Episode 88 - Make an Invisible Issue Impossible to Ignore with Ed Ross from TradeMutt

December 02, 2022
Episode 88 - Make an Invisible Issue Impossible to Ignore with Ed Ross from TradeMutt

** Trigger warning ** This episode contains conversations about suicide, if you would like to speak to someone from TIACS you can get in contact on 0488 846 988 or visit their website at www.tiacs.org/

Aaron Kyle 0:00
Ed Ross from TradeMutt. Welcome to build hatch.

Ed Ross 0:02
Thanks for having me. Okay, it's pretty good to be here mate.

Aaron Kyle 0:04
Now, I love talking to people who are doing some amazing things and it's not too often that I get up to sunny Brisbane here and or breeze Vegas as you guys like to call it. So we'll hear about TradeMutt in a minute but first of all like to always go back to I guess history and find out a bit about them and so did you always grew up here in Queensland?

Ed Ross 0:25
I’m from central Queensland originally in long range chair so pretty close to the north a bit hard to be geographically centred Queensland but there is one bit yeah, up North fired sort of Malabar actually so grew up on a sheep and cattle station up there majority of my year early childhood and then went to boarding school and eventually down into breezy for high school.

Aaron Kyle 0:46
So that's the land of hot arses. Isn't it though? It's pretty hard, rugged, sort of hot ass country, isn't it?

Ed Ross 0:52
Yeah, yeah. Bloody. Yeah. All like mid showdowns open. Open Country and a bit of giddy timber. So no, it was a beautiful place to grow up somewhere that yeah, I really cherished and yeah, one that I don't get out too much these days. But we have one I do enjoy visiting every now and then.

Aaron Kyle 1:09
So, when you're at school, like what sort of kid were you at boarding school?

Ed Ross 1:13
I was I was always the one that was yeah, I couldn't really sit still for too long. Always finding myself in trouble of some way or another. But yeah, navigated my way through that and eventually sort of pulled my head in the last year or two school and started getting some decent grades. And then yeah, decided that union. Tertiary education really wasn't for me. So yeah, disappeared into the Northern Territory for a couple of years and sort of the start of my working life up there.

Aaron Kyle 1:37
So, what did you do up in Northern Territory?

Ed Ross 1:41
Worked on a really big cattle station up there. Probably just over 4 million acres it was. So, you worked there for a couple of years and then eventually went yeah, left the Stop camps there and went to a college down in Victoria did agribusiness for 12 months down there and then realise that yes, studying definitely wasn't for me. So, I turned around and went back out there and was back out, you know, running a crew of people with another bloke and got to a point where I was sort of sick of sleeping and swags every night and decided to move back to Brisbane and be closer to mates and then fell into a mature age carpentry apprenticeship. And that was sort of the year the beginning of the TradeMutt journey.

Aaron Kyle 2:14
Really, that's really interesting. 4 million acres. That's huge. So, what does that look like? Like in terms of people and machinery? Like that'd be a massive operation?

Ed Ross 2:24
Yeah, it's a huge setup. So, there was so there would have been 40 to 50 staff, including contractors and that on the on the station, sort of any one time, plenty of things going on helicopters, road trains, trucks, motorbikes, you know, hundreds of horses, yeah, Land Cruisers coming out the wazoo. So yeah, it's a pretty, pretty big operation. But you know, something that I learned a hell of a lot doing. And it was sort of, yeah, a lot of continuous hard work. I was looking back at a diary the other day mom and dad have just recently moved and I had a door in there that I kept in my second year, and yet it's 72 days straight there one stage of work. So it was, yeah, some definitely some good, good learnings I took out of that adventure.

Aaron Kyle 3:05
Yeah, I bet it would have been hard. Is it very much like work hard and play hard sort of thing?

Ed Ross 3:10
Yeah, it was,but it was sort of the thing was, you're working and living and eating and everything with the same people day in day out. So, I mean, you know, if you think about the people you work with every day, just imagine that you will go home to the same house every night, you have dinner together, you wake up and have breakfast together. And you do that literally for 12 months. It's yeah, can really put some strain on some people. And yes, a lot of lot of resilience sort of grown out of it. Yeah, it was an interesting, interesting time.

