If you’re like me and millions of other small business owners all across the nation, summer is the one time of the year that you get a little reprieve from 14-hour days and a constant stream of deadlines.
For 10 months of the year my clients will tell you, I am available around-the-clock for them, so I don’t take the down time that summer brings lightly. As most of my clients are also getting ready for shorter business weeks, and due to vacations, lower staffing levels, we plan accordingly and keep the workload pretty light during those two precious months. I plan to have most major projects wrapped up or near completion by the end of June or on hiatus until the fall. This is where my summer plan begins.
The break from constant deadlines to me is an opportunity not just to spend quality time with my friends and family, but also to evaluate my business model and everything in my professional toolbox.
While I realize how quickly the summer can go, and while most of us can’t get to everything, we can at least put together a plan with deliverables and due dates that you’ll stick too. If you are like me, just getting a date on the books with a vendor or a client or an employee, is a great start to ensuring it will get done.
First things first, deal with what everybody sees.
Website: Do you have one? Do you need one? Is it current with good content? Does it pass the 3-second rule? What about SEO, how do you measure up to your competition? If you don’t know what SEO is or the 3-second rule, your answer is no to both.
TASK 1: Plan a consultation with a web designer to have your site analyzed, & prioritize what you need to do and in what order. If you have a webmaster, contact them. If it’s been awhile, find out if you have the best one for your business, most web folks specialize in certain industries.
TASK 2: Content is key. While a good web designer can make you look sharp, make sure people can quickly access the information they are looking for and get the most out of multi-media and the incredible array of plug-ins out there, you still need your message to be consistent and clear. Hire a great copy editor (that understands SEO) who can really make sure your message is on target and well-presented.
Social Media: How are your LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. (personal & professional) accounts doing?
TASK: If you aren’t updating them regularly, and if you are not sure what outlets are best for your company, contact a Social Media professional for a consultation. Don’t be intimidated by any of this, there are great tutorials out there and a good consultant can put a great package together for you. Remember, when people Google™ you, and they do, your social media network, especially LinkedIn will come up very high in the rankings.
I can’t tell you how many people I meet who tell me they don’t have time to maintain their website and social media accounts properly. Really? It is your 24/7 virtual storefront and many people will make a decision about you and your business right from the first few entries that come up when they search you online.
BUT THAT IS NOT ALL. While you are working on your image, summer or slow periods are a great time to take stock of all facets of your business, as well as your own professional development. These areas affect your productivity and your bottom line. Some food for thought:
YOUR OWN PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Read up on magazines and other trade publications that cover your industry, and subscribe to those that are most relevant. Everything is changing at lightning speed and clients don’t want to hire someone who isn’t utilizing the best, newest, brightest, most efficient, cost-effective you fill in the blank.
- Certifications, are you up-to-date? Would a certain certification give you an edge over your competition? Summer is a great time to figure out what is out there and what your competition has in their arsenal. Take this time to earn online CEU’s toward a certification.
- Networking/Membership: You may have been in the industry for years, but networking is essential for everyone at every stage of their career. Look at the groups out there that are relevant in your industry. Consider joining one or two and definitely RSVP to their next networking event before you take the trouble to join. DO IT NOW.
- Industry Conferences: Every major industry has at least one conference that gives attendees the opportunity to hear the latest and greatest from the industry’s elite and network with others in their field. This summer take time to check out what’s out there and make a real effort to get to just one, even if you can only attend online. If you commit now and put the deposit down, you’ll make the time when it comes around.
- Career Coach: People who are fully invested in their career path scoff at me when I say this. But career coaches are not just for those looking to change gears or get that major pay raise. Find out what your real strengths and weaknesses are, and make sure you are positioned in your company to fully engage your strengths and have people around you that compliment your skill set. You might be surprised what you find out.
MINDING YOUR BUSINESS
The summer marks the halfway point of the year, and it’s a great time to sit back and analyze your business model. From infrastructure, to staffing, to use of outside vendors, to budget and client load management – this is the time to put an action plan together to fix those items that are slowing you down, making your company less profitable and keeping you up at night.
- Fiscal responsibility: who is handling your budget? Are your quarterly projections close to the mark? Do you have frequent cash flow and payroll concerns? What about tax time? Were you scrambling to get everything together for your accountant? Summer is a great time to sit down with your accountant and/or a development consultant (it is his/her down time too!)
- Staffing: This can be tough, especially with small staffs that have been in place for a long time. In peak season, staff issues are usually pushed to the back burner. This is the time to analyze each role in your office and the personnel you have. These can be tough items to tackle but doing it now when you have time to carry it out is essential.
- Contracts/Legal Issues: Are your contracts, RFP’s, certificates of liability insurance and other legal documents up to snuff? It is worth looking into this now before you have an issue. If you don’t already have an attorney for your business, and you should, find an attorney that specializes in your business to make sure you are covered.
- Community Relations/Advertising: What is your company doing for the ‘greater good?’ It is HUGE right now; everyone wants to know what you are doing for the betterment of the community you serve, regardless of what your company actually does. Adopt a cause, either by donating goods and services and/or using some of your advertising dollars to sponsor an event. Do the research NOW, so you make the greatest impact with your donated time/funds.
- Asset management: Do you have an office? Do you need an office? What about company cars and credit cards? This is a great time to check out your inventory and the costs associated with them to analyze the real ROI on these items.
- Outside vendors: Just like you need to analyze your internal team, you have to do the same with all of your outside vendors. Are they competitively priced? How do their services stack up to their peers? How well do they work with your clients? How easy are they to work with? Just like your staff, just because they’ve been with you a while, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be ready to make changes when it benefits your company and clients.
I realize this doesn’t sound like as much fun or relaxing as a week at the shore, but I assure you, getting a handle on many of these items on your much neglected punch list can give you the peace of mind that no vacation at the beach ever will. And the lasting benefits can be more money in your pocket and ultimately as you’ll be running your business more efficiently, more time for yourself.
I’m already working on my own punch list…. poolside.
A Happy, Safe and Productive Summer to You All,