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?

Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: WA Today, Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.
That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?
Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: Canberra Times, Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?
Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: Brisbane Times, Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?
Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: The Age, Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?
Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.

Advertisement Meanwhile, small business owners remain divided on the issue. Some are empathetic. But others, like Jenkins, say it’s not a wise decision. “I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. But I have enough on my plate as it is. It’s already a challenge to manage my existing staff. And I know there are enough people in the world without a mental illness who can fill the roles I need. Why would I hire someone who has one?”

Would you hire someone with a mental illness?

Source: Sydney Morning Herald Online

Bernie Mitchell is a small business owner and real estate agent. He says he would have no problem hiring someone with a mental illness in his business Focus Property Management in Sydney.

That’s largely because he knows what it’s like to be in their shoes. Mitchell, 38, suffers from bipolar disorder. He is also author of Bipolar: a path to acceptance, about his diagnosis of bipolar disorder, and how he learned to manage his illness. As a father of four, Mitchell wanted to show it’s possible to balance running a business with raising a family, all while managing his condition.

He says he would hire someone with a mental illness “as long as it is managed responsibly”. Mitchell believes: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

When he has previously hired someone with a mental illness, he was proactive in supporting them. “On becoming aware of their illness I mentored them so that they could empower themselves to take the necessary action and ownership of their recovery plan,” he says. “Given that I had suffered from mental illness, I supported them rather like a coach offering encouragement. We would meet up regularly to check in on progress and any issues that presented in the workplace. In one instance, the role was modified to accommodate the sufferer.”

However, is this the responsibility of small business owners?

Melissa Jenkins (not her real name) doesn’t think so. Jenkins, 40, runs a fashion store in Melbourne. “Life as a small business owner already has so many challenges,” she says. “I know it’s not politically correct to say this but I really don’t think I would hire someone with a mental illness. I wouldn’t even put them on a short list of applicants. I don’t have the skills to help someone through their mental illness. I need highly functioning people who aren’t going to give me problems with absenteeism and who can perform their jobs well.

“Of course, I understand that life isn’t always easy. My staff go through difficult times and I try to support them because I care about them. But I don’t want to invite potential issues into the workplace if I don’t have to. I’m already working myself to the bone. I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with more challenges. So if there’s a choice between hiring a quality candidate with a mental illness and a quality candidate who doesn’t, I’m going to pick the latter for sure.”

Susan Bower, 41, owns Dressed for Success, a Brisbane-based property styling business. Like Mitchell, she would hire someone with a mental illness. “As a business owner that suffers from depression myself, I know that with treatment, people with mental illnesses can function just as well as anybody else.

“Mental illness is now emerging as a more common illness, so the likelihood of employing someone with a mental illness is much higher whether they disclose it or not.”

If you’re applying for a job, should you disclose that you have a mental illness?
Says Mitchell: “It’s important for everyone to know that you can get there in the end and triumph over your mental illness.”

Careers counsellor Jane Lowder from Max Coaching says the decision for job candidates regarding whether or not they will disclose a mental illness to a potential employer is one that needs to be carefully considered. “If the mental health condition will not affect their ability to do the role then the candidate is not legally required to disclose it. In this instance, the matter of self-care should come into consideration. A close read of the potential employer’s workplace diversity policy might reveal that support structures and workplace adjustments are available, and therefore an open discussion of any mental health matters upfront may see a new employee receive valued assistance in their role.”

However, this frank discussion does carry some inherent risks. “This potential benefit would need to be weighed against the risk of negative stereotyping or being overlooked for either the role or development opportunities down the track.The ultimate decision about disclosing, when not obligated to do so, will be unique to each individual and role, and so discussing it with a trusted GP, psychologist or career counsellor may help in weighing the options.”
The Fair Work Ombudsman declined to comment on this issue. However, its website states: “Under the Fair Work Act 2009, discrimination is disadvantaging someone in the workplace because of their…physical or mental disability.” It then provides the example of this as “being rejected from a job during the hiring process.”

