Ah, summer ... That wonderful time of year when everything slows down—including your business and your employees. The easiest thing to do, then, is just accept this state of affairs. After all, there is a gentlemen's agreement in the business world that operations are supposed to slow down a little in the summer, right?
Wrong. Business strategy expert Tom Hall, co-author of Ruthless Focus: How to Use Key Core Strategies to Grow Your Business, says that, in fact, summer is the best possible time for businesses to really focus on what makes their companies tick—in large part precisely because the competition is taking it easy during these lazy, hazy days.
"If everyone else is slowing down and losing their focus during the summer months and you do the opposite, then you will be way ahead of the competition when fall rolls around,” says Hall. “Plus, losing your collective grip on what you're supposed to be doing—and why—for three months is just bad for business."
Here are five ways for companies to keep their focus this summer:
1. Make this the Summer of Strategy. Strive to make your core strategy (the strategy that drives your business) the focus of everything: meetings, new projects, old projects, communications with clients and prospects—everything.
"You must maintain a ruthless focus on your core strategy where every action, every day, moves you and the business forward, especially in the summer," says Hall. One tactic: create a stick-to-the-strategy group to make sure the company isn't losing sight of the core strategy.
2. Don't let vacation be a ‘get-out-of-work-free’ card. Send the message to employees: If you are going to be on vacation, know what your deliverables are—and then deliver! Meet with employees a couple of weeks in advance of their vacations to go over their lists and point out those tasks that absolutely must get done before they go.
3. Plan the work and work the plan. Sometimes the best way to stay focused during the summer is to put everything you have to do right there in front of you. Create a master to-do list for the summer months and make sure employees do the same with their individual lists. The constant focus on these lists will keep people from slacking off.
4. Leverage the freedom of summer to generate fresh ideas. Summertime brings out people's "inner child" and sparks creative ideas. So it’s a great time to focus on developing fresh ideas at your organization. Use idea contests, brainstorming lunches and focus groups.
5. Look for ways to keep people refreshed. People need a bit of fun to prevent burnout. Look for ways to infuse the spirit of summer into your organization. Get outdoors and do something as a group. Or bring summer inside with a relaxed dress code, lunches, ice cream, lemonade and flowers.
The bottom line: "You don't have to be at the office 24/7. You can still enjoy the season, and you should,” says Hall. The key is to maintain a ruthless focus when you are working to keep pushing your business forward and to encourage your employees to do the same.