Using Summer Doldrums to Your Business Advantage: Checklist for Downtime Optimization

image courtesy Ken Gaebler

Every business has cycles. Like the changing of the seasons, we have slow and busy times of year. While the latter often doesn't afford us the luxury of coming up for air, the lull is just as important a time. For Highbrid Media, that is the summer. It is during these times we must take a birds-eye view of the business and assess all aspects and make the adjustments, oil the squeaky wheels if you will and fix mistakes before they become catastrophes.  Here's a peek at our Summer Tune Up Checklist

Recruit You can't be the best without the best team. There's no better time than a slow one to dedicate one day a month or a few hours each week recruiting new talent. We spend a lot of energy trying to land that dream client. You should spend an equal time recruiting top level talent, even if you're not currently hiring. You never know what opportunity might present itself and having a bullpen of potential hires is a luxury we should all be lucky to have.

Coach By definition, entrepreneurs are do-it-yourselfers. Get out of our way and we'll get it done. But that attitude isn't sustainable, especially for a scaling business. Just as you should spend time recruiting new team members, you must invest in your current ones. Coaching, training and mentoring your staff are some of the smartest investments you can make. While no one will ever be you, you have hired them to do a task. If you have chosen wisely, they should be better at their job than you are. It’s then your responsibility to keep them motivated and to keep those tasks off of your to-do list so you can focus on the bigger picture.

Plan for contingency Perhaps the most important thing you can do in downtime is plan for contingency. Even Fortune 100 companies and their CEOs encounter problems. Downtime is great for looking at current systems and drafting contingency plans should things go wrong. Analyze every aspect of each system and push it to the limit. Try to get the system to fail under a controlled test environment. See if you can identify any leaks. This will help you anticipate problems before they occur. Work with your key stakeholders in all impact areas of your business to create written contingency plans. But remember to be discrete. Disaster planning should be done at the highest level to avoid damaging morale among support staff.

Build Morale Speaking of morale, it’s your job as a leader to create an awesome work environment. Use downtime to schedule off-site meetings with your investors and employees. Larger organizations host elaborate retreats, but you don’t have to. You can hit the bar, play golf, do community service projects together or have a backyard barbecue. Allow them to invite family if possible. The point is to make it enjoyable. It will not only build morale but build better teams. It will make them work harder for you as well as create a stronger culture.

Address company culture Is your workplace awesome? Great work cultures create awesome work environments, which leads to high retention rates and lower personnel costs. One of the most important downtime tasks a leader can do is evaluate the culture. Survey your employees and talk to key management. You can even speak to your customers. What do they say about your company? Would they like to work there? Then take that feedback and ACT! Make sure your team feels challenged and has the necessary tools they need to win. Don't forget to reward your team for exceptional work and praise them publicly. This will inspire others and create a positively competitive work environment.