The heart of business
The heart of business


The heart of business

Australia’s infatuation with start-up culture is at an all-time high. Last year 20,000 new small businesses were created in New South Wales alone. And according to the latest annual Startup Muster survey, of the 1500 ‘approximately’ new business founders interviewed, 70 per cent were based in co-working spaces.

And this, according to Mara, is where the problem lies. The stereotypical image of all-night marathons in front of a computer in trendy co-working spaces, where empty pizza boxes pile up on the ping-pong table, is one that persists. In fact, “workaholism is branded as a desirable lifestyle choice for many would-be entrepreneurs,” says Mara.

But Mara’s own research debunks that myth. “Working long hours under constant stress lowers productivity and can kill your intuition,” she cautions.

With intuition playing a major role in the success of a range of serial entrepreneurs, it seems making intuition a priority is something those who have started numerous profitable businesses all have in common.


Mara followed her postgraduate work at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management with research based on the discoveries of the HeartMath Institute where, for more than 25 years, Professor Murray Gillin AM and others have researched the impact of stress on entrepreneurial businesses.

“The HeartMath Institute has developed a range of tools to identify the amount of stress a person is experiencing and has linked high stress levels to a measurement called coherent heart rate variability,” Mara explains.

Moreover, research by the institute that looked at brainwave responses to stress and heart rate found that coherent heart rate variability levels allowed people to let their thoughts flow more freely, giving far more scope for creative and intuitive responses to problems.


In her work as a management consultant, Mara has developed training programs for corporate clients to identify and control their own stress levels. From there, they can tap into effective and intuitive thinking and decision making.

“Using certain techniques, we can monitor the way someone moves into a more coherent heart rate variability state – a state that has been shown to change brainwave patterns,” she says.

Mara’s book Think like an entrepreneur explores the methods used by a range of entrepreneurs to ensure optimum performance and includes interviews with a number of business leaders like Michael Rennie, Managing Partner of McKinsey and Company – a global management consulting firm.

Rennie describes how he has used meditative techniques involving quiet reflection to help him solve thorny problems. For Rennie, understanding how feelings inform thoughts has been a game changer. “As an entrepreneur, intuition is key. You can’t always use logic to make your way through uncertainty.”


Mara says that the entrepreneurial culture of a start-up inevitably changes as the business grows, but she is quick to point out that “culture is not created by the co-working spaces, the ping-pong tables or the breakout areas.”

Instead, leaders must look inside themselves to boost the performance and productivity of their start-up. “People need to feel inspired. Being more connected with others, and integrating their personal and professional selves, will deliver deeper meaning and satisfaction to the people that make up your business.”

But it doesn’t end there. Mara encourages leaders to raise their own self-awareness by connecting to their emotions and heart. This will “unleash their intuition, and they can profit from the success they create as a result.”

It is a win for the heart – and for business.

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