Aaron Kyle 3:38
So not as exciting as the Dutton ranch. No.

Ed Ross 3:44
Unfortunately, no train station.

Aaron Kyle 3:48
That's right. Yeah, that's funny. So, you went back to breezy and you started a mature age apprenticeship as a carpenter. So, what was that, like?

Ed Ross 3:58
It was something that was sort of never the plan. I wanted to come back and get into sort of Agri sales. But most of the jobs were sort of outside of Brisbane. And I really didn't want to move again, because it's sort of just moved close to be closer with mates. So, I was yeah, just doing some labouring to sort of keep the cash flowing in. And then I had a year sort of a strange turn of events were made, found out a bit of materials, carpentry apprenticeship that was going and he said, I should give him a call. And I did just to, you know, basically be able to keep my labouring job going and rocked up there and met Dan, who's my best mate and business partner now. And he was started working with the same builder on the same day. And by the end of the first week, they said they wanted to sign up for an apprenticeship. So, I thought, yeah, right. Oh, and yeah, that was it.

Aaron Kyle 4:40
The journey to TradeMutt I guess, give us some insight into TradeMutt.

Ed Ross 4:44
Yeah. So, it came about from this year long days on the tools in Brizzi. Dan and I being the two new blue blokes on the on-the-job site, you know, trying to figure out how we could eventually one day get off the tools even though I was sort of just getting on them and Dan was, you know, just sort of starting He's tried tradesman life. Like he'd finished his apprenticeship and was then doing some subbing and being a tradie. So, we were just figuring out what we could eventually go and do, there are a lot of different ideas that we came up with. And one of them was sort of work where and why hadn't anyone done anything in work, where it was all looking the same, it all had the same sort of look and feeling wasn't, you know, too different at all. So, we started to sort of investigate that. And then Dan lost one of his really close mates to suicide at the end of 2015, sort of randomly, and unexpectedly as, as most are, and that was sort of our first experience, you know, directly and indirectly with suicide, and we just realise that how bigger issue it actually was, that, you know, Dan, and I both privileged to be privately educated, but we've never been taught anything about, you know, mental health or stress or anxiety, or how to deal with it or, or anything like that. So, we started looking into why that was, and it was just there was such a lack of understanding around the topic. So, we really want to make some change in that space and make it more open, inviting for people to be talking about these issues. And we had the idea for work where and found out what social enterprise was and profit for purpose. So, we sort of rolled the two ideas together and launched TradeMutt in 15, march 2018.

Aaron Kyle 6:09
That's an incredible story. And for those that are listening this Do you have some sort of insight into some, some figures in construction around suicide in construction?

Ed Ross 6:19
Yeah, it's, it's funny, you asked, we actually, we've never really been focused on anything to do with sort of, like these suicides’ statistics, in construction, there's a lot of mental health charities in the construction space that work, you know, sort of off those numbers. But for us, we're really driven by outcomes. And that's people receiving support, sort of, through our charity, we're not sort of, we don't want to make it any more of an issue by trying to fear monger people into how bad the stats are, like, the stats are bad, but we're here to try and, you know, turn them around and get people to really put their hand up and seek that early intervention and start their mental health journey early and continue to sort of build on that personal development to ensure that we've got the resilience and the tools in the kit to sort of manage it when, you know, when things do turn sour, because you know, that, you know, everyone does have bad days and things happen, we've just got to be able to learn how to deal with them and know who to reach out to for more support when we need it,

Aaron Kyle 7:11
As well as construction also have an insight into the legal profession. And I mean, like you just said, you know, I'm sure if you broke it down into different industries, there'd be more statistics than in others. But one of the things that if I compare the workplaces, and this, I guess, has nothing to do with how one is feeling, whether it's, you know, in front or behind the scenes, but it can be a pleasant place in construction. As I say this, this monitor has anything to do with any statistics running like that, but, you know, it's probably one of the most positive aspects about our construction industry is the banter and on site, amongst each other. And, and yeah, it can be a fun, happy workplace at times.

