Date posted: 05/11/2021

Learning how to have difficult conversations

Growing up in rural Tasmania, Naomi Norman CA empathises when her clients face hardship. The Counting on U program gave her more skills to have difficult conversations.

In brief

  • Rural businesses face many challenges that can lead to financial and personal stress for owners
  • The Counting on U program gave Naomi Norman CA tools to better advise her clients
  • Skills she learned in the program mean she can also make a difference to colleagues, friends and family

Naomi Norman CA works as a manager at WLF Accounting and Advisory based in Hobart, Tasmania, where many of her clients are small to medium-sized businesses involved in crops, cattle and sheep. Tradespeople are a sizeable group too. 

With her own rural background, growing up on a farm with dogs, cats, cattle and horses, as well as being part of a close-knit community, Norman relates to the personal and financial struggles many of her clients go through.

“As enjoyable as it is living in the country, it can also be a very hard environment,” she says. “Sometimes you have a bumper crop and then you can have a really bad crop. It can affect your cash flow and budgeting to the point where it can get a bit too much.”

As well as the normal ups and downs of running a property, her clients also occasionally face natural disasters, such as floods, bushfires and drought, which they can’t plan for. “It can be very devastating,” Norman  says.

‘“Now I can see the signs when a person needs support, how to be there for them and just generally ask if they’re okay and see what assistance we can provide.”

“Discussing how their business is performing can lead to difficult conversations about how they are actually coping themselves. I once had a client say ‘maybe the world would be a better place without me’.” 

Norman recently completed the Chartered Accountants ANZ’s mental health first aid program Counting on U which gave her a lot of insights into how to better advise clients. 

“In uni you learn about the financial aspects of being an accountant, but the Counting on U program was the missing link,” she says. “When you develop a good relationship with a client, you can tell if they’re not 100% and the program gives us tools in our toolbox, to look for signs, identify them and learn how to approach the conversation.” 

Norman enjoyed the online format of the Counting on U program because she got to interact with other CAs from all over Australia. Her group role played and ran through different scenarios, discussing what tools they needed if they were ever in those situations. 

“After taking part in the Counting on U program I feel that I can make a difference to my clients and also my colleagues, as well as family and friends,” Norman says. “Now I can see the signs when a person needs support, how to be there for them and just generally ask if they’re okay and see what assistance we can provide.”

Naomi Norman CA can relate to her rural clients because she grew up on a property herself. CA ANZ’s Counting on U equips CAs like Naomi to know how to offer mental health support when times are tough.

To register for the next Counting on U cohort, please click here. If you don’t already have a training ID, please contact the CA Wellbeing Team on [email protected]