Rob: Hey, everyone, welcome to Not the Rob Bell podcast. Today's guest, I've got Jane Beale. She started her company, All Areas Speech Pathology. She took herself from the dole queue, battled breast cancer. She was a single mom. And now she's got a five million dollar a year business. We're going to find out all about it now.
Jane: So, Jane, I understand that you've. Created a business essentially from from nothing, from a small startup and gone all the way through to 90 employees and almost five million a year in revenue. And that's obviously in your trained profession of Spaeth... Speech pathology. That's a good word to stumble on. And so can you tell us a little bit about how you started your journey with speech pathology? Before we get into the business side and a bit of your background.
Jane: Yeah. Thank you. That's good to talk to you about speech pathology, Rob. Because I'm still so passionate about it. I started my degree 30 years ago at Flinders University in South Australia. And that's when I was aged 20. At age 17, I'd still never heard of speech pathology as a career. And I grew up in an area where it wasn't affluent at all. So, you know, speech pathologist probably weren't really around and I didn't know what I wanted to do. But as I was in my last year of high school, so in you twelve, I knew that I loved helping people and I wanted to go to university. There was an expectation in my family that I would go to university. So I'd set myself. That's what I would do. But I didn't know what I wanted to actually do there. I'd thought about being a teacher, about being a doctor. I loved music. I was a piano teacher at that point. I loved languages. And I'm pointing out all of those things because I think they're the key ingredients for speech pathology. It's like one foot in an education sector and one foot in a medical sector. It's like you want to teach and you want to heal, but you don't want to be just in one or the other. And speech pathology is an applied science. So when I was 17, I met a lady who was a speech pathologist and she was playing a guitar. And I said, ah, what do you do for a job? And she goes, I have the best job. I play with people's children and I get paid for it. And I play my guitar and I play with toys. And I was like, well, what is this job? And she said, I'm a speech pathologist. And I even remember the exact location where I was. It was in Perth and it was when the America's Cup was on at the start of nineteen eighty seven. And from that day I knew that's what I wanted to be.
Rob: Well, I think one thing that, as you say, the interesting thing about speech pathology, I never understood entirely what a speech pathologist did. I when I thought of speech pathology, before I knew really more what it was about, I would think of sitting in a room and, you know, saying, now you say Apple, not Upple
Jane: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: Or, you know. And it was a very sort of a clinical sort of process. And it wasn't until my son went to a speech pathologist, not for speech, but for his eating, that I sort of started to understand exactly how broad this field is. And so there's some misconceptions there or something that you think someone comes to you and often thinks that it's one way. But in fact, it's a little bit more playful.
Jane: Yes, definitely. And it's a big part of our profession where we need to advocate and promote what it is that we do. And I think every speech pathologist that you met would have at least a handful of stories about someone saying to them, oh, I thought you just did. Lisps or I thought you just did pronunciation. That's what's been exciting for me, being a speech pathologist. First of all, learning to do it myself and then educating others. And it is the fact that it's such a broad field and basically a good way to think of it is speech occurs in the face. So everyone understands that obviously it's your mouth that speaks and speech occurs or sort of stook first starts in the brain. So anything that's to do with the brain and to do with the face and to do with the mouth is going to be covered by a speech pathologist. That's why we have sort of one foot in that medical's side of things, because when we study speech pathology, we actually do a lot on anatomy and physiology. And we have to fully understand the brain. We need to know about children's brains as they're born and as they develop. And we need to understand about adult brains. If there's an accident or a trauma or stroke. And so we cover like the whole lifespan. So that's one really, you know, fantastic side of it. And then from an education point of view, we're looking at how people learn. And so speech is something that is just generally learned by children as they grow. And a speech pathologist becomes involved when something goes wrong. So pathology. But those people listening that, you know, aren't sure. It means sort of era or impairment or something wrong and speech pathology. Therefore, it's something went wrong with speech. Now, you mentioned also about swallowing and speech pathologists do work with swallowing. Because when we look at the mouth and the brain, then also the sort of aural structures. So the head and the neck, all of the structures that we use for speech are the same ones that we use for swallowing. And for that reason, speech pathologist sort of have become like the clinical experts in that field as well. And that's a big surprise to most people, including myself when I started my university degree. I didn't know I was going to be watching people eat and swallow. Some people make their whole career as a speech pathologist in the swallowing side and probably wish their title could actually include swallowing in it. There isn't anywhere in the world where swallowing is included in the title. However, in many places in the world, language is included in the title. So we use speech as a sort of a layperson's term. You know, when you speak, it could be what you say and it could be how you say it. And it could be what you remember and what you're thinking. And that's the brain coming in. But actually, there's another word that speech pathologists use, and that's language I could throw back to you. Now, Rob. Like if I say to you speech and language, do you think there's a difference?
Rob: Probably not. I mean, it's,
Jane: Interchangeable terms for Most people.
Rob: Yeah, for sure.
Rob: Yeah, I guess it is an interesting point that you're making. And when we were first referred to a speech pathologist in in my son's case, I was a little bit dubious as to what we were actually going there for because his language was actually remarkably good for his age. But he he had, you know, some some lack of interest in eating and that sort of thing. And I called his tongue muscles need improvement. Well, whatever the whatever the case was, he's a much older and it's sort of a distant memory now. But it it was it was sort of an eye opening experience for us in terms of how we'd heard speech pathologists being advertised. And so I think we believe underappreciated exactly the gamut of work that you're undertaking. Speaking of that, that gamut of work, I understand you guys are very involved in Auslan and the education of that as well. Is that Baum from teaching Auslan from birth or is it from after you say like brain injuries in that sort of thing, like a re education? Can you Explain a little bit about your....
Jane: Yeah sure. So people that are listening in and have heard you say the word Auslan. Some people will know that Auslan stands for Australian Sign Language. Some people might not be familiar with that term. And it's important to clarify a couple of things about sign language and the role that speech pathologist play. And this is to show respect to the Australian deaf community in particular and to make sure that we are promulgating the right information. So people that know a little bit about me know that I've used key word signing, which I'll tell you what that is. I've used key word signing since I was 15. And so it's been a big part of my life and a big part of my role as a speech pathologist. But just briefly, there's two sides to looking at communicating with signs. There's sign language where we use that word language to say that actually it's different from speech or different from spoken language. So Auslan is the Australian deaf community's language, Australian sign language. And it's actually not the same as English. And people don't realize that it has different grammar. So I would say to you in English, what's your name? But in Auslan, I'd say your name. What? So just like in Italian or French? Like in French, you might say an object. The book. And then the color that the book, red, whereas we'd say the Red Book. So I Auslan also is different from spoken English. So what speech pathologists get involved with, and myself in particular, is individual signs. And we do take them from Auslan so that if I'm going to use the sign for drink and I'm just showing you that now I'm using this,
Rob: I know that one.
Jane: You know that one? Good, yeah. I'm using the same sign that someone from the deaf community or someone who's fluent in Auslan could be an interpreter or a teacher, they would use that sign. So it's kind of like we we're picking up on the signs that are going to be recognized by other people rather than just inventing a sign. What we do with key word signing is we use the vocabulary. So those individual signs, but we're actually using it to support speech. So as a speech pathologist, a big part of what we do is a thing called A.C.C. - Alternative and Augmentative Communication. So some people need an alternative communication because they can't speak. Some people can speak, but they need an augmentative communication, which means they need something to support their speech because perhaps it's unclear, like someone who's had a brain injury or a child that's born with coordination difficulties. So speech pathologists. Are involved with sign language in a vision or type code, key word signing. And we deliberately take the language out. And that's a deliberate thing to show respect to the deaf communities in Australia and around the world that we're actually not using their unique language. We, we're using English. We're using our spoken language. And what the signs do is they add visual information. So I'm sure that you and people listening would use visual information to support your speech all the time without possibly even thinking about it. So a good example would be like if I do that now, I'm tapping on my watch. I'm giving you an idea that something about time. So like I might say to you, how am I going for time? And can you say that's the visual communication? But it's also supporting what I say. Yeah. And we use it for like "bye" and "how are you" and even clapping. So key word signing is actually about using individual signs to support spoken language. That's why speech pathologists have this lovely relationship with sign language and with communicating with hands. Some people like myself, go that little bit further and do learn Auslan. I'm not fluent in Auslan. I couldn't stand up and interpret, like you say, people doing. But I can have a general conversation. I'm a bit like someone that, you know, did say maybe Italian at school and it'll be to study. And then when they go to Italy, they can sort of get by.
