Mental Health and Business Success

Published on 10 October 2019

Elize Hattin and Anthony Hart sitting on a black couch

Mental health is of significant importance in everyone’s life, but perhaps none quite like the entrepreneur. With a dozen spinning plates to constantly balance, it can seem like stress is just a never ending, building thing. However, it doesn’t have to be. In a recent Hub Live, SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin sat down with Anthony Hart to get his perspective on running a successful business and keeping a healthy mind.

Anthony is a serial entrepreneur, starting his first business at 12 years old when he used to dive for golf balls and sell them back to golfers. Since then he’s been a dish washer, started his own wine promotion company, worked as a car importer in the UK before returning to Australia. “After leaving the UK, I suffered from depression and anxiety as I settled back into Adelaide. This transitioned me into getting very unwell and ended up making an attempt on my life, which was very confronting,” He said. This event started the wheels in motion for his current venture the ‘Lifeback Tracker’. However, prior to Lifeback Tracker launching, Anthony also spent nine years operating an 8 store PetStock franchise in South Australia with this Dad and brother.

Clearly with all his years of sales, marketing and business experience, Anthony is an incredible entrepreneur with a lot of advice to give. Referring to Elise’s diagram of business, he shared his knowledge and experience on each point.

Sales and Team

Anthony’s marketing philosophy is all about delivering very basic messages. “It’s all about the Keep It Simple, Simon approach, or KISS. It sounds obvious, but it’s so important. I’ll give you an example, in PetStock when we were selling pigs ears, rather than having writing on the billboard that was on the sides of the road, we replaced the words with a big dirty picture of a pig’s ear and then put “2 for 10” underneath it. Keep it simple, don’t overthink it,” Anthony explained.

Sales is Anthony’s forte, having started with selling golf balls at just 12 years old and continuing even to his current role. “I’ve always worked hard and had a drive for sales stuff, and I think that’s very important. If you can’t sell, there’s no revenue,” He said, “If I’m ever trying to sell something, I always get my network to actually look at what I’ve produced. So for example, if I’ve got a sales brochure on offer, I will always pass it around without giving them an explanation. I give it to someone and if they can’t get it in half a second, the offer’s too complicated.”

Setting targets is another key feature of Anthony’s sales strategy. “If you don’t set targets, you kind of drift. In my industries we’ve always used number of inquiries to number of quotes as a target. “If you got 100 people inquiring about your product, without having some type of system to differentiate those leads, you end up giving the same amount of time to each of those 100. If you pull out the top 15 or 20, and now spend more time on those prospects, you’ll find some A, B and C clients.” By focusing on the top 20% of prospects and leads, Anthony says you are more likely to get a sale.

Anthony also believes it’s vitally important to get back to people quickly, especially in the digital age. “I think especially in today’s world, if you get an inquiry for whatever you’re selling and the inquiries came in three, five, or seven days ago and you haven’t spoken to them, then you’ve lost the sale. I believe in getting back to prospects immediately. Even if you don’t have the time, at least acknowledge that their inquiry has been received and that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can. Those people are less likely to let you down when you come back to them in three or four-days time,” he said.

When it comes to delivery, Anthony finds that many businesses aren’t doing everything they should. “In every process, there’s pre-work to prepare to deliver the product or service, there’s the during-work, where you actually deliver the service, and there is post-work. Nine out of ten companies don’t do any post-work, meaning they don’t follow up on the delivery of the service or product. Pre, during and post work are all as important as each other,” He explained.

Cash is king in any business, and Anthony understands that importance very well. “I’ve gone from running a family business with my brother and my dad to running a startup. When the cash runs out, you can’t pay wages, you can’t deliver service, so cashflow is so important. Working out your budgets and what you think you can spend is really important.”

When it comes to building his team, Anthony makes sure he picks people who are experienced, even if it does cost him more. “There’s four people involved in this business,” He said, “There’s me, there’s a full-time business administrator, we’ve got two trainers and then we have a contract app developer and a marketing person. If I look at the three people that we’ve taken on, either permanently or as a contractor, they are very experienced in their space. You really get what you pay for, and if you try and cut corners and choose a cheaper app developer you might save $40 or $50 an hour on their fee, but the effectiveness of the product is less too,” He explained.

Direction and Leadership

Anthony’s startup Lifeback Tracker is a social-good, for-profit business which functions as an early intervention tool for people confronted by stress, anxiety or depression. Anthony created this app after a confronting experience with his own mental health 16 years ago when he attempted to take his own life. Anthony used a simple tracker system to help him get his life back on track and he has used this simple system to help others and to build the foundation for his business.

