Summer is most often associated with vacation and relaxation, a time to kick back and enjoy the slowdown. However, for small-business owners, this isn’t the case—the summer months are a reminder that you're already half way through the year. Instead of napping on a beach, small-business owners are hard at work, planning and strategizing for the remainder of the year. This "mid-year break" isn't really a break at all, but provides an opportunity to gain an edge—to regroup company resources, sharpen skill sets and refresh personally and professionally.
Here are five tips to use the summer to your advantage by taking a mid-year checkup on your small business.
Assess your network. Use this time to evaluate your circle of influence by getting to know your contacts better—arrange phone calls, video chats and face-to-face meetings. Grow your network by finding and attending business mixers, industry events and local meet-ups. Bust through the echo chamber and network with people outside of your industry. It’s important to also spend time on business networks, like Manta and LinkedIn, sharing your expertise by answering questions or posting a coupon.
Revisit your business plan. Do a mid-year review of your business plan. Are you on track? Are there any new opportunities or threats on the horizon? Any areas that you have neglected? Have your goals changed? This is a time to examine, reflect and make adjustments (accelerate or reduce) as needed.
Let go. Are you controlling too much and not delegating? Let your key employees take on more responsibility. Enable them to take the rein and then verify (the old trust and verify drill). This will enable you to focus on more strategic initiatives vs. getting bogged down on tactics. And don’t forget to reward and incentivize them along the way—have a beach day at the office or plan something outdoors like a picnic or BBQ. Your praise and acknowledgement will go further than you might think.
Go to summer school. It can be difficult to learn or sharpen skills throughout the year; however, use the summer to learn or refresh skills that will improve your business or service to clients—take a class at a local college, attend a seminar or workshop, read a business book or take an online course. If you’re in a technical industry, use the time to expand your certifications. Consider adding skills that will allow you to do more for existing customers and expand your offerings. If you don’t have time for school, think about taking a few online lessons—these are less of a time commitment but will still go a long way.
Lean in! Don’t wait until you’re burnt out—lean in to the rhythm of the season and enjoy a little down time. It’s okay to take a break! That said, if you’re going to take a vacation, make sure that you prepare your business and customers. Have a plan for taking care of customers while away. Use automation wisely by prescheduling content to keep your blog, e-newsletters and social profiles going. Document and delegate so that responsibilities are clear and nothing is left to chance.
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Kristy Campbell is director of marketing of Manta, the largest online community dedicated to small business. She has spent her career developing strategic marketing and communications programs for fast-growing software companies.