However, it’s fair to say it would be hard to prove if an employer did not shortlist a candidate during the hiring process because of their mental illness.
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Meanwhile, small business owners remain divided on the issue. Some are empathetic. But others, like Jenkins, say it’s not a wise decision. “I know I’m not supposed to feel this way. But I have enough on my plate as it is. It’s already a challenge to manage my existing staff. And I know there are enough people in the world without a mental illness who can fill the roles I need. Why would I hire someone who has one?”

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/small-business/managing/blogs/enterprise/would-you-hire-someone-with-a-mental-illness-20130613-2o5co.html#ixzz2XNh7Vsr3

Landlords prefer specialty PM agencies

Source: Residential Property Manager

Property management specialist offices retain landlords much more effectively than the ‘traditional’ real estate agency, said one leading independent principal.

According to Bernie Mitchell, owner of Focus Property Management, a majority of his clients are leaving traditional offices.

“A lot of my clients, upwards of 80 per cent, come to me to manage their property from another agency, and I would have to say pretty much all of them would be coming from a standard agency,” he said.

“I haven’t really come across, or signed up a landlord who is coming from a similar specialist agency.”

Mr Mitchell also spoke at the Leading Property Managers of Australia (LPMA) event on the Gold Coast earlier this month, and is a published author.

“People have generally been dissatisfied with the service they receive at a traditional real estate office,” he told Residential Property Manager.

“The reason they move is one of two things, it’s either a lack of communication or a lack of productivity. They’re the only two reasons they ever leave and that’s why they look for specialist offices instead of another agency.”

Game Plan – Cover Story

Source: Real Estate Business Magazine

Some principals swear by a business plan, while others would have trouble locating it amongst all the other paperwork. So, just how important is it to plan ahead and, in 2013, what are offices focusing on? Real Estate Business investigates

THREE PAGES have made all the difference to Elders Real Estate Darwin. It was their three-page business plan that saw the company’s revenue increase by 22 per cent in just 12 months. Those three pages helped shape their market share to what it is today – 14.23 per cent – and set the office on its way to growth that was unimaginable just two years ago.

“Our secret definitely comes down to our business plan,” Chris Deutrom, principal at Elders Real Estate Darwin, says.

“We have followed it to the letter and have seen our market share and revenue increase dramatically. “We have a direction now and everyone knows what they should be doing.”

When Mr Deutrom took over the office 18 months ago there was no business plan, not in a written form anyway. The office was number four in the ultra-competitive region. While they were winning business and sealing listings, Mr Deutrom knew there was further growth needed.

“We sat down as a team and formulated a business plan that was, and is, very ambitious,” he explains.

“If you had asked me five years ago about business plans, I couldn’t have told you much,” he admits.

“I’ve been in the industry for 25 years and we just never did business planning. I can imagine many other people are in the same boat as I was.”

Our research shows Mr Deutrom may be right. According to a straw poll conducted by Real Estate Business just over a year ago, a majority of principals did not have a business plan.

More than 52 per cent of respondents to the straw poll claimed they had no business plan in place for 2012, with 23.1 per cent stating they were yet to consider preparing one.

Matt Angilley, principal of online agency Real Estate Partners and winner of the 2010 and 2011 Real Estate Institute of NSW (REINSW) innovation award, says agencies that don’t have a clearly defined business plan in place are likely to have little idea of where their business is headed.

“The danger of not having a business plan is you don’t know where you are,” Mr Angilley says.

“You know what business you are in but have little idea of where you want to be and how you are performing.”

When creating a business plan, Mr Angilley says it is important to record key goals and objectives, which include future staff levels, turnover projections, cost and profit ratios and training.

Speaking to Real Estate Business, PRDnationwide regional manager and business consultant for Queensland, Greg Braithwaite, says he hoped all principals use business plans.

“The main components of all business plans are yearly KPIs and the agency’s financial plan,” he says.

“A very detailed business plan will also have a market review, which outlines your marketplace, where you currently sit in that marketplace, and where you want to be the following year.”

WHY PLAN?
There may be industry debate about what should go into a business plan, but the one thing that everyone agrees on is that every real estate office needs one.

The cliché, ‘if you fail to plan then you plan to fail’, couldn’t be more true in this situation, according to Leanne Pilkington, general manager at Laing+Simmons.

