small business insurance
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How to Chill Out!

Stress is an ever-present worry for the small business owner, but a variety of simple techniques can help you get on top of it and refresh your mind. The simplest thing is something many entrepreneurs find the hardest – to sever the communication link with work.

Sometimes it seems that part and parcel of being an entrepreneur is having more than a passing acquaintance with stress.

That passion and control of your own destiny, the things that made you want to be in business for yourself, have been replaced by financial stress, professional isolation, long hours and poor work-life balance.

Small business owners are prone to stress
The inaugural Officeworks Small Business Wellbeing Index1, compiled in 2015, found that Australian small business owners were under immense pressure and risking their well-being, with almost half (45%) claiming their stress levels had increased in the past 12 months, and a quarter feeling “burnt out.”

The Index, based on research of more than 1,000 small business owners nationwide, revealed that 40% were struggling with trying to juggle everything themselves, and a further 22% were experiencing loneliness and isolation.

Despite these significant issues, only a quarter of business owners were seeking support for stress, while a slightly higher percentage (29%) said they were seeking help for the business issues causing their stress.

They are alarming figures – but something can be done.

The importance of downtime
The first thing is to “switch off” says executive coach and International Coach Federation (ICF) master coach, Belinda MacInnes, of Belinda M Master Coach. And that is not just a saying – she means it literally.

“The main thing is to get away from your technology – get offline, turn your phone off, don’t look at your computer or your tablet. Disconnect yourself.
The main thing is to get away from your technology – get offline, turn your phone off, don’t look at your computer or your tablet. Disconnect yourself.
When you say that to an entrepreneur, it nearly kills them. They say, ‘I can’t, what if I miss this call, that call.’ When they say they can’t leave their technology, they’ve simply lost objectivity; they’re getting burned out,” she says.

MacInnes says an executive coach will negotiate: “What about half a day, what about two hours? Afterward, you ask them if they noticed what it was like not being online or connected. Once they do it and experience that relief, often they are able to think more clearly – and you can get them to do it again.”

Relaxing Apps
The quickest and simplest way to start exploring mindfulness is through an app for your smartphone; whether you’re just starting out or experienced in meditation, these apps can help you learn to relax effectively. Good examples are: The Mindfulness App, the ideal beginners’ approach; Headspace, which suits those wanting to explore mindfulness independently; and Smiling Mind, a great Australian alternative that began with a focus on school children, but is now focusing on their parents, too.

Whatever the business owner chooses to do in their technology-free time is up to them, she says – as long as they’re not connected to the outside world. “Ideally, it would be to do nothing, but usually that doesn’t even compute. To switch off, a lot of the entrepreneurs I work with will sleep, or possibly binge-watch a box set of a TV program – but at least they’re not in contact with work. It could be watch a movie, get out in the garden, go for a walk, play with their kids or the dog – it’s really anything. We’re just trying to demonstrate to them that if they miss the phone call, or the text, or the email, that the world still turns and their business still goes on,” says MacInnes.
We’re just trying to demonstrate to them that if they miss the phone call, or the text, or the email, that the world still turns and their business still goes on.

Topically, she says the analogy she uses is of Olympic athletes. “They’re not high-performing all the time, they have times when they peak, times when they rest and do nothing, and times when they’re building up their training. Most entrepreneurs have to be told and convinced and cajoled into switching off – that it works and brings them a benefit. If they can do it, they generally respond,” she says.

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The Gym for the Mind
Beyond simply switching off is mindfulness training, which is all about focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness trainer, Gillian Coutts, Australian director at consultancy The Potential Project, says basic mindfulness techniques can be very helpful in combating stress.

Taking mindfulness further
There is a wide range of online courses that can extend your interest in mindfulness as far as you would like to take it. Check out: Future Learn, a great online 6-week program offered by Monash University;, which has an enormous range of self-paced programs available to download from leading experts around the world; and Potential Project, leading face-to-face programs designed to transform the workplace.

“Just focusing on taking deeper, longer breaths, for example – doing that for ten minutes – that sounds pretty trite, but we say it’s like going to the gym for the mind. The three core skills you’re developing are to hold something in focus, without distraction; second, to notice when your mind wanders; the third is the ability to let go – that moment when you notice that your mind wanders and you deliberately bring your attention back to your breathing.”

The three core skills you’re developing are to hold something in focus, without distraction; second, to notice when your mind wanders; the third is the ability to let go.

Those are the three metaphorical mental ‘muscles’ that you work on in the gym of the mind. And that third muscle is incredibly powerful at 3AM when you’ve woken up with something on your mind, that thought you can’t get rid of: you can literally train your brain to think, ‘I won’t focus on that, I choose to focus on something else,” says Coutts.

Taking a mindfulness retreat
Those who really want to switch off thoroughly, and learn to recharge the mind and meditate, may be interested in a mindfulness retreat. In this category, there is everything from hardcore silent retreats to more relaxed “mind clearing” style versions. Plug ‘mindfulness retreats’ into Google and see the wide range of options open up for you!

Building your own successful business was not meant to be easy; otherwise, everyone would do it. Nor does it have to result in crippling stress, with all of its possible mental and physical consequences. Learning to recognise when you’re stressed, and how to redress that, is a crucial business skill. Whether it’s learning to switch off, delegating, finding professional support through your accountant, insurance broker or other business adviser or talking to other small business people about common issues – help is never really far away.

Article reproduced from Steadfast “Well Covered” Magazine.

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IOT and Insurance – the Internet of Things

When British Technology Pioneer Kevin Ashton first uttered the words “internet of things”, he perhaps didn’t realise he was giving name to the next phase of the digital revolution.

