Business 180 a lifeline for struggling business owners “in a dark place”

Warning: this article mentions suicide.

Haylee Wrenn has seen it all – from business owners who can’t understand why they are making a loss, to those who don’t realise they are making a profit. Some businesses are structured inefficiently, while others are too lean.

Every week she speaks with someone whose mental health is severely affected by their business position. In a worst-case situation, Wrenn has been called in to help a business in peril, only to find her client just lost his desperate business partner to suicide.

The award-winning accountant says seeing too many anxious, stressed and burnt-out clients giving up on their businesses during Covid made her decide she needed to be part of the solution, developing an affordable online programme called Business 180.

“Far too often, I’ve watched accountancy fail small businesses” the former IRD debt collector explains. “Doing tax returns is one thing, but nobody teaches you how to go into business and do it well, providing essential, practical information to help people really look after themselves. I couldn’t find anything else in the market to capture business owners when they’re in a dark place, especially in such challenging times.”

But Business 180 does. The programme delivers a helping hand to anyone needing financial management, work-life balance and mental health support tools.

Wrenn, who was crowned New Zealand Bookkeeper of the Year 2020 and won the NZ Bookkeeping Partner of the Year at the Xero Awards in 2021, launches her pioneering concept to the public this week, having trialled it through a pilot. Broken into separate modules, which can be undertaken online at business owners’ own pace, the Business 180 programme begins with ‘Is Your Business in Trouble?’

Haylee Wrenn

“It’s designed to assist businesses under immediate threat, covering topics such as assessing business health, company viability, as well as exploring exactly what happens when a business is liquidated or bankrupted,” says Wrenn. “Importantly, it outlines what mechanisms are in place to support people’s mental wellbeing. The content is innovative and interactive, provided through quizzes, self-assessment tools, case studies and interviews.”

The module also offers professional psychotherapy guidance around managing stress and encouraging business owners to prioritise themselves and their wellbeing. “Many of my clients struggle with mental health, which has a knock-on impact on their physical health such as high blood pressure,” says Wrenn.

“In the most severe and heart-breaking cases, I’ve seen stress-related suicide, while others have lost their livelihood due to stress-induced illnesses, impacting their children and eventually ending their marriage.

“While there are many factors that contribute to such a desperate scenario, I am committed to ensuring that business owners can receive mental health support. That is why Business 180 partners with a psychotherapist to deal with this important area. It’s about getting business owners back on track, rather than them reaching a stage where they feel desperate.”

Following the ‘Is Your Business in Trouble?’ module, subscribers can choose to move on to a range of other modules. ‘How to Business’ unpacks areas such as understanding financial accounting, payroll and holidays, tax and how it is worked out. ‘People, Productivity and Profit’ tackles topics such as resourcing, marketing, and measuring performance.

All modules also offer regular access to Haylee’s expertise and a closed Facebook group providing valuable peer support. And it’s already making an impact on entrepreneurs.

One client reaping the rewards of Business 180’s support is Katrina Harris, who owns The Doggy Farmstay, a kennel and doggy daycare business in Hawke’s Bay. Her business dropped away when borders closed.

“Haylee’s education through Business 180 has certainly turned my start-up business into a successful one, even as we hit Covid times,” she tells. “Undertaking the course has made a huge difference to how I operate my business. It’s very interactive, and Haylee speaks in normal and easy to understand language, making ‘accountanese’ simple! Haylee genuinely cares about her clients and does everything that she can to assist a business to grow.”

Each Business 180 module takes between three and five hours to work through, and there are various pricing options available, including the Business 180 bundle which includes all three starter modules for $1000.

“It’s the best investment business owners can make in themselves,” says Wrenn, “and after completing Business 180, they’ll recoup it so quickly. This really is what I’m passionate about and my life’s work – empowering small business owners through education and practical assistance.”

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