Ed Ross 7:57
For sure. And I think it's just working off that sort of existing culture and setup that we do have in most situations, and just bringing in these, you know, heavier conversations, you know, if and when required, you know, what I mean, I think that, you know, I know, for one, there's, there's a lot of, you know, toxic, you know, construction sites out there, where, you know, people aren't willing to have these sorts of conversations, and you know, it's really that sort of, you know, top down hierarchy and, you know, the apprentices get the shit jobs, and they get treated like shit, and, you know, I got treated like shit as a trainee, so as an apprentice, or you should too, and you know, all that sort of old school mentality, whereas we really need to be, you know, lifting people up and bringing them along on the journey and really teaching people not just how to be a good trades person, but also you know, how to look after themselves mentally and physically. So, they've got to have a long career but a sustained and healthy life.

Aaron Kyle 8:50
For those that I guess that are listening and like, let's say you're going through a bit of a tough time, what's sort of like a typical way they could access your people or staff through TradeMutt?

Ed Ross 9:03
Yeah, so for us how it works is that you know, TradeMutt we fund one full time counsellor over at our charity TX which is a free texting call service to mental health counsellors Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm Staying Eastern Standard Time. So how it works, it's early intervention so if anyone's you know, seen a psychologist or a counsellor before you book in, you have a you have your first session, so to get a bit of a lay of the land, and then you sort of progress on from there with that same clinician, and basically, you know, build up, you know, level of tools or work through certain issues. So, you come out the other side feeling better than when you came in. And that's basically exactly what TIACS. It's just free counselling. So, you can reach out and get support for yourself or reach out about you know, someone you're concerned about and how you can support them further. And the best thing is that you're not repeating your story over and over again, you're booked in with that same clinician over the course of your journey, and then it's your text, text or phone call so easily accessible. And as I said, yes, it's free of charge. And yeah, always will be, which is, which is really cool.

Aaron Kyle 10:05
And this is all become available from your, you know, proud achievement with you and your best mate Dan, you've, you know, beginning TradeMutt, which was workwear brand that's been able to generate income and then return some income back into this charity to be able to give back and help the industry.

Ed Ross 10:21
Yeah, absolutely, the main thing we wanted to achieve was real change. And we couldn't do that until we had money. So for us to be able to get that we had to get something off the ground that people were sort of invited into and willing to be involved in, we're lucky enough that people jumped on us with TradeMutt ported us really well, that we're able to, you know, launch Tx and then go and get further funding from other industry leaders and large, large businesses in the building construction industry to further fund that. So, we've got 38, paid alliance partners, which helped fund tax we've got 14 counsellors over there now. And we've provided over two and a half million dollars’ worth of free private sector mental healthcare in just over two years, which is, which is pretty cool.

Aaron Kyle 10:59
Yeah, look, I absolutely love it. And, you know, one of the ways that we've been able to help, I guess, is to get you guys on board with Bill hatch.com, we're gonna list your work where range on there. So, if people listen to this, I want to be able to help keep the funding going. You know, it's just a matter of choice. Really, man, everyone needs work, where for the teams or businesses every year, everyone out there, they can make a difference by, you know, going on a build hatch.com They'll be able to buy your work where range that's able to allow that money to go back to you guys through profits, and then funding into that charity to fund that daily access for counselling services. That's a hell of an achievement.

Ed Ross 11:40
Yeah, thanks, mate. And I think that the big thing for us is just keeping the model really simple. Yeah, like with TradeMutt, it's 50% of our profits. So obviously, we're driven by, you know, good business practices, making sure that we are a profitable organisation and can make as much social impact as we can. And then with TX, it's $1 per change ratio. So, making sure that every dollar that's donated is really going into our clinical team, and that clinical support for the community. And we feel as though being driven by clinical outcomes and real change is what's, you know, you're going to continue to make a real difference in this space, and hopefully, really turn the tide on these statistics. And yeah, allow people to reach out and get that support.

Aaron Kyle 12:18
Tell us a little bit about your workwear range, TradeMutt.

