Summertime and the living is easy, as the song goes, and in the business world, that means things tend to slow down at the office.
It’s also a time when business owners sometimes panic, thinking only of lost productivity and lower sales. But a slowdown can be very good for a company. Sure you’re taking longer lunches and cutting out early on Fridays but summer is a great time to pause and do a little professional housekeeping. Rarely do busy executives and managers have a chance to tackle neglected and deferred projects, organize their office and calendar, and do some future planning.
Consider the summer slowdown as an opportunity to focus on long-term plans for a change, revisiting –and recommitting– to the core strategies that drive your business.
Here are five things you can do to make the most out of your downtime this summer:
Summer is the midpoint of the year and that makes it a good time to assess the half you’ve just completed and make plans for the next one. Systematically review your business goals, staffing situation, and recruitment activities and make sure the business or your department is on track to hit its targets. If it isn’t, now is the time to reassess those goals and put new ones in place, based on the company’s performance thus far this year. This kind of assessment and planning will better prepare you for what’s around the corner. For example, if you know fall and winter are busy times of year for the company, you can start recruitment planning now so you’re not scrambling to staff up in September and October.
Seasonal slowdowns also give business owners and senior management a much-needed chance to think more slowly, creatively and strategically than they can when consumed with putting out day-to-day fires. When you hit a senior level at any organization having time to sit and think is a huge luxury. Your planning should include staying in touch with clients during the summer and offering to help them review their goals for the second half of the year. Summer is also a good time to develop your fall marketing plan, defining and narrowing your target market and developing strategies for reaching prospects.
Upgrade systems and processes
Finally, you have the time to install software upgrades and also learn how to more effectively use the programs and applications you rely on every day, like Excel, PowerPoint or WordPress. If you’ve been meaning to update the company’s website or social media pages, summer is the time to make sure your digital presence is current and compelling. You should also spend some time reviewing and looking for ways to improve existing processes, everything from fulfillment operations to keeping databases current to switching to a better accounting software.
A business is only as successful as its people so it’s vitally important to invest in yourself during the downtown. Start tackling that big pile of reading—industry publications, relevant articles, research papers–you’ve been putting off. Develop new skills and sharpen existing ones through online courses. Organize yourself and your office. And don’t be afraid to just work less. Rather than take every piece of work that comes to you or your company because you’re panicked about lost revenue, trust that business is cyclical and will pick up (and you will once again feel you have no time for yourself), so why you have the hours, take a personal day and go to the beach or for a hike. The time away from your desk with also allow your mind to relax a bit and soon the creative ideas will be flowing.
Do an audit of your vendors and suppliers
During the busier periods of the year, you don’t have time to objectively assess your vendors to determine which ones are working and which should be replaced or contracts renegotiated. During the summer, you can. Informally audit your suppliers and vendors with an eye toward cost and time savings. There may be cost savings you can find by consolidating vendors or it might be wise to get updated bids from them. During the summer your vendors may also be slow, and that means they will be able to give more attention and thought to your questions and requests.
Make new connections and strengthen old ones
Take advantage of the downtime others are having to connect or reconnect. With most companies in low gear, you can feel better about reaching out to try and develop new relationships, as well as strengthen existing ones. Remember, not everyone is at the beach and reaching out to connections and clients is the most personalized form of marketing. Get in touch with important connections and clients, especially those you haven’t checked in with because you’ve been too busy. Ramp up social media efforts to reach more people or host a networking event to thank your customers—giving you the chance to catch up with good customers in-person, at a time of year when the pressures of business are at a (relatively) low ebb.