Rob: They can order a beer.
Jane: Yeah, order a beer, but I couldn't stand up and do like a university level lecture. Yeah.
Rob: Or one of the premier's addresses they are broadcasting right now.
Rob: One, one query that I had, I did do a little bit of digging around your background. And one skill that I understand you have is some basic understanding of Moroccan Arabic.
Jane: Oh, wow. You have done a bit of digging.
Rob: A little. But one reason why I found this interesting was the abstraction of of communication from, say, English grammar formats and that sort of thing. Do you think that did you deliberately undertake that in order to learn different behaviors of language?
Rob: Or was it just something that, was just a course that happened happened to take?
Jane: Yeah, well, you've opened up a lovely topic now. So if you remember me telling me when I was 17, I met this lady who was a speech pathologist and I had just finished high school and I didn't know what I wanted to do at university. And I was a bit frustrated because I wanted to go to university and there was that expectation. So I thought I'll do languages at university. I was 17, turning 18. Now, funnily enough, the way to do languages back then, this is in 1997, was I had to enroll in a mathematical science degree because that was...
Jane: Yeah, that was the only way I could do languages. It was just what was offered at the university in Adelaide. So I did do well in maths in year twelve and I did like it, but I didn't want to be a mathematician, but I enrolled in mathematical science so that I could study Japanese. Now, when I met this lady who was a speech pathologist, I thought, oh, now I know what I want to do. Well, I won't do my mathematical science degree. Oh, I'll defer. Because I was gonna have to try and now apply for speech pathology and I hadn't sort of been on that pathway. And right at that time, my father, Philip Beale, he got a job to working in Morocco, which is a bit random, isn't it?
Rob: That is a bit strange. Yeah.
Jane: Yes, I'm the youngest of three children, my brother and sister, both sort of in their 20s and were on their path for life. And my dad was going to go and work first of all in Syria and then in Morocco and he asked if that was okay, if he'd went. And I said, well, I'll come, too. And he was really delighted. And so later that year, like 1997, my father and I was now 18. My father and I both traveled we lived in Syria for a while, and then we went to Paris for a month to learn to speak French, and then we ended up in Morocco and being 18, knowing I wanted to be a speech pathologist but always wanted to learn languages. I just went, this is amazing. Here I was. I was speaking English in a country where almost nobody spoke English. I'd learnt French and I was learning it really quickly. And then I had the opportunity to learn Moroccan Arabic by being in Morocco. I pushed myself a little bit and I learnt to read and write in French. And I learnt to read and write in Moroccan Arabic, which is actually anyone listening that knows a little bit about it. It's one of those languages where Moroccan Arabic itself isn't really known as a written language because it's one of the Arabic languages and everyone rates and writes like in classical Arabic, but they don't speak classical Arabic. So when I learnt Moroccan Arabic, there were very few ways to learn it written. But I was determined to do it. And if you see me doing that with my hand, it's because you write from right to left. So I'm remembering. And what was so fascinating in the link to speech pathology is I spent about two years away. I didn't get fluent, fluent in Moroccan Arabic. But I could hold my own and I could entertain Moroccan people. I could sit there and they wouldn't expect me to speak Arabic. And I even lent a bit of Berber. And when I went to do my university degree and we had to learn phonetics and linguistics, I was so much further ahead than my classmates because I'd just spent two years immersing myself in how can languages be different? How can grammar be different? How can speech sounds be different? How can encoding sounds with written like graphemes and the symbols be different? And when you learn at university, you'd learn, first of all what we all do and what's normal. And then you learn like what's pathology or where it's gone wrong. And so as I was learning, just what's the normal for in Australian English, I just had this great advantage because I'd, my mind was so analytical. Yeah, so it's really fortunate how that happened, isn't it?
Rob: And I think that that was partly my interest was whether it was a deliberate sort of professional skill building exercise or whether it was just happenstance. And and so it feels like, you know, sometimes how our business ventures and where we end up in life. You look back retrospectively and you see these things where you couldn't have seen that pathway,
Rob: However, it really served us well as we try and or as we develop professionally and and so, yeah, it stood out as as an interesting thing and. I've dabbled in a few languages like French and other Roman languages. And I understand, you know, how similar they are and in as few nuances and things. But but when you move to something like Arabic or like South Korean, which I started learning when I was a teenager, it really shakes the old mixes your perception of grammatical formatting and things like that and in it. And I've never, never delved into any Arabic languages. And even though the interest is there, it's sort of pulls its way down on the list. But I have always wondered just how interesting it would be to go, to go into that sort of area. So let's sort of fast forward a little bit to when you started your practice.
Rob: Do we Call it a practice when it's a pathology?
Jane: Speech pathology practice.
Rob: And and so, obviously, like most in this field, you would have started as a just working yourself with it, directly with clients and that sort of thing. Can you tell us a little bit about that evolution of just where you first started and seeing those first patients and how you came a few years later to to broaden that.
Jane: Yes. That's great. So in terms of practice. Yes, we do call it a speech pathology practice and we talk about private practice. And then the other sort of by way of speech pathologist work is in government organizations or maybe not for profit. So when I first started, which was back in. Nineteen ninety three. Yeah, it was for the South Australian Education Department, and so certainly back then, a new graduate speech pathologist. You do four years at university and you, graduate speech pathologist, would never start a private practice. It's not like a conditional thing where you you know, some professions like psych psychology, there's actually no specific supervision years that you have to go through or say being a doctor, you know, you do your internship. So in speech pathology, it's not so much like that. It's more it was just understood that when you graduate, you don't open a private practice. That's changed a little bit now. So now people do go into private practice a little bit quicker. But back then, in 1993, I started off working for the government. And that's where I learned my skills. And I had like a peer group and a manager. By 1996, I took on my first private practice patient and I did that like in addition to working for the government, which was allowed. And that was partly because back then the funding for speech pathology was a lot less than it is now in terms of governments recognizing the need for people to have speech pathology and then also coming up with the funding to support that. If you think about Medicare, you know, like if you had to go and say, say, an ear, nose and throat specialist and fund it yourself, or if you had to go and have plastic surgery and fund it yourself or a hip operation, fund it yourself. We're talking a lot of money and we can't do that now. Speech pathology isn't covered by Medicare and it's only covered by some private health insurance companies. So excuse me. So it's important to have the government funding now, back when I was when I graduated sort of in 1993 and I worked for the government, you know, people got their speech pathology free through the Education Department. But my very first private client was a little girl who was at school. And back then there wasn't funding for school age, which is quite fascinating, isn't it? So she had a genuine difficulty. She had difficulty pronouncing the t h sound, the R sound. And she had a lisp. She was seven, was being teased at school. Sounds a bit like a typical sort of speech pathology.
Rob: Probably more what we expect to encounter.
Jane: What you expect. Yes.
Rob: Yeah. Yep.
Jane: Yeah. She couldn't get any funding and she couldn't be seen at a community health center because they prioritized children before they turned, before they went to school. So she was my first private client. And for one, for half a year, I just had one client and that was all. So I worked for the government. I had this one private practice. And I remember it gave me the opportunity to see the difference. And the difference was that I now, at the end of the session, had to say, you know, here's an invoice or how would you like to pay for that? And that's quite different. And some speech pathologist will work their whole career and never be in private practice. They'll only work for government or not for profit agencies. And all the money side of things, you know, they don't have anything.
Rob: Behind the scenes.
Rob: Yep, The admin out the front.
Jane: Yeah, that's it. But I'm sort of glad that I graduated in an era when it was mostly government positions and you didn't have to worry about the business side. So that then when I did first start in private practice, I just had one client for six months. And it seems crazy, but that was a big deal. I had to think about, you know, do I have the right insurance? Is this parent satisfied with the level of service I'm providing because she's paying out of her pocket? And I think back then it was maybe forty five dollars for the session, you know, which seemed like a lot of money for her and a lot of money for me. But I also felt this great satisfaction. I didn't have to follow any rules. I didn't have to say I can only say you five times and then now I move on to someone else or I'm sorry, there's a waiting list, like I could just see her. So it was for me, it was the birth of I like private practice. I like being my own boss. I know what this child needs and I like being out to provide that.