“A business plan gives a principal a stream of focus,” she says.

“It is an important part of a successful business and should not be underestimated. Some of the more experienced agents who have been around for a long time undervalue the importance of a business plan.”

Mr Deutrom would go as far as to say every person should have a business plan for their work life and home life, as it gives a much needed sense of direction.

“Having goals to attain in your personal and work life is imperative to success,” he says.

“On top of all that, a bank won’t look at you twice unless you have some sort of plan in place, especially as a start-up company.”

Bernie Mitchell, managing director at Focus Property Management, believes a business plan is paramount to a successful business but cautions real estate practitioners against getting caught up in setting unrealistic goals.

“Give yourself small goals that you can work to in a year’s time,” he says. “Put bigger goals on long-term business plans. Don’t set yourself up to fail.”

BUILDING A PLAN
Business plans, depending on what they are trying to achieve, can come in very different sizes; some people opt for just a few pages outlining their essential business goals, while others want an in-depth report.

Despite the length of the report, the key details should fit on one page, according to Peter Thomas, CEO at Stockdale&Leggo.

“I like short, sharp, to the point business plans – I don’t like to get clogged up with too many details,” he says.

“An overall plan should be mapped out over several pages, but make sure you don’t lose track by going into too fine a detail.”

Tony Braiser, managing director of PRDnationwide, believes around the five-page mark is a perfect length.

“A business plan doesn’t have to be a large document, as long as it is succinct and covers the key ingredients and has measurable outcomes,” he says.

“Therefore a four- to six-page document may suffice, depending on the scale of the business.”

Ms Pilkington agrees a business plan should not be endless but succinct and to the point.

“One or two pages is generally enough – you don’t need reams of info that sits in the bottom draw, never receiving any action,” she says.

However, Phillip Starr, principal at Starr Partners Merrylands, who started his own formal business plan in 2008 and has since increased his sales “markedly”, believes a longer plan is necessary.

“The initial plan should be an all-encompassing document, especially if you are presenting it to your bank or potential shareholder,” he says.

“These can vary from 12-17 pages including index, graphs and tables – we use The Best Practice Business Plan template.”

Mr Deutrom says his current business plan is 22 pages long with a three-page executive summary that he keeps on his desk and refers to almost daily.

“The executive summary is the overview document, which you need to have with you to prompt you to act on the goals set out,” he says.

“The longer part of the document is important to go into specific detail as to how you achieve your goals.”

FILLING YOUR PLAN
The meat that makes up your plan is of course the most important part, and while your farming area and personal business goals may change, the layout of your plan should contain the following points, according to Charles Baynie, director of Real Success Coaching:

GOALS AND PASSIONS – WHAT ACTUALLY DRIVES US?
We always start with the end in mind. Possible bullets in this section include gross revenue for the year, holiday and family time, new car, ranking in my franchise group, company awards.

STRATEGIES – HOW ARE YOU GOING TO DO IT?
Create a template that would help you answer all these questions: Do you know your figures? Does your marketplace have the volume of sales to meet your financial goals? Do you have a personal marketing and promotional plan? What commitment do you have to ongoing training? Have you got a budget?’

Break up the number of calls you need to make with marketing material in order to achieve the number of market opinions you need.
The most effective productivity plans span no more than 90 days and are measured monthly.

ACTIONS – THIS IS THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS, ACCOUNTABILITY
In this section I want to hear about activity and metrics. What’s the maths? How many calls or initial face-to-face meetings? How much commitment to time blocking to make prospecting calls? How will you be held accountable?

OBSTACLES – WHAT’S IN THE WAY?
I don’t believe in excuses, but I do believe that almost every salesperson could tell you on day one what is likely to get in the way of achieving their objectives. So I like to ask for a list of known obstacles upfront, so we can address and help remove them. Obstacles take many forms: personal health, distractions, lack of training or knowledge, family issues, travel budgets, old technology, the anti-sales department.

Personal development, growth and motivation – How do you want to grow this year?