Lifeback Tracker started its journey back in 2003. At this time Anthony was sharing his story with hundreds of friends over coffee and he realised how much these conversations were starting to help them too. “I’ve got loads of mates, and after having a conversation with them about my situation, others felt comfortable in telling me their story too. It turned out that many of them were going through something similar and it was those first confronting conversations, that made me realise how many of them had remained silent for too long. This led me to build a product to support a problem that no one wanted to openly talk about.”

The Lifeback Tracker was built upon these conversations and the advice that Anthony would give his friends. At the time, Anthony would write his four simple steps on just a piece of paper, or on a napkin and offer it to his friends in order to help them.

From there, Anthony decided to use his stay in a rehab facility to create little diaries. He would get the nurses to help him staple these diaries together and he would then distribute them to those who needed them.

As the diary version of the Lifeback Tracker began to spread, Anthony was invited to present his concept to the South Australian Government’s Health Department. “They heard of this diary going around and they asked me to present my ideas to their digital start-up committee. It was terribly frightening, but I won 82% of their vote and therefore transferred the Lifeback Tracker from a book into a digital platform. Following that, I went on to win the South Australian Digital Startup of the Year in 2016. You can’t use books today if you’re going to really make an impact everywhere.”

How the Lifeback Tracker works

The Lifeback Tracker has four steps and gives the user the ability to track how they feel and how these four areas of their life are going every day. It then turns the user’s recorded data into a graph in order to see their behaviour patterns. It also makes it easier to recall moods. “When I was going to the GP or the psychiatrist in those early years, it was hard to remember how I felt a week and a half ago when things weren’t great, and I’d only tell them about how I felt that day. So, I’d forget what happened a week and a half ago,” Anthony explained. “That’s how the tracker started. Unfortunately, back then it wasn’t in a nice book format or an app. It was just a little scribble on a piece of paper. So, when my psychiatrist used to ask, “What happened last week?” And he’d turn the page over, look at it and say, “Okay, you had four nights there where you only had five hours of sleep.”

The four steps outlined in the tool are talking, exercise, sleep and reduce alcohol. “Talking is confiding in a friend, telling them exactly how bad you’re feeling, which is terribly frightening. Be brutally honest. Then go straight to your GP and be frank as to how you’re thinking, feeling and behaving without a preconceived idea of the outcome,” He explained. “It’s just four simple things and I did none of these things prior to what happened to me. In fact, I was doing the reverse. I was drinking to smother it and putting a mask up, I wasn’t exercising, I wasn’t doing any of it. You’d be tired, you’d be yawning all day, but you’d still struggle to get to sleep. When you cut out alcohol and you start to exercise, be honest and get enough sleep, you will start to confront stuff in your life a lot better.”

Startup and advice

The most important thing Anthony has found in the startup space was overcoming fear. “It’s incredibly scary when you take on that first job and you have a go, but you have to fail all the time. They call it flearning - fail learning - so don’t be afraid to try things, because when you try new things the market will naturally point you into the direction where you need to go,” He said.

Another thing Anthony placed importance on was being careful about whose opinion you listen to. “There’s huge opportunity in being open and honest with everyone, but don’t go to everyone for advice. Choose wisely when it comes to going to someone for guidance, because if you start asking opinions from everybody, then you’ll end up going around in circles,” He explained.

Creating a Future

One thing that was very important to Anthony when developing his app was ensuring the data was extremely secure and anonymous, with no identifying information tied to the users. “My passion with that is that this app has to be free for anyone, anywhere, anytime. If you’re stressed or anxious the last thing you want to do is reveal your credit card information, your mobile number or your email address,” He said. “It’s all about your privacy and it is built with good technology, so if you go out of range, it’ll sync back up when you’re in range.”

50% of people who lose their life to suicide never sought out help and Anthony is hopeful that the Lifeback Tracker will encourage people to take a step towards getting the help they need. “If we can encourage these people to get medical help, the chances of them getting seriously ill or losing their life drops right down,” he said.

The creation of the Lifeback Tracker app would not have been possible without Anthony’s knowledgeable team and the environment he’s been able to grow it in. “My knowledge of technology is zero, but I use the principle that ‘you get what you pay for’, so while our app developers are quite expensive; they are good and they are close by and I can see what we’re doing. These guys know my story and they know our business, so that also gives us an advantage, especially when it comes to getting the app tested locally. Our next goal is to scale globally into six or seven languages, and then the sky is the limit.”

If you or someone you know could benefit from the Lifeback Tracker, it can be downloaded for free from the App Store or from Google Play. The app is being improved constantly, with 13 new functions to be added soon. 

Also, if you’d like to learn more about the services on offer to help you grow your new app, then be sure to get in touch with the SmartHub via Facebook, by emailing or by visiting the SmartHub in Customs House at 208 Quay St, Rockhampton. 

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