Rob: So you really saw the, the ability to customize the care that you were giving and and so it came with this burden of all this extra work,
Rob: As anything like that does. But it gave you that flexibility and freedom to really sort of follow the passion. But I suppose the the public side of things really gave you time to hone your skills and find your feet as a professional. And, you know, because then you weren't well, during that period, weren't distracted by the admin and
Rob: The business side.
Jane: Yeah, yeah. So you were asking me, like, you know, what the journey was. So I thought I'd just tell you that I started from very small beginnings. From there the following year, I had the opportunity to reduce my government hours from a full time job to a point seven or, like seven days out of a fortnight instead of 10. And I had a house then and I converted a back room into speech pathology clinic and people listening who work from home maybe see clients. We call them clients, but could be clients or patients in your own home. That opens up a whole new way of thinking, too, because I'd find myself I'd wake up on Saturday morning. That's when I'd, like one of my clinics. People come to the house and I wouldn't be thinking, what resources will I use? I'd be thinking, have I cleaned the toilet? And if they come and see me and they want to use the toilet, what's the path they'll take through the house to get to my toilet and will everything look tidy? So I worked from home for about 18 months and I loved it. And I got busier and busier, but I couldn't get past the fact that I really didn't like having people come into my house because it just made me worry all the time. And I had pet dogs and it was like, what if the dogs bark? And, yeah. So after that, the next thing I did was I thought, I'm gonna get a little office. So this is still back in the 90s. And my first office was funny because I was walking down the main street of Strath Albin. I lived in a country location in South Australia and I had looked up a place that had a room for lease. And it seemed to me like this astronomical amount of money. And as I was standing, looking at it, a lady said, Are you looking at that place to lease? And I said, yes. And she goes, Well, I've got a room to lease for eighty dollars a week. And I think I'd been looking at like two hundred dollars a week. And I said, what, just one room? And she said, yes, in my practice. And she had massage and various things. And so I went in and I remember that real thrill of this would be my spot. And wow. Eighty dollars a week. How can I commit to that? That is so huge. But I took this leap of faith and I just loved it. You know, I used to turn up, I was still working part time for the government. So I looked forward to my private practice day and I'd turn up and people would come and they'd be in the waiting room. And for some reason, it seemed so much more exciting than something I was doing all the time through the government. But it was like personalised. And I.
Rob: On your own steam, and
Rob: I can really relate to that, to that home visit. You know, I'm winding back the clock. So about 15 years on Limeworks. We'd have clients visit my house where we had converted the back room and, and ultimately, the garage at the front. So they didn't have to come through the house until the day where someone asked to use the bathroom. And then we had to sort of like quickly close the doors on the bedrooms that were full of, you know,
Rob: Junk and all that sort of thing. So I do understand that thrill of moving to the first office and first office was certainly nothing special. And we used to call it the fishbowl because there was no natural light.
Rob: And just just windows. But they went
Rob: To an arcade
Rob: And. And so I it is an achievement and it's feels so daunting at the time. And you look back retrospectively and in hindsight, it almost seems trivial. But at the time, it is a huge
Rob: And you worry just how are you going to pull it off. But it takes those leaps of faith. So you've got your office and you're saying your patients. How did that transition then to, what was that at full time at that stage? Or were you still
Jane: No, it's still part time.
Rob: Still split.
Jane: Yeah, yeah. So in 1999, I had my baby, Felicity, and I don't say my first baby because I've only got one child. So, was my one and only baby. So I had her. And I still had the office. And then I transitioned to just working only private practice for a few months before I went back to government work. And that's when I really understood the beauty of it because it was so flexible. So I would take Felicity with me in her little capsule and I'd give her a feed and I'd put it down on the floor and I'd say to the client, right, she'll sleep for half an hour, we'll be fine and I'll do my speech therapy. And yeah, I sort of had that flexibility. But then it was time to go back to my government work. And I did continue to work for the government for on and off for the next four years. And at that point was when I was going, I can really see the differences. Like I had some government job experiences where the bureaucracy was really frustrating or the team players that you were with were frustrating in that I knew what I needed to do to help these children or these adults. But something would block me, either a rule or another person's opinion who was a manager or something. And so I could feel myself going, I'm gonna get to the point where I want to do private practice, because I think it's better for me, it's better for lifestyle. But most of all, the clients are going to get what they need. And that was what I was driven by.
Rob: I think the approach that you've got, it's very service first and and, you know, everything we read in in, uh, you know, everything we get educated around business is that, you know, it's service first and money second. But, but, of course, business takes money and takes, you know,
Rob: The books to be balanced and all that sort of thing. So it's,
Rob: Not not always quite that clear cut. How did you. So this was still in South Australia. How did you come to New South Wales and how did that transition
Rob: Take place?
Jane: So in 2003, I had one of those sort of from left field experiences, which is probably a bit surprising, but I was 34 and on my actual birthday, I went to the doctor because I had some symptoms and there was breast cancer in my family. And I saw my doctor and said, I've got this symptom. You know, perhaps I need to be checked. And I had to go off to a clinic and they were all saying, you know, it'll be fine. You're young. But on the 1st of July 2003, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yeah. And that led to me having a mastectomy. And most of my family had moved over to New South Wales, to the Central Coast. At that point. And so I made a decision to move over here to be near family. And so that was quite a big upheaval in my life. Very fortunate that I recovered. And once I came to New South Wales. I guess I had a whole new speech pathology system to learn because the states do do things differently. And I did one year of working for area health. And then I went, yep. Now I'm ready. I'm going to take the plunge. So by 2005, I actually resigned from all government work. And I had two years where I tried working solely in private practice. I did employ people, but not speech pathologist like I. I was teaching Key Word signing quite a bit and I was doing speech pathology and I started Key Word signing choir, which was a really lovely thing to do. And I employed like my first bookkeeper. I had a couple of people that helped me, like, teach Key Word signing at schools. So it was still very small scale. And I just basically worked so hard for two years, but I wasn't making any money at all, which is what can happen.
Rob: Well, I mean, it would have been almost a total start over as well like that. There's no none of that. The South Australian history would have backstopped
Jane: That's correct.
Rob: Or anything in moving a state. Different rules, different regulations, different behaviours. And and and not having any previous client pool or Anything.
Jane: No. That's right. Yeah.
Rob: So it's effectively starting again.
Jane: It was starting again. Yeah, and that's probably the point where I had two little sort of. Tricks up my sleeve, I suppose. One was that South Australia has a big focus on speech pathologists in schools and New South Wales doesn't. So I brought with me a lot of skills I got to a manager level in education in South Australia. So I bought a lot of management knowledge and a lot of practical skills on how to work with teachers. And that was identified by New South Wales teachers and principals very quickly. So I started to get a good reputation in the school system and quite a bit of work. The other sort of trick I had was the Key Word signing, so I'd been doing it from age 15 where I did work experience at a school and I met some deaf people and I sort of was a bit sort of self-taught in how to communicate with sign. Plus, I'd bought a dictionary and I'd done some courses. And then when my daughter was born, I taught her how to sign. And so I used it as a speech pathologist. So I had like my foot in a lot of camps. Basically, when it came to sign language and Key Word signing and on the Central Coast in 2005, when I said, that's it on, I'm going to go fully private practice. Now, I put a little advert in the Central Coast Express advocate - learn Key word signing for babies, children and adults. And I had fifty five phone calls in three days.
Rob: The power of the newspaper
Jane: Yeah. Back then, it was Newspaper.
Rob: Back then.
Jane: Yeah, and it's funny because I was in my dressing gown and I had all these phone calls and I even had the radio call. And one of, one person said, "Are you calling from your office now?" And I wanted to say, "no, I'm in my kitchen, in my dressing gown". But I tried to make it sort of sound, you know, like this legitimate business, which is...
Rob: And and we've all been there. You know, I used live near the bush and so my office backed onto the bush and you could hear bell birds if the windows were open. So in summer, it was very confusing for people talking to me on the phone, especially who had no idea where I was based. Really, you know, hearing bell birds in the, thing, so yeah, I can relate to the slippers instead of, you know, dress shoes.
Rob: And that's, I think it all evolves from there. So when you're taking these phone calls and things are off, obviously starting to rev up, was, did it sort of just rapidly magically take off from there or?