If we are not growing then we are dying. Salespeople need to invest in themselves. Ask how they will do that – courses, training, peer-mentoring, outside coaching, sales books, blogs. Are there certain areas where they need to develop professionally in order to get to the next level? I also like to ask the salesperson to share some of their personal philosophies about sales and what they do to keep themselves motivated throughout the year. You get some really fun answers and can learn a lot about what drives people.

MAKING THE DECISIONS
Business planning is one of the most important steps to building a successful real estate office. But who should be involved in the decision making and goal setting?

According to Paul Curtain, managing director at Place Estate Agents in Queensland, smaller networks need to gather in a ‘high quality’ capacity at least twice a year to maintain growth and track their business plan.

“[As a network] we get together three times a year with our business leaders, who are the principals and directors of our offices. We also include senior management staff, head of property management, HR, marketing and finance – all the decision makers,” he tells Real Estate Business.

“On one side it’s about keeping in contact with those people, so there’s a social element to it,” he says. “But the strategic side to it is that we want to look at the 12 months ahead of us and focus on some key business objectives.”

From a head office perspective, Mr Curtain says it is vital that growing franchise networks meet in an external environment to steer the company towards healthy growth.

“From the point of view of the directors and partners, we’ve got a vision on where we want the business to go,” he says.

“So we set our strategic vision in place for the next 12 months and beyond, but we’re there on the ground daily, experiencing wins and losses in our own business.

“If we look at ourselves in 2013 and say, ‘This is how we want our business to look in 2018’, it’s absolutely vital that we check and maintain that we’re on the right track at least two or three times a year in a really high quality capacity.

“Anything less than that and we won’t get to where we want.”

However, Mr Thomas believes it should be a team effort. “It is a team effort but must be controlled by the director in all areas,” he says.

“It is imperative that input is given by the sales and property management team.”

Mr Deutrom agrees: “I interview all my staff every year to determine what their goals are and how that fits in with my greater business plan,” he explains.

“You need to speak to them about their professional development goals. There is no use making Jenny a fully qualified property manager with 400 properties when that is the last thing she wants.

“Getting input from everyone is important, but in the end it comes down to the leadership team.”

Ms Pilkington says involving the entire team in the business plan can be a positive exercise for everyone.

“Quite often they will surprise you with their own goals,” she says. “People are much more likely to achieve something they want to do rather than just being told by their boss they have to do it.”

PRDnationwide’s managing director, Tony Brasier, also says it is essential that a good plan achieves ‘buy in’ from everyone engaged in the business.

“The best way to achieve this is by the principal or shareholders preparing a draft plan and then obtaining input from people within the business,” he says.

“Once it has been finalised it is important to communicate the essential objectives with the people, with clear milestones so that it can be monitored at regular intervals – either quarterly or six-monthly.

“This way everyone feels a part of the plan and can share in the satisfaction of achieving the objectives and reaping the rewards of growth.

According to Mr Brasier, an effective way of ensuring success is to align each person’s annual KPIs to the business plan, so that the sum of everyone achieving their annual goals goes a long way to achieving the overall plan each year.

DONE AND DUSTED – BUT NOW WHAT?
Once the business plan is produced, how can a principal ensure the office follows through.

According to Mr Brasier, team rewards are a great way to ensure your business plan doesn’t just turn into a scrap bit of paper on your desk.

“Internal marketing of the plan is important to keep it top of mind with all employees,” he says. “Six-monthly team rewards for achieving milestones can also assist in keeping people focused and motivated.”

Mr Thomas warns agents not to fall back into bad habits: “You really should be reviewing your plan on a regular basis, even monthly – it is too easy to develop and fall back into bad habits,” he says.

Keeping on top of a business plan requires three steps, according to Mr Deutrom. “Firstly, everything in the plan needs to be achievable. It isn’t a wish list,” he says.

“Secondly, make the leadership team accountable for what is in the plan and encourage them to drive their teams with their goals.

“And thirdly, keep the plan on your desk. If it’s in your face, you’re more likely to action your goals.”

Another great tip from Ms Pilkington is to include your business plan in monthly or quarterly meetings.

“If you have it in your agenda,” he says, “it will ensure it is brought up and spoken about on a monthly basis.”

