As a small accountancy owner, dealing with uncertainty in business is a way of life. You have the uncertainty as a business owner - e.g. how is the recession going to impact my business? - but you also have uncertainty as an accountant. For example, what adjustments will the next chancellor make to the tax system and how will this impact your clients? This incessant flip-flopping of tax policy has meant that dealing with uncertainty in business - possibly even more than in the pandemic years - has become an ever-present element of a tax professional's life.
Since it feels like uncertainty is just a part of the status quo now (if the last 6 months are anything to go by), we thought it was important to address how to deal with it as best as possible.
Why is uncertainty so tricky?
Uncertainty can cause us to feel anxious, stressed, scared, and sceptical, among other things, but the real issue with uncertainty is that it puts our brain into a 'danger state.' What we mean by this is, our brains go into protective mode as it perceives this uncertainty as a threat. And as a result, it becomes hyper-focused on that threat, making it very hard to concentrate on anything else.
Focusing on these negative feelings only worsen this state, but it's also very difficult to ignore them, especially for accountants and tax professionals. For example, the every-changing tax adjustments. If the changes to the tax policies aren't yet certain, how are you supposed to answer questions from your clients? How are you supposed to provide the right tax planning advice that your clients depend on you for?
Uncertainty is one thing, but when you have clients who look to you for essential advice and support, anxiety and stress can feel crippling.
Accept what you cannot control
Whatever you call the Conservative administration, it is unlikely to change their tax policy thinking significantly. A rant may help you get some of your frustrations out, but it will waste your time and energy in the end.
Acceptance practice is an excellent method to save energy for things you can't control. After all, rejecting or being enraged by the current political unrest will not help you learn, grow, or feel better. In fact, being emotionally engaged or rejecting something you can't control exacerbates the situation. Why? Because it magnifies the difficult feelings you are likely to be experiencing, when what you oppose only persists in the end.
When you practise acceptance, you come to terms with what is going on around you. Of course, practising acceptance does not remove your feelings of irritation, anxiety, or despair. What it does is assist you in recognising and accepting where you are right now. This permits your brain's emotions to be reduced.
Here are some things you can do to help you become more accepting of uncertainty:
Recognise your uncertainty triggers
In the United Kingdom, the government frequently tinkers with the tax system twice a year, so you'd think we'd be accustomed to hearing about tax adjustments by now. While this might be true to an extent, the last year or two has been full of uncertainty and changes, so what is different this time?
Everyone is unique. What triggers negative emotions to arise in the face of uncertainty for you is likely to be different from what triggers it for others. This is because much of the uncertainty is created by oneself. If you´re experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety that won't dissipate, think about what is exacerbating it:
- Are you spending too much time watching the media or scrolling on social media? They often exaggerate worst-case scenarios which doesn't help.
- Are you surrounded by friends or coworkers who worry and focus on the negatives? This could be impacting your ability to reduce your own stress.
Remember when everyone assumed we were all doomed at the onset of the pandemic? How much of that gloom was truly realised? As an accountancy firm owner, when you understand what triggers you and even your employees when it comes to uncertainty, you can take actions to prevent or reduce the impact of them.
Recognise when you have a desire for assurance
Most accountancy firm owners have a tried-and-true pattern for dealing with anxiety or fear. Worrying about the 'what ifs,' a sinking sensation in your stomach, a tension headache, retreating from the world, or anything else. When you see yourself entering this condition, utilise it as a cue to reach out to others for the comfort or certainty you require.
Concentrate on what you can control
Uncertainty frequently makes us feel helpless, which is why dealing with uncertainty in business is crucial. Changing your focus to things you can control or influence can make you feel a lot better, and it will trigger that virtuous cycle instead.
Restart communication with your clients
Your email inbox may or may not be overburdened with client inquiries. However, the fact is that your clients will have a variety of queries about what they should be doing in terms of taxes. In these instances, you should begin talking with your clients again, even if your messages are 'we don't know right now.' This message will reassure your clients that you will reach out as soon as you do have the answers and, as a result, the number of emails and phone calls you receive should decrease.
Consider dealing with uncertainty in business as an excellent chance to contact clients
Never throw away a good crisis. Many companies garnered a lot of goodwill in the early days of the pandemic by staying in touch with their client base on a regular basis. While there may not be as much consistency in what your clients want to know, they will be delighted to hear from you. So, make use of this opportunity to call your client base and see how they are and how you can help.
With this easy step, you'll be astonished at how much work you'll gain in the short and long run. Many clients may have been putting off tax preparation work, and the present uncertainty may be just what they need to push the start button.
Self-care is essential
Given the amount of work you're likely to have on your desk, there's never been a better time to invest in your self-care. With so much to do, it may seem counterproductive to prioritise not working, but when you allow yourself to become exhausted, everything appears to be more difficult and it takes much longer to complete tasks. The last thing you want to do is deplete your levels of resilience and force yourself to take an extended break to recover, so prioritising self-care now is crucial.
Self-care is different for everything, so this may mean:
- Turning off your laptop in the evening and spending time with family and friends
- Exercising regularly again
- Doing something you appreciate as a pastime or interest
- Journaling or meditating
- Eating a healthier, more balanced diet
- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night
Make use of nutritious comfort things
When you are confronted with uncertainty, your brain attempts to save you by activating your dopamine system. This rush of dopamine motivates you to seek out rewards, which increases the appeal of your usual temptations, such as an additional spoonful of dessert, an evening takeout, a few extra products in your online shopping order, the next few instalments of a box set, or more mindless browsing on social media. More often than not, these “rewards” may make you feel better in the moment, but they don't last and can often exacerbate the anxiety and stress.
Given that your brain is prone to succumb to temptation right now, keeping a list of healthy things that offer you delight is worthwhile. It's just about tweaking your reward system to give you a more lasting positive effect! Again, this will differ from person to person, so make a list of rewards and comforts that are healthier and unique to you. For example:
- A lengthy hot bath.
- A stroll with a friend.
- A phone conversation/facetime with a friend.
- Take a snooze.
- Seek the affection of a friend or family member.
- If you love chocolate or wine, go for a more expensive and higher-quality product so that you save it for essential occasions.
Make backup plans
While the specifics of the government's updates are often unclear, they do give a general direction of travel to work with. For example, the most recent update mentioned the desire to rebalance the balance sheet of UK PLC. This can only entail more taxes for an accountancy firm and individuals.
The majority of the time, you presumably have some excellent ideas about what will change based on your tax experience. These educated predictions might assist you in developing some contingency strategies - in other words, “what will happen if?” Then, when the specifics of the statement are made public, these contingency plans will help you assist your client base calmly and knowledgeably with their alternatives.
Uncertainty doesn't have to be crippling
Uncertainty is a fact of life in business, but it doesn’t have to be crippling. With the right tools and tactics, you can successfully manage uncertainty so that your firm can continue growing and flourishing despite any challenges or obstacles. We hope these six tactics have given you some ideas on how to do just that. Just remember to stay flexible, take calculated risks when necessary, and look for opportunities in every situation. With enough practice and patience, you will find yourself better equipped than ever to handle whatever comes your way!
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