‘Tis the season to be busy. I don’t know about you, but this holiday season has been full of work -- and I mean that in a good way. In the past month, most small business owners I know are bustling around with last-minute projects that have suddenly popped up. Whether it’s BtoB clients seeking to use (or lose) 2010 budgets, or consumers with holiday gift-giving on their minds and money itching to be spent, all this is welcome activity for entrepreneurs.
But all the hustle and bustle can leave us with our heads spinning, making it all too easy to miss out on an important opportunity that this time of year naturally brings. I’m talking about the opportunity to reconnect and rekindle relationships.
I was reminded of this just last week at a business event where I ran into an old friend and colleague. We’d been trying to connect for months without success, due to both of our swamped schedules. But she was eagerly anticipating the end of her work deluge, so we made plans to get together while she had some downtime before the new year brings new workloads.
I am the daughter of a small business retailer, so I know how frenetic the holiday season can be. For those of us who aren’t in retail, the holidays typically bring some downtime. Fewer people are in our offices, and those who come by aren’t necessarily fully focused on business. As the holiday mood overtakes us, people are feeling friendly, warm and fuzzy. In other words, your customers and colleagues are in the perfect frame of mind to connect. Here are some ways you can take advantage of this mood -- and none of them involve tweeting, Facebooking or linking in.
1. Give the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a no-brainer to send gifts to the key clients, partners and others who’ve helped your business grow throughout the year. Gifts don’t have to be elaborate -- but they should have a personal touch and convey something unique to the recipient that shows you’ve put thought into the item.
2. Drop a line. If your budget is limited, clever cards or personal notes can convey just as much meaning as a gift. Help your card or note get noticed (and stand out from the masses) by sending it at an unusual time. Clients may get masses of holiday mailings, but how many Happy New Year cards will they get?
3. Pick up the phone. While many people do take time off during the holidays, those who don’t are often easier to reach in the office than at any other time of year. If support staff is gone, even execs might be answering their own phones. And if your clients are other small business owners, you know they’re working. So take time to call -- not to do a hard sell, but just to check in, let them know you’re thinking about them, and maybe get a few clues about ways you could help them going into 2011.
4. Bury the hatchet. Is there a prospect you’ve given up on, a client who let you go, or a colleague you had a falling out with in the past year? Now is the season to forgive and forget. Touch base with the prospect just to get on his or her radar again. Contact the ex-client to explore ways you might work together next year. Call the colleague and see if you can get over the issue. As small business owners, we shouldn’t burn bridges, for you never know where a relationship can lead.
5. Get together. Whether it’s clients, colleagues or mentors, make time to meet up with the people who’ve helped your business grow in the past year. Getting together for a meal, or even a coffee with the business contacts who matter most to you helps cement relationships. You can use this time to brainstorm ideas, encourage each other, or simply to celebrate your joint success.
Photo used under license from Photos.com Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva, and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports.
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