Jane: Well, not really. I would say that first experience of not working for the government... so after my breast cancer, I moved interstate. I found myself as a single parent with my one child who started school, and I was getting a parenting payment. But my daughter was reaching that magic age of seven, which there were fairly new rules back in then. And the government said, once your child turns seven, your youngest child is seven, you're not eligible for parenting payment anymore. And that was a new rule that sort of came in. Instead, you have to essentially go back on the dole and be looking for work. And so I, first of all, I enrolled in a thing called the NEIS scheme, which I'm pretty sure it's New Enterprise Initiative Scheme. I think that's what it is
Rob: New Enterprise Incentive Scheme.
Jane: Incentive Scheme. There we go.
Rob: I did do my homework a little bit.
Jane: Yeah, thank you.
Jane: I knew one of those letters wasn't right. So thank you for that. And if you were in receipt of a parenting payment, because I was in the last stages of it, I could do a Certificate IV in small business management. So I thought I would do that. And that enabled me to like, get my parenting payment for sort of like another six months. And I needed that because I worked out I was working about 80 hours a week trying to get my business going. So that was a combination of seeing private speech pathology, clients, developing Key Word signing resources like photographs and booklets, teaching keyword signing classes, and then running a free, sort of voluntary community choir all around learning to sign. And I had a lot of people with disabilities that approached me and I loved to include everybody in that choir. So I was pretty busy and I was a single parent. And the parenting payment was like just enough to live off. And then if I made money, which I felt like I would, was making money... People that start small businesses will know that you sort of see this money coming in. You're going, "yeah I'm making money". But then when you go take your profit and loss, you go, "I'm not making any money".
Rob: It's quite a remarkable thing. The first year that I "made a million dollars", I actually lost 4 hundred thousand.
Jane: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: So it's, it's something you hear that these people, you know, made ten million dollars this year or I made, you know, two thousand dollars yesterday. Well, that's great. But, you know, is there anything left over?
Jane: Yeah, what's your profit and loss? Yeah.
Rob: Especially when the the energy and effort is going into developing these resources, doing community aspect things. You know, it's. Yeah. By the time you know the, well, this is still pre-GST? By the skin of its teeth? And, uh, you know, the tax man takes his cut and all that sort of thing. It's, it's amazing how rapidly that money comes in and goes back out again.
Jane: Yeah, that's it. And I was sort of having that pointed out to me because I'd do my tax return and I'm with my tax agent and I'd be going, well. Look at all this money I'd make. And then to go. Oh, yes. And your profit is you know..
Rob: Negative. Something.
Jane: And I'd be like, oh. So I ended up with this difficulty. And that was in 2007 where I finished the New Enterprise Initiative scheme. I was now having to supply like fortnightly amounts to Centrelink and Vice. I had got called in and I had a case at a conference and they said, you're not making enough money from your business to show that that supports you. You now need to essentially, like, go on the dole. And I was like, well, that's a bit silly because I'm even employing people. I'm a speech pathologist. Can you, like, give me 12 more months? I know within 12 months I'll have this up and running. And I said no. And so I was literally queuing up every two weeks at Centrelink pretending to apply for jobs... Hope they're not listening to this now... Of course I was legitimately applying for jobs.
Rob: I'm sure the horizons past the...
Jane: Yeah yeah. And then I'd have to go in and have my little interview, because you'd have to stand in the queue. And I did learn a lot. There let you know to be very humble and to be very grateful because I was standing in this queue with a university degree and bright career prospects. And it made me feel terrible. And I thought those people in this queue that don't have haven't had the privilege I've had don't have the qualifications I have. This is their life for the foreseeable future. And so I tried to learn from that experience, but I'd get to the front of the queue and, you know, speak with the Centrelink person and they'd end up sort of saying, why are you here?
Rob: Yeah, because of the system.
Jane: Yeah. And yeah. So eventually a job came up with the government. And I was in the process of trying to buy a house for my daughter and myself and trying to prove an income. And I just kind of way. I didn't say I give up, but it felt a little bit like. OK. I have to go back and work for the government so that I can have security, so that I can stop being in a doll queue. It was disappointing and I found it hard to adjust to, you know, now having to follow rules again. But it was a necessary thing for me to do. And that was in 2007.
Rob: And you can, I mean, you you adjust to the new you know, the employed state of play, I suppose, but you get the benefits of the paycheck. So it, it...
Rob: Serves its purpose,
Jane: It served its purpose.
Rob: You know.
Rob: And so you may have to put your your current plans on pause a little bit, but... So how did you get back, come out on the other side of that?
Jane: So that was a half time job. So I worked half time for the government and I kept seeing private practice. I'd had an office and I had to give that up. And I went back to working from home. I didn't think I would do it again. But I did. And I just to say, people at my kitchen table and I had to Labrador then and I my Labradors would be in crates and not involve them in the therapy. And I made the best of it. And I did enjoy it very much. But I just again, I worked so hard because I was trying to get my private practice to a point where I could give up the government work. So I was doing the half time government work. I was still a single parent minus a private clients. And in 2010, I did hit a real low point because I was just exhausted and I couldn't see a way forward. And all I wanted to do was give up my government work and be out to have more time as a parent, more flexibility, and just do my private practice. And I looked at all sorts of ways to do it, and I just sort of couldn't see a way forward. So I was sort of in that process when I'd been on my own for seven years. And then I did actually. I broke my ankle playing netball. I went to see the physio and I married the physio.
Rob: I was going to say. And the rest is history. Wow.
Jane: Yeah. Yeah. I married the physio, Steve, and he was doing what I wanted to do. And that was he had his own business and had worked himself, worked really hard. He'd worked for the government. And then he'd started his own private practices and he'd opened like nine offices. He employed, I think at that stage about eight physios. And he said to me, leave your government job, take a risk and do your private practice. That's what you've always wanted. And so that was at the end of 2010. I went, yeah, like, hey, that's what I'm gonna do. And I didn't want to leave my government job at that point because I was worried about all my clients. And I even you know, I cried a lot and I felt really conflicted. But I did sit down with my boss, Beth, who's a lovely lady. And I said, I've got this real dilemma. I want to keep working for the government and all these children and they need me. But I've got this opportunity. And she was kind of like, "well, as your boss, I don't want you to go. But as your friend, like, this is it. This is the chance for your dream". So in 2011, I registered the business name All Areas Speech Pathology, and my husband, Steve, his business was called All Hours Physiotherapy. And I came up with the name All Areas because I was like it went together. All Hours, All Areas. And it sort of described the work ethic, I guess, because.
Rob: You were working all hours.
Jane: Yes, Steve was working all hours, and I was working all areas like I was, yes, there was, it was a big effort back then, but it's what's necessary to get a business going, I guess. Yeah.
Rob: I think that's the important part of this early part of the story as well, is you had the support from people in your network, even if that were your employer or your manager at the time. And, you know, you got that honest feedback because she could have quite easily said, oh, no, I think you need to stay and take care of these people. And, or your husband could have said, I don't think this is a good idea. You should just stay at your job. And the last 10 years of business history wouldn't have happened if you didn't get that nudge and that honest feedback
Jane: Yeah, that, that's exactly right. And so, yeah, and I do remember those people like remember Beth. You know, and the support she gave me. And then also my husband, like, he really backed me. And probably the rest of the journey in terms of my business growing. My husband, Steve, played a key role because he just pushed and pushed and pushed. And I think we do need sometimes people that will believe in us and push us, because otherwise we go so far. But. Then,
Rob: Can't see the light at the end of the tunnel?
Jane: Yeah, well, maybe it's human nature, too, to find it hard to take risks and. And I would say that I do take risks and people that know me would say I'm courageous. And that's been a big part. But I'm also a very sensible person and a very cautious person. And there's a lot of risks that you have to take in business that you can't rationalize. You can't say I've worked it all out. And this is fine. You really just feel like you're constantly stepping off the edge of a cliff and going, OK, I'm going to stop flapping
Rob: Yep, hoping the parachute opens before you hit the ground.
Jane: Yeah, yeah,
Jane: That's right. And so there were times where I pushed myself or I jumped. And there were times when I was hesitating. And Steve would just give me a push over the edge.
Rob: It's good.
Rob: So, if we think about, say, 2011, where you've opened up the first All Areas practice. Can you give us some sense of the timeline? Because, what's the total number of offices or practices?