Ed Ross 12:22
Yeah, well, it's, yeah, it's a fairly sort of wide and extensive range, we've got a range of hobbies and day only work wear and then full print work wear as well, short and long sleeves. You know, they're all designed to start conversations about mental health. And, as we say, make an invisible issue impossible to ignore. They've got some pretty cool, cool little things added onto them. Now we've got a QR code underneath the left breast pocket. So if you're having a conversation with someone, and it goes a bit further and they need support, or you do you can then scan that QR code and get straight through to the TX support service, and start chatting to accounts straightaway. It's also yeah, I've got this as a conversation starter emblazoned across the back of all those shirts. So if it wasn't already blindingly obvious, obvious, it's literally written on the back. And, yeah, it's just a cool way for people to sort of express themselves and wear something a bit different to the job site. And yeah, like we say, get those conversations started. And we've really, you know, hooked into that funky shirt Friday feel so people sort of, you know, where a lot of people were in a lot, you know, most days of the week, but we really encourage people to wear at least once, one day, a week on a Friday, start the conversation and, you know, have that mental health message, you know, continually in people's faces, so we can, yeah, make sure we know it's a very normal thing. And it's okay to reach out and get help.

Aaron Kyle 13:41
Yeah, definitely. I think, like you said, it's just about having that conversation. And particularly males and females are terrible at bottling things up inside. And, you know, some people can be absolute hard asses and get on with things, whereas other people can that can just be a front but behind the scenes, the, you know, the crumbling inside, said, What, what's it like in the call room? You know, if you've been in there and seen firsthand, someone's on the other end, and they've reached out, they're in a dark place. So, what's that? Like?

Ed Ross 14:09
Yeah, I mean, for us, we've got the support. So, it's over in Toowong now. So, we're not building any more, but you know, we hear stories, you know, often, Jason, our partnerships directory is often talking about, you know, overhearing our counsellors saying, you know, we'll book you in next Tuesday or whatever, at 10 o'clock. And then there's a bit of a pause, and then, you know, counsel will then say, oh, no, no, it's free. Like there's no cost. And obviously, the person on the other end of the line is getting to the point where it's like, feels as though we're trying to make a sale or we're trying to, you know, get them hooked into some sort of plan, you know, where they're, we're charging them for this service, but now it's free and ongoing. And, you know, we've got up to eight intense sessions for each individual through the course of their journey with us. And the reason it's not unlimited is because we're really driven by ensuring that from point A to point B, or taking that person from needing help to no longer needing us or if we're not able to improve their wellbeing to put them on to someone else that can otherwise, we're wasting our time and theirs by not being able to provide them, you know, real care. So I think that's a really cool and important thing that we stick by,

Aaron Kyle 15:17
is it more a case of like a general mental health issue amongst people? And or is there any, I guess, pressure to construction? Or do you think it's like, it's not specific like that there's no connection, it's just very broad and teach individuals sort of thing.

Ed Ross 15:35
Yeah, each individual's got their own story. But I think there's a, you know, a range of sort of contributing factors that are adding more and more stress to people. And what we see obviously, is men that are sort of struggling the most and aren't reaching out for that support. And mainly, it's due to finances and relationships. And then you know, you can draw correlations with those two things with the within personal lives. And then also in the workplace, you know, if business is bad at work, you know, you've got financial problems at work, you're bringing them home, you've got financial issues at home, you've got relationship issues with your, with your spouse, and your kids. And then they've got relationship issues, also back at work, and then you throw in there a feeling of isolation and the inability to reach out and talk to someone about those issues and gritting your teeth. And, you know, before you know it, people are just spiralling out of control. So, I think, a really big thing that, obviously, you know, Dan, and I do is we reach out and get help ourselves, you know, we see our own psychologists we see our own financial support people with TradeMutt and Antiox. You know, we don't have all the answers, no one out there does. But a lot of people can help find the answers. And I think that's the most important thing is realising that you don't know everything, and no one expects you to know everything, reaching out, putting your hand up. And seeking out people that can really help you is just incredibly beneficial. And we're just really trying to lead the way on that and allow people to, you know, sort of follow the lead a bit. Yeah, absolutely.

