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(Ain’t no) Cure for the Summertime Blues

July 21, 2011

“Sometimes I wonder what I’m a gonna do.
But there ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.”

For those of us who consider ourselves independent business professionals, summertime can be a season of concern, distress and perhaps a time of reflection.

In times of better economics, we were smart – hopefully, and careful. We squirrelled away our seasonal profits and used that nest egg to carry us thru the hot season, the slow season, the dead season. We knew that we could survive the heat and maybe have enough in our back pockets for some time on a beach, a mountain or a lake. Or just in the backyard.

Yes, many independent businesses thrive in the summer: pool boys, boardwalk vendors, lawn services….you get the idea.

For the rest of us, waiting – pining for Labor Day and staring at the phone waiting for it to ring, there may be better ways to spend our time – and get us ready for when (yes, it will come) the economy recovers and the clients come out of the darkness like the baseball players in “Field of Dreams.”

They will come. Now is the time for building.

So, in no particular order, here is my 12-step program for those of us trying to survive the summer season.

1) Sit back, relax, breath deep. Exhale.

You can’t make the phone ring. The calls will come, especially if you spend this time to your best advantage.

2) Get smarter.

When was the last time you read a ‘business book?’ I’m not talking about blogs or websites, but a good old-fashioned book (even if you read it on an E-reader). Immerse yourself in the words on the page (or screen), and maybe there will be a spark of inspiration. Just maybe you’ll get an idea that you never had before.

3) Learn something new every day.

This is probably good advice 365 days a year, but hopefully there are days when you can’t because you are swallowed by your job, a proposal, a project or contract and just trying to meet the deadline. If you aren’t chasing a deadline, take some time to make the next deadline an easier challenge.

4) Look around

If you’re not busy, and other are, figure out why. Look at what they are doing – and what you are not.

5) Get better.

If there is something you aren’t doing, and you know you probably should – explore it, learn it, get good at it. At least get to a point where you can talk about it to clients and customers, with a confidence that you can do it.

6) Get social.

This may be obvious but no matter expert you may think you are, the social environment is changing every day. Are you using Google+? Have you been invited to Spotify? Are you taking full advantage of all the social connections that seem to crop up every day? Now is the time to find them, join them, and test them. Some can bring you business. Others may only find you old girlfriends or boyfriends – which may or may not be a good thing. Regardless – Network, Friend, Tweet.

7) Review and reflect.

Think about what you did over the last year. What worked? What succeeded? What came close but just missed the mark? What would you have different then, and what are you going to do different tomorrow.

8) Explore and expand.

As much as we need to get better/smarter/more saavy at what we do, also look at who you are doing it for? Are there new markets, clients or customers who can use the service you provide? Simple answer: Yes. The challenge: Find them!

9) Find a new area of expertise.

Think about what you do, and then think about what you don’t do. Then figure how you can do it. Take a class? Read a book? Learn some new software or technology? What can you do to make your company or you more valuable on Labor Day than you are today?

10) Stay busy and stay focused.

If the work load is low, make yourself as busy as if you were overloaded. Get up early, stay up late. If you don’t have something to do, find something to do – professionally or personally. Learn to knit. Volunteer. Do Pro-Bono work. Do work on consignment or spec. Start the novel you’ve always wanted to write, or the paint the masterpiece you know you have in you, or dust off the old guitar and write a song for ages. Or write a poem that will make me cry.

11) Take a break.

If it’s a week, a month, a day or a hour, take the time to stroll away from what you do. Turn off the cell phone (if only for an hour). Don’t check email (if only for a day). Do this when, and only when, you have something to distract you. If you don’t have something to distract you, find it.

12) Look in the mirror.

There is your best friend. He/she knows how good you are, and knows where you may have stumbled. That person looking back at you knows where you’ve been – for good or bad – and even if you aren’t sure, knows where you want to go. That reflection knows where you need to go, and, although it rarely talks aloud, know what you need to do to get there. Listen.

Do I do all this? Admittedly no. But I should.

It’s easy to write it down. Harder to do. Even harder when pressures (bills, business, goals) seem to be just a whisp out of grasp.

Perhaps I’ve written this solely for myself. Perhaps there is something here for you.

John Rice


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