Had he known, he might have had another go at it. But whatever he lacked in linguistic flair, he more than made up for in foresight, and his somewhat inelegant phrase has stuck.

In 1999 – when mobile phones were the preserve of a flashy few and loading a web page was often a task best completed either side of a tea break – Mr Ashton predicted a world in which sensors and computer networks would allow a constant capture and communication of data between everyday items, from cars to carpets.  It is a world in which, to some extent, we already live.

Chances are the phone in your pocket is (or at least is capable of) sharing data with any number of other electronic objects, from home entertainment systems to printers and building security devices.  But so far, we have only scratched the surface.

A recent report on the Internet of Things (IoT) from global insurer AIG says a decade ago there were about 500 million devices connected to the internet.  There are now 10-20 billion, and in five years the figure is predicted to reach 40-50 billion.

It seems the only limit to IoT connectivity is our imagination.

But it’s not all good news. Swiss Re’s latest Sonar report on emerging risks rate IoT as “higher-impact”.  Security is a particular concern.  The AIG report suggests hackers and cyber criminals are licking their lips in anticipation of the potential lucre heading their way. “Every object that connects with the internet is another entry point through which the cyber criminals can enter a business’ enterprise system,” it says.

Aon Client Manager and Cyber Risks Practice Leader Eric Lowenstein expects to be increasingly busy placing cyber insurance.  “We’ve seen some interesting stories recently,” he tells Insurance News. “A Jeep was remotely hacked into while someone was driving it. We’ve also seen how a security researcher managed to hack into the GPS system of rifle and change the firing direction, so absolutely from a cyber-security perspective it creates a huge risk.”

Swiss Re says IoT has “significant potential to challenge entire lines of insurance business.”

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IoT is already making an impact on motor insurance through in-vehicle telematics, whereby sensors record real-time data on speeds, braking pressures, fuel use, location and a host of other measurements.  The data can be viewed online by individuals or fleet owners, to inform future driving behaviour. And insurers can use it too.

“They’re using it to offer discounts for good behaviour, or charge [higher premiums] for bad driving,” Mr Lowenstein says.  In Australia, offerings such as the QBE-owned Insurance Box provide telematics-based policies for private motorists, while Zurich is among the pioneers in the commercial field, with its Fleet Intelligence product.

IoT will also take over our homes, Mr Lowenstein says.  “Everything from smoke alarms to air conditioning and automatic home security systems… You’re starting to see how this technology – and the use of smartphones with this technology – allows people to really inexpensively acquire and manage processes.

“If you think about the power of what that can do… in terms of an insurer being able to mitigate, control and understand what’s happening from a security and safety perspective, that obviously has some huge benefits.”  He gives the example of a smoke alarm that not only alerts the homeowner but calls the fire brigade and notifies the home and contents insurer.

In a recent blog post on IoT, Nigel Walsh, Vice-President and Head of UK Insurance at global consultant Capgemini, says people too are becoming connected.  “The latest in wearable [devices] allow companies such as Vitality Health Insurance [in the UK] to encourage and reward healthy behaviour, reducing your premium for the more active and healthy you are.”

Ultimately, the benefit to insurers equates to one thing: information.

Swiss Re says IoT will become “the true foundry” of Big Data.  “There will be many more ways to avoid losses, while risk assessment can be improved thanks to the availability of additional data,” Swiss Re’s Sonar report says. “This could make the physical world safer, reducing the need for risk management and risk transfer.” Handling the surge of IoT-generated data may prove the difference between success and failure for insurers.

As Swiss Re warns, the sharks are circling.  “If there’s no one driving the car, what insurance policy is responding? How do you insure a car that doesn’t have a driver?”
“Other players such as large technology companies may consider entering the insurance market to capitalise on their enormous amount of data.”

In his blog post, Mr Walsh says insurers are “now really competing on data, nothing more. We never produced any products anyway, now it’s even more transparent.”  He says insurers must “make sure you know your data, can process it efficiently and effectively, understand it and, most importantly, use it”.  “How we use this to enrich our world will be key. Don’t drown – the volume is about to explode.”

Swiss Re flags further threats from the flood of data.  “There may… be legal and compliance risks because new legislation and regulation on data use and privacy could come into force in many jurisdictions, witl1 the risk of little co-ordination and standardisation across countries.”

IoT also presents an existential threat to some insurance lines – threatening to eliminate or significantly reduce risk, or to shift liability.

In motoring, telematics is a start, but the great leap forward will be the driverless car.
Google’s version has hit the streets of America for tests – and has already been involved in its first bumps.  Nissan has announced plans to sell driverless cars by 2019 and Ford expects to sell its first by 2020.  In November Adelaide will host the first driverless car trials on Australian roads.

The insurance industry, not surprisingly, is watching developments closely.  In July Munich Re America announced a partnership with robotics company Comet to research autonomous vehicles, with the aim of understanding their risks and how to cover them.

Munich Re Senior Vice-President Strategic Innovation Leader Mike Scrudato says the transition to autonomous vehicles will add complexity to underwriting and liability.  As Mr Lowenstein notes: “If there’s no one driving the car, what insurance policy is responding? How do you insure a car that doesn’t have a driver?”

AIG suggests liability will become a point of debate as the lines become blurred “on who is responsible for what data”.  “An IoT heart monitor won’t just monitor a patient’s heart looking for warning signs of an impending heart attack,” its report says. “It might also access data from another object that tracks the patient’s fit­ ness routine, which in turn takes data from a device that monitors food intake.  “If the patient has a heart attack, who’s responsible?”