Elixir MD Sue changed gears with her regular contribution to Risk Info magazine this month, and rather than provide assistance with handling the LIF, shared some powerful ways to manage the ‘noise’ in our heads.
As a business owner, we always hear that having a business plan is important but many don’t get around to doing one, and the very act of working through some of the challenges in their business can be quite stressful. A simple mindfulness practice can really help with our ‘noisy mind’ every day and is a secret weapon to use when business planning.

The old adage of taking time to work on the business and not in the business applies to financial advisers as much as any business professional. Yet taking the time to order your thoughts and set a plan is something that can be hard to come by or difficult to achieve in a busy practice, according to Elixir Consulting’s Sue Viskovic.
Sue writes that through the simple practice of ‘mindfulness’ advisers can reboot their brain to gain clarity and focus on the things that matter when setting a course for the new financial year.

Sooooo… a new financial year is upon us, and it’s time to think about your business plan. This next year will be one like no other, with the LIF kicking in from January and other elements of legislation impacting your clients and the advice you give them. Even if you were happy with your achievements in the past year, continuing your current routines without a fresh plan may not achieve the same results.

What projects will you work on this year? A new pricing model? An efficiency drive to streamline your processes? A new marketing plan to attract a different style of client? Are your staffing levels right?

“What makes business planning difficult is dedicating the time to stop your ‘business as usual’, to create a plan for your enhanced business.”

The formula to follow to create your plan is quite simple. After some honest navel-gazing to analyse where your business is at right now, you simply need a one page plan to identify where you want to be in 12 months time, and what are the projects you will implement to get there. Your definition of where you want to be should include financial targets (split between new business and renewal income), as well as qualitative aspects.

What makes business planning difficult is dedicating the time to stop your ‘business as usual’, to create a plan for your enhanced business. Great business plans take time and clarity of thought to process new ideas, approach challenges and work through the possibilities in front of you. Clarity of thought can be elusive if you’re caught up in mountains of client work, or suffering from stress.

There’s no doubt that there are a lot of compounding challenges and resulting stress facing risk advisers right now. Increased underwriting scrutiny is making it more and more difficult to get clients covered, negative media and the reluctance of clients to automatically embrace personal insurances as a must-have are all factors that are outside the advisers control. It’s a tough gig…and for those whose love for it still outweighs the downside, I have an important reminder. You can’t make the challenges go away, but you can change how you handle them. The reality is, the ONLY thing you have control over, is how you think about the challenges, and the actions you take to deal with them.

Are you feeling anxious (or still angry) about the LIF and every time you start thinking about how to handle it, your mind starts reeling and you end up feeling more stressed and unable to see a clear course of action? Or do you have great ideas for the future of your business but every time you get a moment to think about them your mind races and you end up with none of your ideas implemented?  They’re both sure signs that you could do with some mindfulness practice.

Over the past few years I’ve discovered mindfulness as one of the most powerful personal and business development techniques I’ve ever practiced. I liken it to the very technical strategy of shutting down and rebooting your computer to miraculously fix all manner of odd and distracting things it’s doing.  Mindfulness is a way to shut down and reboot your brain.

Mindfulness may seem like a spiritual / alternative practice to many, yet there is growing research and evidence to support the benefits it offers to the individual practicing it. If practiced regularly it has been proven to change the way that our brain responds to stress and enables us to increase resilience and coping strategies. Mindfulness is a tool that improves concentration and memory function, decision making abilities and enables us to better manage emotions, tap into our creativity and assist us to communicate with more clarity and conviction.

It’s little wonder that companies Iike Google, Apple and LinkedIn now have dedicated mindfulness programs where they encourage and pay for their staff to actually stop working and think of – well, nothing. They’re already seeing the results from a healthier and more effective workforce. The great news is, it’s a business strategy that’s not just limited to large corporates.

“mindfulness is about bringing your full attention the present reality of your business, the state of your business, employees’ and personal wellbeing and performance”

I find a lot of people who share my initial reservations, “I don’t think I could meditate, my mind never shuts down”. They’re often surprised to learn that they don’t actually need to sit cross-legged for hours on end on a mountain top in order to meditate. There are some great apps you can get on your phone that will talk you through a guided meditation. In as little as ten minutes, you can pop your headphones in and achieve that all-important shut down and reboot. (Check out Headspace or Mindfulness in the App Store as a good start.)

There are in fact, many ways to practice mindfulness. The application can be as simple as taking the time to create awareness and intention with your breathing, to developing meditation techniques and movement based practices.

From a business-planning perspective, mindfulness is about bringing your full attention the present reality of your business, the state of your business, employees’ and personal well being and performance. It is about critical consideration of the roles and functions of the business and strategically focusing and aligning intentional action to create improvement, motivation, productivity, happiness and ultimate well being of these entities.

Take the time to plan your year ahead, and don’t forget to include some intentional practices to take care of yourself! Experiencing the difference that mindful business planning could make to you and your business is about investing in you and your business. Some choose a solitary approach to mindfulness business planning and others prefer a facilitated and collaborative approach – choose which one is right for you.

If you’ve been thinking about finding someone independent that you can run ideas by, and you want to make sure that this new financial year is your best yet, reach out and chat with us here https://elixirconsulting.com.au/contact/

This article was first published in RiskInfo magazine in July 2017.

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