August is a slower time of year for many small-business owners. It seems like it is difficult to get anything done as customers, employees and vendors go on vacation. But, it does not have to be a wasted month. Here are 10 actions you can take to make August productive:
Improve your skills. When work is busy, you may not have time to educate yourself. There are always industry specific webinars and conferences that you can attend. However, for more broad skills training, there are free online classes from major universities like Stanford, Oxford and Yale that you can take in the comfort of your own office. Take time to read the many great business books this summer which can also improve your skills.
Start from scratch. Try to approach your business with “Beginner’s Mind.” Go back to the very basic question of "Why is my company in business?" What pain do you solve better than any other company? Who has the money to solve that pain? You may discover your company mission has drifted and needs to get back on track.
Call a customer. Pick up the phone and call a customer that you have not spoken directly to for a long time. While businesses have become increasingly comfortable with high tech, Dave Kilby, CEO of the Western Association of Chamber Executives says it also needs to be "high touch." If the customer is on vacation, leave a message about how you appreciate his business. Small things like this will make that relationship stronger.
Survey of your customers. Most small businesses don’t ask enough about what their customers think. Send out a three question survey and see what actions you need to take as a result.
Update your company website. Unfortunately, websites age and get stale. Almost 50 percent of business websites have outdated or incorrect information and/or dead links. Review every major page of your site for accuracy and provide upgraded content that addresses your customers’ need.
Clean up your inbox. Most inboxes are a mess. Delete messages and organize them into separate folders to see if you can get to the goal of having zero messages in your inbox! If you do, e-mail me and I will send you my the "Get to Zero" prize!
Review your financial statements. Many small-business owners fall behind in reviewing their monthly financials. Only 5 percent of all owners can actually understand every number on their statements. If you don’t know where your company has been financially, you will never know where it is going, If you can’t read a balance sheet, profit and loss or cash flow statement, get help.
Join a new social-media conversation. Many small-business owners do not have the time just to explore all of the discussions that are happening on various social media tools. Experiment and participate in new conversations that are relevant to your business. Sign up for Pinterest or another social media tool that you have yet explore to see if it can work for your business. Deliberately wander a little!
Volunteer your time. Helping others in need is good for the business soul. It will give a perspective of your life that is not found working everyday in your business. Find a local organization that could use your time and expertise.
Go on your own vacation. Time off can be productive, too. Go somewhere or nowhere with your family or friends that has nothing to do with your business. Dare to leave your smartphone at home!