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Hi, I'm Nicky!
Founder of G.Law.
I'm a wills and business nerd. Mum. Gardener. #Radbosslady and protector of legacies.
Which means we're BIG on transparency.. That is why we offer upfront,
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[00:01] Nicky Grummitt: Okay. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this with me.
[00:04] Julia Spicer: Pleasure.
[00:05] Nicky Grummitt: You’ve got plenty of experience and you’ve also got plenty of insights to share with other business owners. Can you just start with a little run down on you and your business?
[00:18] Julia Spicer: Yeah. So my name is Julia Telford, oh Julia Spicer, I should say actually. And I have a consulting business based in Goondiwindi. I now employ three other staff. And my business focus is really working around small businesses and community organizations in the strategies space. So helping people work out what they want to do, how they’re going to do it and how they’re going to fund it, pretty much. So my business has been going since the end of 2012. So on the 19th of December, I turned 7, which is pretty exciting.
[01:01] Nicky Grummitt: Through with that 5 year hump?
[01:04] Julia Spicer: Yes, 3, 5 and 7, they say. So I’m excited. I’m nearly there. And I guess one of the reasons we’re having a chat is because of how I nearly didn’t make it. Yeah, but I guess that’s kind of the background to the business who am I and what I do.
[01:23] Nicky Grummitt: Yeah, it’s pretty much, I think your business name when I first heard it. It’s a little bit hard to wrap your head around but as soon as you understand what it is that you do you really that’s what you do you engage and you create.
[01:35] Julia Spicer: Yeah.
[01:37] Nicky Grummitt: Okay, so you mentioned the hurdle.
[01:42] Julia Spicer: Yes.
[01:43] Nicky Grummitt: That you nearly didn’t make it.
[01:44] Julia Spicer: Yeah.
[01:45] Nicky Grummitt: So tell me a little about what happened in 2017.
[01:47] Julia Spicer: Yeah, sure. So I guess, you know businesses, in small business is all about evolving. I started as a sole trader and then moved into a company structure probably two years later, I’m going to say, and I, at the end of 2017, was diagnosed with breast cancer. So went through a couple of operations and then treatment that went for a few months both chemo and radiation and we love living where we live but it means that there’s some medical services we don’t get here. So I spend a lot of time over a period of five or six months driving backwards and forwards to Toowoomba for operations and treatment or when I was getting radiation having to be based there pretty much from Monday to Friday having radiation and not being in the position to drive home other than on the weekends. So, yeah, so that was so…
[02:49] Nicky Grummitt: So can I just take you back, when you found out, what were your first thoughts?
[02:57] Julia Spicer: My first thoughts were, it seemed really surreal. I have a lot of work coming up. How am I going to fit this in? How do I tell people? How do I, How do I manage some members of my family who are more prone to freaking out than I am? How do we, yeah, financially do this? What do I do with everything on my plate? So some of that the other stuff was some of my other thoughts from being really honest was like, oh good this is going to be a great way to get out of some stuff that I’ve said yes to that I wish I hadn’t said yes to. Okay working at how I could get off some committees and boards this could be the reason I’ve been looking for and I do have a card for my brother saying, you know in ten years time when you still want to do the washing up at Christmas because one time you had cancer I can think of how I could use this to my advantage if I’m being honest.
[04:11] Nicky Grummitt: Yes, which I wouldn’t have [beat]. Explain one of the reactions.
[04:15] Julia Spicer: If we need to say no to stuff, it’s amazing what we give ourselves permission to do in a really traumatic situation. And so one of the things that may be coming out of it, none of this, more detail, what we really want to talk about, but how do we give ourselves permission to say no without having had cancer. Yeah. And I reckon for small business owners or people in general, how do we, let’s not wait until we have some major catastrophe to help us work out what we really want to spend our time doing and who they really want to spend their time with, before we do some of that.
[04:52] Nicky Grummitt: So you found out, I imagine, you’re in a doctor’s surgery when they told you that you had cancer and all these thoughts surrounding through your brain like how are you going to cope with work and how you get to say no to being on that board. What were some of the first things you did?
[05:09] Julia Spicer: Yeah. So, so the first thing that I did was look at what I had coming up. What were the projects that I had on my plate that I couldn’t get rid of that needed somebody to do. So in some circumstances, I’ve already been paid to do work, that work needed to be sorted. I approached all of my clients and let them know what was happening and said to them, “We’ve got some options.” I can, we can press pause and I’ll pick this up at some stage. I can pass you somewhere else to somebody who can help you instead of and that not be me, or I can find somebody to do this work for me under Engage & Create and we can keep going along so you might work with Nikki for a little while, but you’ll bounce back to me later.