Jane: Yes. So in terms of the growth of All Areas Speech Pathology, so it started in 2011 and for the first year it was just me. And I worked out of one office at Charm Haven. So Steve had a physiotherapy office at Charm Haven. Another office became available. And I said to him, "oh why don't you move into that bigger one?" And he said, "No. But why don't you move into it?" And I was like, no, I'm terrified. You know, it's quite expensive rent now, we're talking, you know, fifteen hundred dollars a month. Yeah, that's a lot of money. And he goes, "no, you'll be right. You build it and they will come". And so I had this one office there. And then I used to operate out of a couple of his physiotherapy offices, but it was mainly Charm Haven. And after one year, I was full and I couldn't see any more. And I was working as much as I wanted to. So then I said to Steve, "I'm going to start a waiting list. I don't like the idea of it, but I'm going to start a waiting list". And he said, "no, no, employ another speech pathologist". And I didn't really feel ready to do that. But I had helped him a lot with his business and he employed physios. And I did like the idea of being out to meet the need because I didn't like when people rang and I had to say, "I'm sorry, I'm full". So,
Rob: Send them to an unknown solution.
Jane: Yeah, that's right. So in March 2012, I conducted interviews and I interviewed three candidates and I employed my first speech pathologist, a lady called Ellen. She was a new graduate. And at that point, I also had like a PA working for me, Danica. And she was a speech pathology assistant who I had previously worked with. So she was helping me with admin and seeing some clients as an assistant. So I just had a few employees. And it was my first taste of having a speech pathologist work for me where I got to mentor her and almost duplicate myself. And I just loved it. It was fantastic. And what I noticed was that Ellen would watch me work with my clients and she'd just soak it all in, and then she would work with her clients and I'd watch her and I'd see parts of myself in her. And also, you know, her own contribution and her own style. So
Rob: Of course.
Jane: And I enjoyed seeing the differences and I didn't try to make her like me. I actually just tried to help her to be the best speech pathologist she could be. But I certainly found it from a job point of view, very satisfying. I was getting great feedback from clients and I was getting this sense of I'm helping more people. So if I sort of explain what happened from 2012 through to now, I never once said I'm gonna go and work in that area or I'm going to open the office. I would just get wider calls. So the next place that I got calls from was Cessnock, and Cessnock, I think people there didn't have a private practice speech pathology clinic, the government services had long waiting lists. And that's unfortunately just, you know, what happens. The demand is great. And so I was getting calls from people, "Would you come to Cessnock?" And I said, "no, I'm sorry. That's too far". And then I remember a lady ringing and saying, "I really need a speech pathologist. Will you please come?" And I said, "I'm really sorry. I can't drive to Cessnock for one person". And she said, "if I get you two more people by lunchtime, can you come?" And I said, "What you mean three?" And she said, "Yeah, I'll have three clients for you, weekly, can you come?" So I said, "Okay". And then she rang back by lunchtime and she had three. So.
Rob: Can I just ask, so when you're basically being inundated with leads and trying to, you know, and you're
Rob: Trying to figure out how how best to handle this. Is this coming purely from referral basis or are you doing some marketing? That's sort of?
Jane: I wasn't doing any marketing. I did get some business cards and I had I think I had a website, but very basic. I don't think I had a Facebook page at that point because even though Facebook was around, I think business Facebook wasn't
Rob: It's not quite what it Is now.
Jane: Yeah. So I actually wasn't doing anything. And in fact, I used to joke and say to people, "I'm doing de-promotion,
Rob: Trying to scale it back?
Jane: Yeah. Because remember, I had the wdding list and I wasn't sure what to do. And then I employed a speech pathologist and it wasn't long before she was full. And I was kind of like, well, I couldn't possibly just employ another one. Like, you know, this is getting ridiculous. Like I had that balance of risk taking and caution and. I didn't have any history in my family of business people to like, you know, to say as this is how you do it. I was just sort of working it out. Yeah. So I wasn't trying to promote. But the word of mouth was really spreading. The Key Word signing was a big part of it. So I was getting a good reputation amongst, like disability organizations. I was teaching groups. And then I had quite a few clients who were deaf or hard of hearing who I was teaching them literacy skills. And they were like passing on information. And as I said to you before, I was working in schools and getting a good reputation there. So it literally was word of mouth referrals.
Rob: I mean, if you're doing doing group teaching and that sort of thing, then and that effectively is your marketing. And, you know, so it's sort of an indirect but yeah. Not not. No more ads in the express. No.
Jane: Know, I didn't have to do that again. So went with the Cessnock. I was going there once a week and I really enjoyed that driving out there. And then I started my husband and said, well, you're doing well and says not. Maybe I'll get a physio clinic in Cessnock because he didn't have one out there. So we sort of we worked a little bit together like that. But we were sort of going in in different directions as well, because physio was adult based and I was more in the pediatric area, the children. And it was at the time that the government, if you remember, I said earlier on that there wasn't a lot of government funding, particularly for school age. So this is the era now that they FaHCSIA money came in, which was government programs to help children with disabilities and autism. And then by, I think 2014, 2015 was the early trials of the NDIS, the National Disability Insurance Scheme. So. There were now people who were getting money or getting opportunities for speech therapy and they were out looking for services and the private sector was just starting to grow. And I think it was good that I'd had such a long background of government and private because I had the confidence then to go. I will expand my private practice, but I did it just purely in response to people ringing. And then. I ahead of a couple of speech pathologist, ring me like as they were getting finishing their degrees, you know, saying, oh, we hear that you employ new graduates. So I think that was a bit of a point of difference of my business is that I was happy to employ new graduates and most private practices, particularly when we're talking about 2012, 2013, most private practices did not employ new graduates. And in fact, the universities didn't encourage new graduates to go to private practice. And I would have agreed with that, because if you remember me saying when I first graduated, it was good to go into the government service.
Rob: Government system, yeah.
Jane: But what I did with my business is I tried to run it as though it had the structure of a government service that I myself had experienced, but had the flexibility of private practice. And I had, any profit I was making. I was sort of pouring back into the business. And I was really trying to create this model where new graduates could come and be mentored by me directly. And so there was that sense of duplication and my. My real key vision and my standards, I suppose, were that that the employees very well looked after. They're not asked to do anything that I wouldn't do. They're not asked to work too many hours. Given time for research and reflection. Given mentoring and support. And then the clients themselves are treated as well as possible. So they're not rushed and they're treated as people, not numbers. And that's how I like to do it. And so I tried to make sure my employees got to have those same relationships. And so it was a very relationship based business where everyone respected each other, you know. No gossip. It was just really supportive. And as I started to take on some administration people to make sure the speech pathologist had support, I was taking on working parents and I was a working parent. And I think that was another key thing is that I'd say to people, you know, if your child sick don't come in, that's fine. If they've got an assembly, that's important. How often do that? For an hour. And so I started to get this culture of real loyalty and everyone looking after each other. And then the need kept growing and the referrals came in. So it just kind of grew. I didn't try to make it grow. It just grew.
Rob: I think the interesting thing here is that, you know, you've you've basically developed this model of of operating and. Shoes squeaking Do you develop this model of operating and you've sort of built this foundation of a scalable business, even though you're very directly involved in mentoring new talent and that sort of thing? Your that that sort of scalable model is it's sort of evolving or you're working on it. But your importantly, you're investing not only the profits back into the business to grow it, but the time and energy hasn't hasn't sort of. Diminished as the business grows in those stages. And and then something like NDIS comes along and your primed effectively to capitalize on that. And so how how rapidly did it scale once NDIS became an important aspect of your business?
Jane: Yes. So what happened was in terms of getting more offices. We did eventually get an office in Cessnock. And then one of my staff members lived in East Maitland and was travelling to Cessnock. And then I had people living in Newcastle and travelling to the Central Coast. And I wanted to look after those staff. And I knew they would burn out. And we knew that NDIS was on the horizon. And I thought, I'm going to end up with people wanting NDIS services and end speech pathology services in East Maitland and I've got someone that lives there, but she's driving out to Cessnock. So then I said, well, I'm going to get an office in East Maitland. So I actually got offices for, either way, the clients were or where the staff lived. And I used that as a real strategy of happy staff are going to stay. And if you can have, as you know, only a short commute to work, that's going to help when the rest of your job is quite stressful because speech pathology, you're giving out. You know, you're helping people in a time of need. There's a legal responsibility to have a few nights. Correct. So it is stressful. So the things that I could control, the stress is what I tried. And that was flexibility with hours, offices close to home, you know, the option to do some paperwork at home if need be. And so I had now developed a reputation, I guess even with the university and with the people that were looking for where they might work of.