Aaron Kyle 17:03
And kudos to you guys for doing this. And, you know, I love the even just encouraging businesses who, you know, may not be able to wear that high vis attire or work wear like that during the week or week, you know, there's, there's initiatives like that funky Friday or funky shirt Friday, I think that's such a cool thing to do. Just on that, too, you know, if you could kind of stereotype like a construction business, the majority of them are small businesses where they have their family members involved, whether it's a wife, or husband or father, or son. So, there is a bit of emotion there. And when those pressures stack up, I also like to sort of encourage people like, you know, for example, if I've had a tradesperson in the past who's owed some money from a builder, now, that guy is in a world of pain, because you know, he might be down $25,000. And that's the only job he's been on for the last couple of weeks. So that guy as well as access to counselling and mental health initiatives, such as talking to TradeMutt crew, they also need perhaps some other assistance, like, does anyone you know, are there any builders out there who need a plasterer at short notice for a short-term job to help him along as well. reaching out and making an inquiry is the first step Yeah, that's what I love about what you guys are doing, you know, reach out have a conversation with someone and your guys if they can't help after number of sessions, find someone who can?

Ed Ross 18:26
Absolutely yeah, for sure. I think that's what we want to continue to sort of advocate for is you know, where we're happy to be sort of the middleman and find that right person for you know, people reach out to us you know, with financial pressures all the time and we're able to then you know, triage them onto the right people and get that support that they need so absolutely putting enough is the is the first step for sure.

Aaron Kyle 18:48
So what about outside of work Edward? What do you like to do when you're not busy running the TradeMutt crew?

Ed Ross 18:54
I’m a big rugby league fan. So looking forward to you know, South's getting back on the paddock and a few weeks that should be good mate. Apart from that, it's, yeah, just call the time with, with family and friends. Really, there's not a great, great deal other things that we're really into at the minute which is, which is good. It's just been a lot of work and travel and, yeah, time with time with family.

Aaron Kyle 19:15
You know, what's the general feel of the construction market up here in Brisbane at the moment,

Ed Ross 19:21
mate? It's, I think it's starting to sort of, you know, cool off a little bit. I know a lot of people that are booked right up but aren't getting as many inquiries sort of as they as they were. It's sort of hard to get a feel for anything at the moment get so many conflicting different articles in the news and stuff like that. Yeah, it's hard to really, really say I just think that the biggest thing is, is shortage of tradespeople. You know, everyone I know that's got a building or trade related businesses is crying out for people that just cannot get anyone. I think that anyone that wants to stay in, you know, in the construction and building game and, you know, is willing to create a good business and Work hard, I think, yeah, they're gonna be rewarded in the long run by the shortage of, you know, other people out there willing to do that job.

Aaron Kyle 20:07
Yeah, I totally agree I think the leaders will continue to lead and people have great businesses and great work ethic they'll continue to be busy and usually during these change of trading conditions or environments that sort of sorts out the leaders from the rest so you know, there's lots of exciting things going on and I'm always talking to people and you know, even pockets you know, the Sunshine Coast and Surfers Paradise and all those cool areas, you know, such a, I mean, the state of Queensland such a huge area and the surrounding different cool areas, isn't it? I mean, like you said, you know, just even on the other working in Northern Territory 4 million acres you know, massive

Ed Ross 20:47
Yeah, absolutely. And it's the same thing out there it's hard to get yeah any people out there I was even just talking to someone on the weekend to had a house built just ask which is you know, why we're no damn not far at all at a Brisbane they couldn't get a builder to come out and then build the house from scratch out there because there was just no access to you know, plasters or anyone to come and actually finish the jobs they had to get a like a premade thing built in town and then shipped out and put on stamps which is just crazy to think that you know, you can't even get a you know, a house built on site in a place like ask now which is which is crazy. Yeah,

Aaron Kyle 21:24
it is definitely crazy times now. Like I said people listening this who want to help will be listing the TradeMutt workwear range on the marketplace to be able to help drive revenue back to back to you guys people are listening to this who do want to reach out directly or access those services. What's the best way to go about it?

Ed Ross 21:46
Yeah, so anyone that's listening that wants to reach out to Tx and in chat to one of the team members there. You can Yeah, Monday to Friday 8am to 10pm Australian Eastern Standard Time on oh four triple 8469 double EIGHT or check out the website www.tx t acs.org.

Aaron Kyle 22:03
All right, well, Ed from TradeMutt I really appreciate you coming on and build hatch. You guys are doing some wonderful things. You've also got a podcast as well and encourage people like I said to make an extra decision and buy some cool workwear ranges from you guys.

Ed Ross 22:18
Thanks so much. I really appreciate it man. Cheers.