[06:01] Nicky Grummitt: Oh, so you really gave them that option rather than you have them to figure it all that out.
[06:06] Julia Spicer: And different people said different things and it depended on the project. Some were, everybody was, “We’re really sorry this is happening to you, but we really need to get this done. Find us somebody else and when you’re well, let us know, then we’ll come back to you.” Others were, “This isn’t that urgent. We have got our own stuff going on. Let’s press pause and we’ll come back.” And others were, you know, “We’ll, we’ll move on, work with somebody else.” In some circumstances, I will it was also a good way for me to look at which clients I wanted to hold on to and which ones I was happy to let go. So there was that sort of a process and people were amazing. Some people said, “Well, how much did we pay you last year? I do want us to pay you that again if you need a chance to get through things and what you want to do about your cash flow.” And, you know, people were remarkable.
[07:02] Nicky Grummitt: So what I was going to ask you, in all these sorting out and handling work on to other people, it would have a pretty large impact on you financially.
[07:14] Julia Spicer: Absolutely. Yeah. So and there are a few things in that. So, we had, a few years earlier, worked with this really bright solicitor who helped us organize a will and helped us and another couple bought a building, and we got what we needed to do to set up a trust with that. So we worked really closely with that individual and their accountant. You probably know her. So we had some, so I had some things in place. I had income protection insurance in place of which I’m really grateful. I had that set up before I started Engage & Create Consulting and, and I was really grateful for that because that was able to keep him and there were a couple of things if I can break this down. So I had originally set up, in fact, it would be three months, it was 90 days, 90 days when mine kicked in. Because we figured, as a couple, Tony would be able to, we would be able to keep everything going for three months before that needed to kick in. What I didn’t realize is when I had changed from being an employee of another company to being my own person. There were changes that happen in my personal income protection insurance coverage that I had never gone and looked at. So, because I am the sole director of Engage & Create Consulting and an employee of Engage & Create Consulting, the fact that a hundred percent of the profits technically with me impacted my insurance and we didn’t realize that until halfway through all of the claims and trying to get money and all those. So I do the sums and I reckon over a six-month period $70,000 of money that I would normally contribute to the household or costs associated with being sick, travel, whatever, whatever, $70,000 dollars was roughly what that equated to and we were able to receive majority of that back through the income protection insurance.
[09:30] Nicky Grummitt: So even though it had changed, it was still able to cover you. Most of the..
[09:35] Julia Spicer: And that was really great. And I think I was one of the few that has a really good experience with an insurance company. But that would certainly be something to check when people move from a paid employee to starting their own business. Check all your insurance documents. That would be my feedback there. So we did, I did have that. It didn’t come nicely like a salary would but it did come at times. I guess the other thing too is where we are very, you know, when something really serious medically happens, the medical profession is set up to support. Yes. There’s patient travel subsidy forms. If you’ve got to go to Toowoomba for a specialist, you don’t know that when you are healthy and well and not doing anything like this. So there were lots of support like that. So there’s other ways that we were able to get some support along the way financially. An income protection insurance was certainly one that worked. And at that stage, I had a staff member who was happy to also be put on hold for a while. So instead of working two to three days a week, it probably became two or three days a month. And that was really to keep a check on things – check emails, update people on what was going on.
[11:01] Nicky Grummitt: So you’ve really stepped out of it.
[11:03] Julia Spicer: Yes. So for a period of time, that was really what we need, what I needed to do. Press pause and step out. Once I got to a period of time after chemo or halfway through chemo I could step back in a little bit and I did and I needed to from a mental point of view as well. I really enjoy what I do and I needed to do that. And it actually is a really funny thing, but it gave me time to do things on my business that I never allowed time to do while I was going in a hundred and thirty-seven percent. So I applied for awards or I applied for scholarships or I redid my CV and resume, you know, like if I didn’t worked on..
[11:45] Nicky Grummitt: Is there anything like the true you came out of?
[11:50] Julia Spicer: So I was getting lots of cards, and lovely messages and quotes from people and I wanted to kind of hold on to that and keep that front and center. So yeah, that was where the true you came. So yeah, you know, I read a lot, you know, I had the excuse to read. Yeah. So yeah, so there was certainly good things that came. I don’t recommend people get cancer to realize that they can pick up a book on the weekend and read for a couple of hours if they really want to, but yeah.
[12:20] Nicky Grummitt: Yeah correct. Jules, so we’ve talked a lot about you and your first thoughts and first actions, I wonder if you’d mind if we talk a little bit about Tony, your partner, your now husband? So you would have had a pretty major impact on him and his work as well. Can you talk a little bit about that?