Jane: This is a very supportive private practice to work, particularly as a new graduate, a new graduate. And so as the NDIS came in and we were able to confidently advertise more jobs. And I think at the peak, which was probably the end of 2017, I had like 14 new staff start in at the beginning. And and it was. And everyone was busy so quickly. And I took this big risk, like I would employ people where I didn't have the clients for them and for a few weeks or even occasionally a few months, you know, you were losing money, but you were allowing those staff to just start gradually and learn the skills and be mentored. But you knew the clients would come and they did. And they came and. And so by the end of 2017, start of 2018, we were sort of at our peak. We had like 90 staff. We had 19 offices. Yeah, I had a big team of admin, you know, 15 people in admin. And I had introduced layers of sort of managers. So I had speech pathologist who had started as new grads and worked their way up. They were the managers. I didn't bring in sort of external people. I wanted it to be that people managed in a way that they knew what the new graduates or other staff were experiencing because they'd grown through it themselves.
Rob: Retain that culture that you've got.
Jane: Yeah, it did mean a change in the culture in that I now wasn't directly mentoring everybody. And I mentioned that because I sort of say that was the peak. And today, 2020, I'm not at 90 staff anymore. I'm at 60 and I'm not at 19 locations. I'm at 13. And I've actually done that deliberately because from about 2000, 17, 18, you know, I had my end of year get together. And for the first time I was going, oh, the sort of the intimacy and the relationship that meant so much to me and the ability to see myself duplicated in staff, I could just feel that it wasn't there to the same level. It was still there in the staff I had close contact with. And then I could say they were duplicating themselves sort of further down. But I definitely felt I got to a point of I need to make a decision. This business is scalable and I can keep going. And I could get to 200 staff, 500 staff. I could go Australia wide. But me personally. Is that what I want to do? And I was sort of in the process of thinking about that and going, what's my next deliberate step? When we had the next phase that came in probably due to NDIS, I think even Speech Pathology Australia, our peak body, you know, they've sort of acknowledged this too. NDIS, has been a real game changer for everybody. And we've seen changes and growth that none of us probably could have expected.
Rob: So can I just touch on when when you sort of came to this realization that perhaps the business was evolving into it sort of takes on a life of its own and you don't have control over things you used to have control over.
Rob: And one thing in business is that growth isn't always the goal as much as a lot of the time it is. And certainly in in big business that's, you know, key metrics.
Rob: And if things go backwards, that's a bad thing and. Well, that's the thing. But I think as especially when it's, you know, wholly owned and and you have control and can make decisions for your own benefit, not just the shareholders or something like that, you have the ability to scale things back when it's not, you know, taking on, you know, what you saw doing or even just cap the growth at a certain point. Maybe you have a really successful cafe, but you don't want a chain of 50 cafes or a thousand cafes. You just want the cafe. And so I guess, you know, is that where you've sort of landed now? Is it? You know, you could keep growing, but you you would prefer to have a slightly smaller company and.
Jane: Yeah, well, it's sort of my answer to that is sort of yes and no. And a little bit like I didn't end up with a big business very deliberately going, I want a big business. I ended up with that because I didn't want to ever have a waiting list. And I in that whole time, I never once had a waiting list. In fact, people would ring and they could usually get in that week or the following week. And that meant the whole culture of my business was positivity and meeting people's needs. And that was good for the administration staff. And it was good for the speech pathologist. So the change that came about at the end of 2017, beginning of 2018, was. There's not enough service providers anymore. Not enough people coming out of university to meet the need. And so I honestly was on a scale of even though I am not having the same relationships that I had. And therefore, the intimacy in that sense of contact isn't as satisfying. I was willing to evolve to a new place where will I need to get used to this is what it feels like to have a big business. There are things going on that I don't know about, but I can now have a, you know, a month away from the business and it just runs. So I was in the process of balancing that when this shortage of staff started to hit everybody. So what we found was that start of the year, the growth, it just keeps coming and coming. It still hasn't slowed down. You know, we could have employed another 10, another 12 speech pathologists. But now when we put the adverts out, you didn't get 30 applications. You got two applications. And so. The beginning of 2018, suddenly we couldn't get staff and with the NDIS, you know, it's created a big, big private sector practice, so private it's created a big private practice sector. It's created more non-government organisation. Sector. Yes. It's created more non-Government organizations. And it's created not for profit. And everything's changed. And now people that came to me as new graduates because I would offer work now had a few years under their belt and had the opportunity to apply for other jobs. And there's so much diversity and so much going on. So many of my staff who were happy and felt supported and liked what they were doing. They were like, oh, well, I could try something else. And, you know, and that's okay, too. I was like a starting point for them. So we just saw across the sector more change. And it was at that point where I went, okay. Am I going to really drive this hard? You know, maybe use recruitment agencies. I'm going to get most off no matter what, because growth is what's important. And that's when I went. Maybe growth isn't what's important to me. And now the is changing. So what I did was I didn't deliberately try to stop because I used to go around saying to people, you know, how do you slow a business down? And nobody really.
Rob: It's probably not too many self-help books or business books on how to slow growth.
Jane: No. That's right. And it was really fascinating. And then I'd have, you know, family and friends and employees and people with different opinions and they'd be like, go for it, you know, more, more, more. And then there'd be people like, oh, you don't want it to stop. But there wasn't really anything that was good, does what I needed. So, again, it was quite lonely. It was hard being a leader. And in that sense and I thought it just it started with me. I have to make the decision. And it it came at a point of time where, you know, we were getting new stuff on. And then there would be changes in, you know, people look for other jobs and there'd be movement. And I saw this constant because as I said before, you put a lot of money in to get an employee established or an office established. I kept, felt like I kept putting money in, getting things established, and that would stop. And then I just went, that's it. Enough.
Rob: So you saw that the growth go up, but maybe the profit came down.
Jane: Yeah. And so then I just decided I'd go with, like, a natural attrition. And so when people moved on, I didn't replace them. And we did start to close offices where we might have had six people working and it was going really well. And then we're down to one or two. And so then I'd say, well, we'll close that office and people can move to a nearby one. And and so the culture changed a little bit because for a while it was just, you know, everything anyone wanted. I felt like I was able to do it. And then now I had to really stop and think and make them quite hard at times, business decisions. But because I had the big picture and, you know, how do we keep things going? And at the same time was the lack of people applying for jobs and the NDIS itself. You know, it went from a state run situation to federal. So now there's like a commission. There were rule changes and audits then. Yeah, I just got this really clear picture of 90 staff, 19 offices. It's too much.
Rob: So can I, Because NDIS has been a big part of, uh, you know, at least being a big reason for the growth. When you're involved in sort of a government scheme like that, do you think that provides unique challenges as to just being in sort of a public market? You know, we see these things like NDIS happen with, say, solar or insulation and that sort of thing in industries can pop up overnight and then vanish. You know, the day after that scheme ends. Do you think there's sort of a risk with the NDIS or something like that that doesn't exist in a regular market? Or you think it's just another factor in business and because every industry has its risks?
Jane: Yeah, I think. The need was always there. And so what the NDIS did was it uncovered this huge need of people with disabilities. And I think the government would have tried to project how much needed out there and how many service providers are going to be required and how many families would be applying or individuals would be applying. And I'm sure they were quite overwhelmed by just how many people qualified. From a speech pathology point of view, we know over the past 10, 20, 30 years, there's been an increase in people with autism. And some people say that's because we're better at diagnosing. But it's been shown that even with an increased awareness and an increase of ability to diagnose. There are more people per hundred or per thousand with autism. So that's that side of things. And also from speech pathology. We know that the change in society. Children, Bokan, less children are spoken to less overall before they go to school. And it could be because of bigger houses. So families are not all in the same room. It's to do with, you know, both parents working, both grandparents working side less one on one introduction of devices, smart phones. There's all these factors, though. We know that there are more children having difficulty learning to talk. And that's just the speech pathology industry. If you look at like occupational therapy and physiotherapy, you know, people are moving less. Those people are more a base. And then you could look at psychology and mental health. So if we look at all the different areas that the NDIS covers and all the people in the population that have a legitimate reason to need services, there's been this massive growth. I think if the NDIS stopped for some reason because the government chose to stop it. The difference would be that it's not just like a trend or just something at the moment that, you know, everyone's talking about, like it's genuine need. And then I haven't even mentioned all the people that, you know, you might traditionally think of or historically think of as disabled. So people in wheelchairs and people that with intellectual disability that are needing supported homes or needing transport support. You know, this is a massive group of people out there. I think Australia is really proud of the fact that it's got the NDIS and that it's looking after people with disabilities. And I think that comes with the times that we're living in. You know, if you look at the Anti-Discrimination Act when that was enacted and and supporting people with disabilities, you know, it's the last couple of decades we've we're moving towards a better life for people and higher expectations for people. So speech pathologies very much in that part of society. You know, one in seven people are said to have a communication disability. A lot, isn't it?
