BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What’s your story? #8: Susan Toole

What's your story?
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Susan TooleWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

Admin / Bookkeeper for Balance at Work Pty Ltd and Corptraining. HR Coordinator for Thorndale Foundation Limited.

For my admin / bookkeeping roles, I try and balance the numbers and provide ‘behind the scenes’ support for two small businesses. I started with Susan at Balance at Work almost six years ago. The role has allowed me to venture back into the workforce on a part-time basis, whilst my children were still young. Susan introduced me to Nikki Heald at Corptraining three years later, where I do very similar work. Both these employers allow me the flexibility to juggle their needs along with the needs of three young children and a husband, which is most important to me!

While I continue to work for Susan and Nikki, I started with the Thorndale Foundation just over six months ago in quite a different position as their HR Coordinator.  Thorndale provides support services to (primarily) adults with disabilities in the forms of residential housing, day programs and our Australian Disability Enterprise which gives them the opportunity for employment. There is a lot of paperwork involved, and an understanding of budgets/accounting has served me well so far!

I’m very fortunate that I really like the people I work for so going to work is never a chore!

What other activities are you involved in?

Currently, I am Treasurer (previously registrar) for St Finbar’s Netball Club, Glenbrook and I also volunteer for Combined Districts Kart Club – as Lap Scorer/Timing Official, Event Assistant and Canteen Helper.

Previously I have also been the Secretary, Treasurer and President of our local preschool when my children attended. It was while I was President that the preschool’s Director resigned and it was the committee’s responsibility to find a replacement.  After managing the process to the interview stage, I asked Susan to join our interview panel as our HR expert. During the project, she recognised my capabilities and not long afterwards, asked me to assist her at Balance at Work.

My volunteer work with the go-kart club also led to my employment at Thorndale. As some of my volunteering had been in an administrative capacity, I was able to demonstrate my potential as an HR Coordinator to the President of the go-kart club, who is also the CEO of Thorndale.  For me, it’s definitely been a case of “who you know” as a flow-on effect of volunteering.

Is that what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

To be honest, I never really knew what career I wanted when I was at school. I never felt a passion for anything that would drive me down a certain career path.  I was good at Maths and English so felt that I could take those skills with me anywhere, primarily in an office environment.  After I completed Year 12 in NSW, I moved with my parents to Queensland where they enrolled me in a Business College to give me more practical skills for an office, such as touch typing and shorthand.

I did start a Bachelor of Commerce as a mature-age student in Qld, but personal circumstances required me to relocated back to NSW so I didn’t finish that degree. Interestingly enough, my majors were in Human Resources and Industrial Relations which are so relevant to my position at Thorndale.

What was your first job?

My first paid job was on a Saturday morning at a local petrol station from the age of 14. I had the 7.00am to 12.00pm shift which then allowed me to head off to the netball courts for a game at 1pm. Whilst I occasionally filled up someone’s car with petrol and checked their oil, I was mainly behind the register. After my shift, I had to balance my cash register totals before I could leave. If I was out of balance, it meant a longer time there to re-check my figures so if I wasn’t spot on, I was late for the game!

My first full-time position was as a Junior Secretary in Brisbane for an Insurance Broker. It took me two trains and a car trip (and a fair chunk of my pay!) to get to work, but I had a truly lovely boss who I enjoyed working for so it was worth it until I could move closer to work.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

No doubt having children! My husband and I made the decision that I would be a ‘stay at home Mum’ to raise our children, which I was quite happy with for about ten years.  However, once they grew out of the baby stage and developed some independence, I knew I wanted to return to the workforce on a part-time basis and develop some of my own independence.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Like a previous career story, I also admire Richard Branson.  His quote “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of the employees, they will take care of the clients” is something so many employers still need to learn.

My friends and family also know I am a Disney freak, so my other choice would be Walt Disney.  My favourite Disney quotes are very simple:  “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” and “Keep moving forward”.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

If money was not an obstacle and my husband agreed, I would love to have my own animal shelter for both cats and dogs (or any animal that had been mistreated or was at risk).  We have our own little menagerie at home – one dog, three cats, two chickens and a budgie – who all bring a sense of peace and happiness to our household.  They are all well looked after and very spoilt. I would love to bring a sense of that to other less fortunate animals.

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"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead, employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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