[12:40] Julia Spicer: Yeah, so Tony is certainly the warrior in our family and also the worrier and he and I think it’s really tough for fellas when women are sick. I think if they go back to being cave men and their job is to hunt and protect and look after us and he couldn’t do that and it was really tough for him. Yeah it was really tough for him. And so his work were awesome. So he was obviously, he had some carers leave as part of his employment package, that he could take it, quite leaves that he could also use but I guess we also worked out what, when it was useful and when I needed him to come to stuff and when I needed someone but it didn’t necessarily need to be him. So he came with me for my first round of chemo. So that he knew what was going on, but he didn’t actually need to come to the rest of them. And then it was, it’s not fun. And so I needed somebody to drive me to Toowoomba and drop me home. Again, I didn’t really need anybody sitting beside the in hospital. Because it was really whacked out of everything. So I have lots of people who said hey, I’m happy to drive you to Toowoomba and so I picked them up on that. So the probably the biggest challenge for Tony and I is that we had to admit that we needed help and that’s not either of our natural tendency, really. Yeah, his work was really great, but it does mean that he took on the load of everything at home, of bringing in the money, of doing all of this stuff. Yeah, and that’s pretty tough to see. It’s pretty tough to watch somebody you love also being really unwell and not be able to do the stuff that they used, they’ve been wanting to do sort of that. So he has he has also now we’ve got major we’ve got personal income protection for him also, so it was a good reminder to make sure we’ve got all those sort of things stitched up for everybody.
[14:55] Nicky Grummitt: Since having breast cancer, can you pick a couple of ways that you have changed your business because of that event rather than just other things you’ve done as growing.
[15:10] Julia Spicer: Right. So because of that event, I actually looked at what was all the stuff I was doing and what are that could become a position description for somebody else and that actually ends up becoming two people. So I developed a position description. I looked at and then you know the universe helped me by finding me two really great people, and I couldn’t choose so I said yes to both which was a big jump, but as a result of it, I think I worked out I was doing 13 days a week worth of work in terms of how many days I was worked in terms of now. Yeah, so it’s four days a week. Lauren works three days a week. Matt works basically three days a week. I was working five days a week. So 15 days worth of work. I was thinking I was doing. So, you know clients were hardly getting my best.
[16:09] Nicky Grummitt: That would be the same for most sole business owners.
[16:12] Julia Spicer: Lots of us. So it doesn’t need to be a full time job. It doesn’t need to be an actual five. It doesn’t need to be based in your town. But you do need to look at what are the bits that you’re good at and what are the bits you’re not good at so I so if I think that for myself I worked at what were the jobs I really enjoyed what we sort of project what was happening and I guess the other bit for me, Nicky, is I genuinely, my business is genuinely set up to support regional communities be the best that they can be which also means I can’t be everything to everybody and it’s about building capacity. So from the other part of it that I got serious about was, you know, how do I actually do that? And one of the ways that I can do that is build capacity in other people and having a team of people who are learning the skill set that I’ve got. And being able to have the networks and grow those networks and establish all that in their own right. That actually is me living the values and the purpose of my business. So that was really useful. So I’ve got staff, I put people on. And that was, that was really helpful. So that meant mailed up, we are clear on who does what, we are clear on who has what projects. We invoice people I’ve never met before. I don’t even know them. It’s brilliant in that regard. So obviously there’s a piece of having to pay everybody fortnightly, but that’s worth it to me to know that we are able to extend our reach and our ability to do the work and it’s not all about me.
[17:55] Nicky Grummitt: And you have been a fun break from your business here. How did that work?
[18:00] Julia Spicer: I spent a week in Mongolia, 10 days in Mongolia. And actually going to have 12 days in India next year, so that’s for a motorbike ride. And I just think that my biggest learning from being sick was getting out of the business can actually be really rewarding and again don’t have to have cancer to get out of it. So it is time and energy well spent. Mongolia is an extreme place to go to do it. It would be go to close for a week. But you know focus on what is it that you want to be able to do with your business. So that was really great and India, an India thing next year would also be great. And so it’s again finding like-minded people, [finding a tribe of people again a challenge will beat] me really, you know, I’m really interested in that kind of thing. So that’s something that’s been really good.
[18:54] Nicky Grummitt: Awesome. So you are really a communicator.
[18:57]Julia Spicer: Right. Okay. Thank you. Yeah.
[18:59] Nicky Grummitt: I think you can get ahead better than just about anyone else I know.
[19:02]Julia Spicer: Thanks.
[19:04] Nicky Grummitt: To sort of wrap this up, you did do communication in your business around having breast cancer and other things going forward. So you communicated around your staff and how your team works. Could you pick a couple of things or just one thing that you felt really helped you through that? Well?