PLANNING A RENT ROLL
With a fast-growing property management boutique business, Bernie Mitchell, managing director at Focus Property Management, knows the importance of a plan

TOUGH BUT realistic deadlines are the key to keeping to an effective business plan, an award-winning property manager had said.

Bernie Mitchell, managing director at Focus Property Management, is on track with his company’s plan.

Mr Mitchell’s plan this year focuses on growing his company’s website – a job that entails changing deadlines and a team of outsourced workers.

“I always set very tough deadlines for myself, but I have learnt to be realistic over the years, especially when it comes to the website,” he tells Real Estate Business.

“Writing a business plan is like a basic road map. The actual journey might not always be as straightforward in reality.

“It is important to be practical with your expectations of yourself and the people around you.”

This practicality is also important when writing up the business plan, Mr Mitchell says.

“When I first began writing a business plan it use to be this big comprehensive document, but over the years it has changed,” he explains.

“Now it is a one-page thing that sits on my desk.”

The reality is that if it doesn’t fit on one page, you won’t action your goals, he says.

“You can’t achieve everything you want in business in a short space of time.

“You need to focus on small things throughout that year to get a better response.”

IMPRESSING THE BANKS
An effective business plan will go a long way to establishing a solid relationship with your bank, writes Shaun Bassett, national head of real estate, Macquarie Relationship Banking

HAVING A business plan can be vital to establishing an effective relationship with a financial institution, and the absence of a plan could be detrimental to that process.

The business plan can give focus and direction, and provide a foundation from which decisions can be made and actions taken. It crystallises what otherwise might be vague ideas, and helps the business owner articulate objectives and direction to its staff, stakeholders and clients.

Business plans come in a variety of forms, with the elements of an effective plan including how the business will generate revenue and resource itself, and off what cost base. Importantly, it will incorporate an understanding of the assumptions underlying the revenue and cost bases.

From a bank’s perspective, it is looking for a level of comfort in investing in your business. A well thought out business plan shows a level of consideration, as well as a willingness to spend time and effort on something that is a significant undertaking and commitment of resources. If you don’t put in that effort, it is difficult to expect a bank to consider funding.

Without a business plan, a bank can find it hard to assess how a business will make money and repay debt.

Part of the lending process will involve the banker considering questions such as, How comfortable would I be lending my own money to this individual? and How confident am I about getting it back? The level of risk associated with lending money is central to the decision on whether to do so.

A financial institution’s need to be provided with a plan will vary depending on the maturity of a business and the tenure of the owner. For example, an established business with experienced operators is less likely to be asked for a business plan than a start-up business or an established company with new, but inexperienced owners.

Historical data and demonstrated success will contribute to the assessment by a bank, so owners of younger businesses are advised to have a business plan in place.

Just as important as getting a financial institution to feel comfortable is finding a good match in a banking partner that understands the real estate industry, and your business specifically.

Detailing your plans and aspirations from the outset and gaining their buy-in to your ‘bigger picture’ can reduce the chance of surprises in the future – when you are looking to acquire a rent roll or purchase some commercial space.

A business plan can assist you and your bank to get on the same page, and help your bank understand and support your business’ future growth.

STARR PARTNERS MERRYLANDS
PRINCIPAL PHILLIP STARR is focusing on technology investment in 2013, especially making communication with team and customers as professional and up to date as possible.

“For example, we want to make sure our property management staff have the latest software,” he says.

“We will also work to project a professional experience for new tenants and feedback to owners until property is re-let.

“In our sales department we want to have an upgraded newsletter program to make a more favorable impression with our data base buyers and potential vendors.”

LAING+SIMMONS
AN INVESTMENT in people will be at the top of the pile for Laing+Simmons.

“Every office will have their own focus, but as a group we are certainly looking into ways to better manage a team and hire the right staff,” Leanne Pilkington says.

According to Ms Pilkington, Laing+Simmons encourages offices to work to annual business plans.

“We supply an online template for a business plan, but we prefer to work individually with the offices,” she says.

“We tend to do annual business plans, and you need to review them, not just put them in the bottom draw.

“If something drastic happens in the market you need to change your business plan.”