Business and the Black Dog

The Black Dog

It was only a couple of years ago when I came face to face with what people refer to as the black dog….. ‘depression’….. a mental health condition.

Let me say openly; depression is a real bitch!

Whether it be in life, business or from trying to pin down whatever the cause is; meeting the black dog is something that I hope others don’t get to experience, but if they do, I want them to know that simply identifying the problem is the first step forward.

In 2001 The World Health Organisation identified Mental Health:

A lack of urgency, misinformation, and competing demands are blinding policy-makers from taking stock of a situation where mental disorders figure among the leading causes of disease and disability in the world, says WHO. Depressive disorders are already the fourth leading cause of the global disease burden. They are expected to rank second by 2020, behind ischaemic heart disease but ahead of all other diseases. article link

They are expected to rank second by 2020, behind ischaemic heart disease but ahead of all other diseases.

Global mental health has been difficult for our global culture to accept; for whatever reason, it seems that people need to ‘hold back’ from talking about it. Let’s not do that. Let’s get it out there that mental health, meeting the black dog, and suffering from depression – must be recognised. It is a treatable epidemic.

Before I Knew

I had built my business far beyond my wildest dreams, in fact, the business was cranking. Our journey reflected an incredible amount of highs and lows; but our team had grown from strength to strength and we did it completely organically. We were an incredible team and our company was a big family.

It took a long time for me to really trust myself in business. I was not a born leader, but I was definitely an entrepreneur.

I hated any sense of repetitiveness, when things got too simple I would raise the bar and want to challenge myself for greater risk in the search for self gratification by reaching outcomes that were seemingly out of reach.

Things like having an annual turnover of $1mil became, $5mil, then $10mil, then $20mil and so on….. then there was employing people; starting by employing my first person, employing 10 people, employing 20, then 50, then 100 and so on….. and of course there was growing our business skills; starting as a plumber, then electrical, then fabrication, then instrumentation, then ‘turn key’ construction civil/mechanical/electrical…..

I just loved finding opportunities and turning them into success.

It must have taken about 10 years before I was told to ‘trust myself’. This is something that I rarely ever did. I always asked peoples opinion just in case I had shot off on a completely loose tangent and needed a reality check.

I have always respected honesty, and people who are direct, honest and straight to the point. These are the people I work with best.

Trusting myself is something I had to learn, I became reasonably comfortable after we created some amazing outcomes. The greatest achievement was growing a sole trader business and becoming the most geographically remote internationally certified multi skilled trade company in Australia, if not the world.

I felt like I had hit my peak, I had achieved all that I wanted when I set out in my pursuit as a start-up.

Being Naive

Once I had achieved everything that I wanted, I wanted to continue to push myself, after all there is nothing quite like self accomplishment.

“Money has never been a driver for me; I choose success every time.”

My entrepreneurial nature intuitively has me challenge myself far beyond what I had just achieved. So with the business ready to go……

I had chosen to undertake the biggest project that our business had ever been involved with. It was a potential game changer that could lead the way, a step forward from a Tier 2 to a potential Tier 1, where our business could challenge global competitors. Yep, that’s exactly what I think is a good challenge.

Don’t forget, I had worked tirelessly to build a sole trader business into an internationally certified company with genuine growth prospects. The business had performed on its own merit YOY of over 70% growth for 10 year straight years. I thought we were unstoppable.

When I hit Rock Bottom

When I made the decision to sign the project contract I knew there was a risk (article). I knew that this contract would test our business, it was equal to half our annual turnover; but looking back, if the contract didn’t increase by almost ~500% in size, and still had to be constructed within the same project duration, we would have survived.

I had been guided into a situation of unbelievable circumstances. The financial risk, when invoices were not paid, were immense. After a period of almost 6 months, we were in a major (for our business, it was critical) business dispute. It was infuriating to say the least and on the most part i felt our client was unconscionable.

Just because we weren’t paid…. that doesn’t help anybody that you owe money to. They don’t care that you haven’t been paid (that isn’t their problem). It was my problem. I had to try and sort out how the hell I was going to pay my debts? how the hell will I avoid leaving behind a trail of destruction? how the hell will I save peoples jobs? how the hell am I going to maintain any sort of reputation? I am staring down the barrel of failure….

I was told these (famous) words: “sometimes you have to role up your sleeves and get on with it. It’s your problem, you have to fix it. You’re the only one that can make the calls, visit creditors and arrange yourself out of this situation. It is up to you.”

Business and the Black Dog

I took every step possible to make payments a reality. It was extremely hard. At its peak, I lobby’d Australia’s Minister for Industry just to get some sort of high level action. Looking back, I cannot believe that I was able to arrange a meeting from the highest level of Industry…..

Business is not easy. Life always has a funny way of making all the bad things happen simultaneously. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, so please pass on a word of comfort to every person that you know who may be feeling the effects of the ‘black dog’. Here are some helpful links.

The Black Dog Institute – ‘The new Black Dog Institute website has been designed to assist anyone seeking help or information about mental health and wellbeing.’

Beyond Blue – ‘Visit beyond blue For Information, Support and Treatment Options.’

Betterhelp – ‘100% Private Professional Counselling Anytime, Anywhere. Get Help & Get Happy!’


Written by Geoff Pike, Entrepreneur, Speaker & Business Mentor


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Geoff founded a sole trader plumbing business in a remotely located and vastly underpopulated location in outback Australia. Starting business with only enough money to pay 4 weeks wages, Geoff persisted by growing the business into a multi-disciplined trade services company. Over a period of 12 years, the company Geoff established grew to employ a workforce of over 300 personnel covering an area almost half the size of Europe, receiving international award recognition with an annual revenue of over $30mil. Geoff knows what it takes to overcome adversity.

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