[19:24] Julia Spicer: So I think, I think the reality is people, so there’s two things. People, what is it, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. My actual technical expertise is not in the space that I work now. But I really am passionate about what I do and I think I’m really clear about articulating that so I think, I think it’s important that people know why you are doing what you’re doing what your passion is behind it because we can take a paycheck. We can all take a paycheck. You and I have taken paychecks in the past. There is something special about having our own business and there’s more of us that are part of it, you know. And I think people, people are attaching themselves to that and they work with it. So I want to be really clear and transparent about what people are getting when they work with us and I will often say if you want somebody really precise if you want somebody who’s super professional if you want somebody’s super straight, a 180, I will let you down but if you want somebody who may accidentally drop the F-bomb, who’s really passionate, who is going to get shit done then come hang out with us. Yeah, that is what you’re likely to get. So I think it is really important because otherwise if we don’t have some of those expectations set then everybody’s you know, everybody’s a bit damaged or like that. So I think that’s really important and I think, I think the other piece is that as my business has grown, there’s two things. Other people are representing my reputation, but I’m also, they’ve also invested their time and energy in me. And they’re boarding into the Engage & Create Kool-Aid. So I need to make sure that their piece of that is incorporated, yes. So because one of the things that I realized when I was sick was that I really didn’t have a business. I had done a good job of giving myself a job, but there was not a business. If I had dropped dead that day never to return, that business would shut up. Whereas now, whereas now, we’re on in the situation where I am going back to hospital. So sorry to tell you in this way, I just realized. Hi everybody! Yeah. So I’m potentially starting this whole journey again. But I have a team of people now. So from a practicality point of view, I might croak. I’m out January, February potentially after March. You guys have just got to be able to do this and they absolutely can do it. So it’s much more. I’m almost less emotive about it this time because I kind of have been there before and I know what’s coming for us personally and Tony’s dug a hole at the back of the ship for me and all, sorts of known. But so this time we can be like, “Right, here’s what we do, pretend I’m away for a month from work, everybody knows what they’ve got to do, we can do this and this..”
[22:35] Nicky Grummitt: [Pretend you’re out on a field and that you’re slowing down.] How’s Tony? Is he supportive?
[22:42] Julia Spicer: Yeah. Back to being a cave man. Yeah so, but again, we kinda know how that’s going to go. And we don’t have a whole lot of angst. So we’re just going to wait and see a few bits and pieces. That’s so, that’s kind of like, okay, rinse and repeat, with more arms and legs to help.
[23:02] Nicky Grummitt: With potentially, that outcome.
[23:04] Julia Spicer: And a better insurance policy. Because, Lord knows, nobody else would help me.
[23:11] Nicky Grummitt: Thank you for sharing that.
[23:13] Julia Spicer: Pleasure.
[23:15] Nicky Grummitt: And I will possibly pull that until you’re ready to communicate that.
[23:20] Julia Spicer: Oh that’s fine. All good, all good.
[23:24] Nicky Grummitt: But there’s so many things through that I think is so valuable for so many business owners. And my goal is to keep talking to business owners like you that have been through these hurdles so that we can all learn now without having to have the same hurdles to get us there. Like, I think you said, don’t get sick to get your business sorted. And I think, you know, you’re silly if you don’t learn from other people’s experiences.
[23:51] Julia Spicer: Yeah. And I think, you know, if we look at it from a farming business point of view [into an ] what would happen if that dropped dead, or what about this, or what about that. None of us make good decisions in crisis regardless of how big or little that crisis is. So we actually need to have some of those conversations before somebody’s sick, somebody had an accident and somebody dies somebody gets divorced, somebody whatever, whatever.
[24:15] Nicky Grummitt: Even if it’s just yourself. Even if you have any conversation with yourself. And making plans yourself.
[24:23] Julia Spicer: And it’s the really it is the super easy practical stuff that you can help people with. I mean, there’s a motion around wills and there’s a motion around how would I handle it but, you know, but practically I just think I’m quite pragmatic around, you know, there is nothing common about treatment and chemo and right there’s nothing fun about that and it’s awful and you feel like shit and it’s just there’s nothing glamorous about it but there’s other bits that we need to have in place so that you really if you want to wallow and feel sorry for yourself, you can because you know other things are happening around the edges.
[25:01] Nicky Grummitt: Okay. Well, I’m going to let you go. So you can go on with the rest of your day. You obviously have got plenty to get organized. Thank you very much for your time.
[25:11] Julia Spicer: Yes. Pleasure. No worries. Thanks, Nicky.
[25:14] Nicky Grummitt: Thanks, Jules.
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