Rob: So as, yeah. And I suppose for those reasons, the NDIS is is enabling the service as opposed to creating a market where
Rob: It didn't exist already,
Rob: It just broadens the reach.
Jane: That's right. And that's what's been a dilemma for me as a business person, is, you know, when I say I didn't go out trying to promote my business or market, it's because the need was there. So instead, I would say I respond to need. And therefore, the hard thing for me now, and I'm living it day to day now with my business is when I have made a choice to respond to these changes and to say I'm going to reduce my size. The need hasn't gone away. And for the first time in 30 years, that speech pathologist, my business now has a waiting list and my administration team now receive phone calls from very distressed people who can't be seen. And in most cases, you know, there's respect from the administration officer. There's respect from the person ringing up. And it's just a sad phone call or a frustrated phone call. And we try to be as understanding as we can. But as you can imagine, sometimes they're not pleasant phone calls, sometimes as a lot of frustration. My team, who I really want to look after, you know, their mental health suffers if they have unpleasant phone calls or just the disappointment and the frustration that they can't say, yeah, we can see your child next week or we can see you next week. But something that I've tried to avoid for 30 years now in this dilemma of by putting myself first and saying I I don't have what it takes financially or mentally or emotionally to keep growing against all the setbacks. You know, I'm now going to take care of myself. I've turned 50. I'm going to think about me as a business person and as an individual. It doesn't come easily. I don't sleep easily at night because the need is still there and it's growing. And with the NDIS, lots of businesses are feeling what I'm feeling. They can't get staff. They've got waiting lists. They're closing their books. You know, it's even got to the point where speech pathologists who've always been held in such high regard by the community. You know, sometimes we've spoken about negatively because we've seen, as you know, the service providers that do this and do that but are not helping us or, you know, they're in their business. It's all about money. And, you know, that break their hearts because it's the complete opposite. We didn't get in it for the money. We got in it for the hard work and meeting the need. And, yeah, it's a hard time to be in business as a speech pathologist at the moment, mostly because of the NDIS. Because what that's done is it's exposed the need. It's given people a taste of having services. You know, so many families are so well helped. And we're seeing incredible stories of people's lives being changed. And, you know, it's fantastic. And we just want to do more and more of it. But there's limits. And one of the limits now is not enough service providers.
Rob: And in terms of like looking at it, your business journey in this area, you've gone from hoping to get more clients to not being able to service all the clients. What's what? How do you handle that? Personally, lucky, you know. What's the biggest thing that that you struggle with in terms of dealing with, you know, the turning away these people that do have a genuine need? And, you know, but we will have to draw a line somewhere.
Jane: Yeah, well. I've always been someone who tries to find a solution. So one of the ways I'm dealing with it is looking at alternative solutions. And we know there's a shortage of speech pathologists, but the NDIS does allow people to be seen by speech pathology assistants. So I've started a program where I'm training people to base speech pathology assistance and then offering some people sort of like an adjunct service. So they might say the speech pathologist once a month and the assistant three times a month. And that allows you to see more people. So by doing that process, that's given me some comfort because I don't feel like I've just shut the door. It's just black and white and I've gone, stop no more. Instead, I've gone. Well, what strategies can I use? And I get some comfort from that. But I guess I also. I probably reflect a little bit on my age, though, I'm 50. I've worked as a speech pathologist like university and work. It's now 30 years. I do feel that it's okay to put myself first a little bit and to say, well, if I want to slow down a little bit now and look at my quality of life, then that's okay. And ten years ago, I couldn't have done that. But I, I have tried to sort of focus on self care. And, you know, I've modeled self care to my employees for so long. I need to have it for myself, too. Yeah. And I think from a mental health point of view, the biggest emotion that I've struggled with through all of this is fear. And no one told me that by being a leader and being that responsible would be so scary. And you don't know until you do it. And then once you're in it and you're so scared, you can't do anything. You just got to keep going. And, you know, there's lots of things in life like that where, like, if you being chased by a lion and you go, I'm really scared, you don't stop and go, oh, just reflect how scared I am. You just keep running. So with a business, when you've got 19 locations and 90 staff every single way, you need huge amounts of money just to break even just to pay wages, just to pay rent. And if you think too much about those figures, then you know how much you pay the tax office, then everything. It's it is overwhelming. I don't like to use that word lightly because it can get used. But I've used these days. But it is overwhelming. And you feel this such sense of responsibility. But, you know, Australia needs leaders. It needs people. Business leaders and political leaders and community leaders that are willing to leave with that fear sitting on their shoulder, because there's got to be some people that provide that structure. And you can't just step into it like with a weak build up, like you couldn't go from not doing it to just doing it and cope. I don't think that's why I'm glad I had that, you know, that very first private practice client in that very first office for 80 dollars a week. It kind of gave me the chance to develop that resilience and that mindset so that now I can sit here and go, yeah, sure, I'll pay 60 people week after week after week and be responsible. That's okay. But I am looking forward to managing that in my business because I don't want to. Always feel so burdened. Yeah. And when everything's going well and, you know, you've got profit rather than loss and you've got happy staff. And then it's easier to live with that fear. But then when when things go wrong and the nice things like bushfires and, you know, you've got covered 19 and all those sorts of things, this is an added layer. And then you're very aware, then you've got this burden on your shoulder. So, yeah, I take my hat off to all business people, whether they've got one client or a thousand. And, you know, people listening to this. I'd like them to think about that mental health side and building slowly and and realizing that, you know, you need to develop resilience. But Australia thanks you if you take that on board because you are doing a good service for people.
Rob: Yeah, I think it's. While there's, you know. There's certain expectations of business owners to make good choices and all the rest at the end of the day. We're all just people doing what we think. You are making the decisions we think are best at the time. And, you know, as you've experienced and as I've experienced, business does grow beyond where you can sort of bail it out yourself, you know, at eighty dollars a week for rent. You know, if it all goes pear shaped. Well, you know, you figure out, you know, the worst, you're on the hook for a couple of thousand dollars. You know, when you're looking down the barrel of, you know, seven, eight figure payrolls and that sort of thing, there's no personal contingency there.
Rob: It's you know, you have to make the business stand on its own feet because if it falls back on you, you're going to collapse as well. So, you know. And that's just the nature of business growth. So. So we've actually been talking for about an hour and 20 at the moment.
Jane: Oh, my goodness.
Jane: I didn't realize that.
Rob: No, it's been an interesting, interesting discovery. So I might just fire, a few, like, real quick questions.
Rob: So in terms of looking at your business now and looking back, what's what's something that you've learnt now with the business that you have, that you almost conflicts with something that you thought when you first started?
Jane: I think that conflict...
Rob: Or maybe maybe it just confirms maybe you knew it all along.
Jane: Yeah, well. That's interesting, you should say that, because as I grew my business, I tried to stay very true to my principles and not conflict. And the biggest one for me was that I would treat people well and and have this good relationship and that people would see me as a boss, you know, someone they respected and that they looked up to. And once the business got to a big enough size, I realized I was too removed from some of the people working for me. So I had 90 people. I realized I didn't have that. And I've now that we're back at 60 people and even just recently, I've been doing quite a lot of using my online platforms and really trying to connect people. I realized that I'm I'm back to a place where it's more me. So I think I had a period of conflict, which was. You can grow a business and get bigger and bigger and bigger. And as long as you've put the foundations there, you'll always be that that boss who's like that friend and that intimate contact and someone that you're influenced by. And then I've realized that actually, no, they'd get to a point where you lose that direct influence and you rely more on other people. And for some people, that's great. And maybe that's what they want. So some people might have loved it where they end up with just a small circle in their business, who they relate to, and otherwise everything's going on. But I realized that for me, I. I want to know my staff. I want to celebrate their wins and be sensitive to things that are going on for them where they need support and actually a big business. But, you know, it might be just. Nine so well throughout Australia and have this great reputation and be fantastic. That wasn't gonna be worth it to me if actually I couldn't bump into my staff and know them and feel I had a relationship. So, yeah, I probably reached my point of conflict and now I'm bringing it back to where I sit comfortably.
