Emma Louise Piggott, founder of ELP Barbershop, took up therapeutic coaching sessions and now calls on the new tools learned to remain resilient as a small business owner. Find out Emma’s top tips for better mental health and why she’d recommend therapeutic coaching to all business leaders.

Keeping your mind strong can help keep your business strong, but with recent Mental Health UK research showing that over half of small business owners feel stressed several times a month or more, it’s easier said than done.

To help, Lloyds Bank, in partnership with Mental Health UK are offering free therapeutic coaching sessions. This innovative hybrid of counselling and coaching is an effective way to assist small business owners, just like Emma Louise Piggott, to build mental resilience whilst supporting their mental health.

Inside an empty barber's shop

Emma founded ELP Barbershop, in London’s Covent Garden back in 2013 to modernise the male grooming industry. Priding herself on the diversity of the team and their clients, Emma and ELP bring traditional barbering techniques to a modern, relaxed space where everyone is welcome.

Whilst she was getting ELP Barbershop off the ground, Emma operated as a concession within another business. Although she had always dreamed of a standalone business, the concession model worked well to establish the barbershop and build a client base. Three years in and circumstances changed, meaning the time had come for Emma to set up on her own. Finding her second location in Islington was the springboard to where she and the business are now.

ELP Logo

“You are not the business and the business is not you. You’re two separate entities. There’s no respite otherwise.

In reality, you won’t just work nine-to-five, but everyone can carve out one hour a week just for you.”

Emma Louise Piggott – Owner, ELP

ELP Logo

“You are not the business and the business is not you. You’re two separate entities. There’s no respite otherwise.

In reality, you won’t just work nine-to-five, but everyone can carve out one hour a week just for you.”

Emma Louise Piggott – Owner, ELP

Controlling the controllables

As well as building a thriving business, Emma had to build up her mental resilience in order to go it alone. This new-found strength proved essential at the beginning of 2020 when Covid hit. “It was a disaster!” laughs Emma. “But it was also a really good exercise in ‘controlling the controllables’ and not worrying about anything else.”

Emma believes that being a resilient business leader sets the example for the rest of the team.

“When you are responsible for others, sitting and worrying about it does nothing. Nobody should prioritise work over their mental health.”

Emma focuses on the options she does have when managing a business through challenging times. This has come into play again in recent months with the rising cost of living, which has had a huge knock-on effect for businesses, including ELP Barbershop. “We’re seeing it a lot with our customers,” Emma explains. “People are making different decisions, holding back where they can, to save money.

While I may be worried about the rising cost of living affecting my business, I also need to think about my customers. Increasing my prices would help me but it might alienate people and mean less business.”
 

Hair products and tools used in a barbers shop

Positive thinking

Faced with even more business uncertainty, Emma was surprised to discover she could access therapeutic coaching through Lloyds Bank.

"I've been a customer for ten years and the experience has always been positive. The therapeutic coaching initiative is a fantastic idea – so progressive and responsible."

Although already a resilient small business owner, Emma was interested in finding ways to manage emotions more effectively. Sessions with her coach began with a look at procrastination which Emma learned was actually a product of being overwhelmed. “It’s your brain giving you a break,” says Emma, who now understands what happens to your body when you’re anxious.

“My coach put it in a really tangible way, ‘Don’t be mean to yourself, your nervous system will hate it’, which I’ve been telling everyone since. If you can understand things better, then you can do everything better. It’s education. Imagine if all business owners had this!”

Time well spent

After such a positive experience, Emma is now a firm believer in therapeutic coaching and would recommend other small business owners take up sessions. “It has definitely given me tools that I will remember forever,” she says.

The learning has trickled down to everyone in her business, too. “When I learn something that’s really beneficial then I will tell everyone so there’s a huge overall impact. From just a couple of hours spent with a coach, this is amazing.”

Finally, when asked what advice Emma would share with other business owners, her number one tip is to create boundaries: “A lot of business owners find it hard to have ownership over their own time,” she says. “But you are not the business and the business is not you. You’re two separate entities. There’s no respite otherwise. In reality, you won’t just work nine-to-five, but everyone can carve out one hour a week just for you.” 

She’s also an advocate for planning. “If you don’t have a plan, you feel constantly lost. At the moment, it’s not even about profit, it's just about getting from one month to the next,” Emma acknowledges. “But just because it’s not a grand, exciting plan, doesn't mean it’s not important. Sit down and map everything out in a way that works for you. Not everyone is comfortable with spreadsheets so it can be post-it notes or exercise books.” 

Since her sessions, Emma now puts her new knowledge into practice and suggests being kind to yourself and giving yourself a bit of slack. “Don’t beat yourself up because it’s not good for your nervous system!”

Build mental resilience

For more support and guidance to help you improve your mental health and build resilience, check-out our information hub developed with Mental Health UK.

Visit our hub