Rob: Obviously, cultures played a pretty big part in your business as well. How important would or how do you feel around not just making sure that the right people are in your business, but that the wrong people are not in your business and, you have anything you can put in there?
Jane: Yeah, and. That played a big role in me. That thought, too, because as my business got bigger, like recruitment stopped being something that I did and went on to other people. And it doesn't mean that recruitment hasn't been done well, but it just means that it hasn't been done by me. And there is a difference. So when I first started, I was very intimately involved in all the recruitment, made all the decisions, and I did it in a way that makes legislation. But it's also quite informal and personable. And then I got to a stage where it was so big that I was having to delegate to other people, but they are not the business owner. And so it had to much more follow legislation and therefore. The sorts of checks that I used to go your your aligned with me. You know, not a person's bad or good, but aligned with my principles. It was hard to ensure that's happening when I wasn't involved in it. So in terms of getting the right people in. I've found that the key is that I do meet these people and I do get to know them because there are differences in business. And some businesses, you know, they are driven by ambition, could be driven by money or profits, driven by people that do want to scale. And that that's sort of their key focus. Well, for me, all of those things were part of business, but that wasn't my key focus for me. My key focus was that someone had a need and that either myself or someone in my team could meet that need and therefore someone's quality of life improved. And so I was really looking for people that were inspired by that, by improving the quality of life of other people, whether that's the quality of life of my staff or the quality of life of the people that they say their clients. So. Yeah, there's definitely been people who have come along and gone. I want to work for all areas, speech pathology, because I've learnt about it. It represents what's important to me. And then there'd be other people who would come along and be like, I want to be a speech pathologist and I can do it here. But it was I could have done it somewhere else as well. You know what I mean? So, yeah. So that's been an interesting journey for me of learning who's the right fit for my business. And I imagine that would be the case with other businesses, too. Doesn't just have to be speech pathology. You know, if your staff are aligned with your general sort of ethical approach and your views on the world, it's it's definitely easier.
Rob: Yeah, so was did you ever find yourself in this situation where you had someone? In your business, even in a primary role, and discovered that, you know, despite the stringent interviewing process and the onboarding, that that it just didn't play out as you expected.
Jane: Yes, surprisingly, there were, there was never any kind of disaster. And I think partly that's because speech pathologists in general are good communicators and good at interpersonal skills. And, you know, we did always have referee checks and that sort of thing. So I wouldn't say there was ever anyone that was like, oh, my goodness, you know, this person's wreaking havoc or is it wreaking havoc or wreaking havoc?
Rob: Then I will go with breaking.
Jane: Breaking this, Faison's wreaking havoc on my business, so I wouldn't say that ever happened. And in fact, you know, in terms of gossip in the workplace and business relations and harmony, you know, we've just had an amazing run. It's been it's been fantastic and the culture's been great. But they've been people that have come in and, you know, possibly wanted to work more independently than others or work more closely with people than others. And speech pathology is a business where you've got to have really strong independent skills and be able to just forge your own path. And then you need really good team skills for times when you know you're getting advice from other people or collaborating. So you need people that actually really good at both. And at times we've had people in where they would have been better if they could have just been fully independent or if they could have been much more immersed in a team. And so, you know, they've probably gone found employment somewhere else where like they're not so spread out because we'll have offices where you might be the only person there on that day and or you might be amongst other people. So that's probably been the one thing is occasionally not a match. Exactly on the independent versus team approach. And speech pathology is a hard job. And, you know, there are times when no one else can do it for you. You know, you you're legally responsible, you're ethically responsible, and you just have to manage your own professionalism and reach out for help if need be. But you're sort of responsible for asking for what you need. I guess some people expect a little bit more. Everything being provided for them. And some people are very good at finding their own path and speaking up if they need help.
Rob: So it sounds like if you've made a few changes to get things back on, you know, aligned with yourself and and where you see the business being comfortable. Are there any particular plans you've got over the next five years? You know, is anything drastically going to change, really just honing the craft and continuing on?
Jane: Yeah, I'm probably at a stage now where I'm comfortable with the number of staff and the number of offices, and it seems like a more manageable number, but I'm very aware that we have waiting lists and that's uncomfortable and that's disappointing. So I don't really want to grow any bigger. I don't have any plans to deliberately, like, get smaller. I'm probably going to take the approach that I've used up until now, which is, let's see what it naturally does. But for myself, you know, I have goals in life that aren't just around seeing clients myself or just doing speech pathology. I've, I want to, I've just bought a property where I'm living on 1.5 acres in the country. Yeah. So I want to develop my life outside of being a speech pathologist, which I feel that I'm ready to do. And my dogs are a big part of my life and I've always wanted to breed puppies. So I'm just going to make sure that the business stays true to my principles, but it gives me breathing space away from it. And, you know, that might be that it can tick itself over and carry on as it is now. But we'll also have to be responsive to outside influences such as NDIS and community need and the number of graduates coming out of universities. So there's some things that I can't control and my plan is to just be responsive and be ready.
Rob: Do you think if the, uh, if the business starts really humming along as you start to remove yourself from the day to day so much, do you think maybe you'd look at it more on the, you know, broadcast of, you know, training ideas and that sort of thing where you can have a really great impact but still limit the actual time involved? You know, and I know you have some online, you know, online videos and that sort of thing, you know, do you see more of that playing a role so you can still have an impact?
Jane: Yeah, I definitely think so. I'm in the process of writing a book about being a speech pathologist. And I love the idea of...
Rob: Is that an exclusive?
Jane: Yeah could be. Yes, that's it. I love the idea of being on a sort of circuit where I, you know, motivational speaking and talking with people. Definitely the training. I love doing that. And that can be done in a seasonal sort of way. And so can help me to meet some of my other life goals. And I've got some fantastic staff who are very clever and who are developing key things, like one of my staff members Shailey Hilton is learning all about Eye Gaze technology. And the very bright lady did extremely well at university and now works as a speech pathologist and, you know, helping people that are sort of locked in, being able to communicate. And I can see that what would be satisfying for me is helping individuals to develop these sort of Niche fields and giving them backing so that, you know, equipment might be expensive to purchase, but where other people have helped me, you know, I continue to take risks to be like a launching platform for other people. And some of the people that have worked for me have sort of said, I'm ready now to start my own private practice. I've had some wonderful clinicians who've now used all areas as a launching pad, and I've worked with them and they now run their own private practices. And I see that as a great way, that what I've put into the community gets to continue even without my input. And yeah, that's really satisfying as well.
Rob: Well, I think it's certainly the impact that you're trying to have. And, you know, have the maximum impact for, you know, that measured input, while you can still do the things that you want to enjoy
Jane: Yeah, that's it.
Rob: And I think that's an amazing thing. So I really appreciate you coming and chatting to us today. And it's been an amazing discussion to learn about you and All Areas Speech Pathology. If someone wants to know about All Areas Speech Pathology, where do they go to find you?
Jane: Well, Facebook seems to be the platform that people use these days, so we do have an active Facebook page and that has posts most days. We also do have a website, so All Areas, Speech Pathology, we sometimes use the shorter name - AA Speech because it's less typing.
Rob: Yep. Sure.
Jane: So you could look at our website, too, for some information. And yeah, we're based on the Central Coast, but we do have offices that sort of spread around the Hunter and Lake Macquarie region. So, yeah, we go as far as like Raymond Terrace, East Maitland and Cessnock and Toronto. And then on the Central Coast. So, yeah, I guess people might have a local office that at the moment they can't call in to. But yeah, that they can certainly phone us or, Yeah send us messages online. So yeah there's there's always someone that's happy to have a chat with them.
Rob: Fantastic. Alright, Jane, Beale from All Areas, Speech pathology, I really appreciate your time.
Jane: Thank you so much, Rob.
Rob: Thank you.
Jane: Thank you.
Rob: There you have it. I hope you really enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please like it, share it or leave us a review on your favorite platform. It helps us show more of this content to people just like you.