Q: My business usually takes a nose-dive during the holidays. Do you have any advice on how to survive the December slump?
A: It’s not uncommon to experience some slow down in business activity as the end of the year draws near. Depending on your field or industry, there are a number of reasons why this may be happening. If you’re in a seasonal business, it may just be that time of year when clients are not in the market for what you’re selling. Once Halloween hits (forget Thanksgiving), many people start getting into holiday mode and may take their feet off the professional pedal. Thoughts turn to holiday gift-giving, travel planning and the associated costs that come along with that. Many clients may also use this time to hold off on starting any major new projects or commitments until the new year. And it’s not just your clients… you may be doing the same!
But a slow down in client calls doesn’t have to mean a slow down in business. Make the most of your down time by focusing on business development strategies, marketing plans and administrative housekeeping. Review your annual performance and write down your goals and objectives for the upcoming year. Attend a few holiday parties and make some new connections. Mark your calendar to follow up with a lunch or coffee meeting in January. And while you’re at it, take time to clear your desk, file away any stacks of paper cluttering your space and attend to any neglected tasks or causes you’ve been too busy to tackle. In short, be productive. Before you know it, you’ll be so busy again you won’t have the time!
Q: I’m starting a new managerial position in a troubled department. Any advice on how to warm up my team and ease the transition?
A: It can be daunting coming in as the “fixer” of a department that has had its share of issues and poor management. One suggestion for starting out on the right foot is to try and get to know your team and gain some insight on where things stand as soon as possible. Schedule your first staff meeting and if possible, send out a short questionnaire or survey to see what your employees like about their jobs, what they think about the company, what’s not working and why. This will prepare you for the staff meeting and instantly build credibility amongst your team by letting them know you care about what they have to say and are genuinely interested in making positive changes where necessary. Use the information provided to create a blueprint of how you’ll manage your team and the measures needed to turn things around.
Once you’ve sounded out your employees, clearly outline your plans, expectations and deliverables and distribute written copies of any new policies or mission statements so everyone is on the same page going forward.
To keep the camaraderie going, schedule monthly or quarterly team-building exercises that encourage employee interaction and open lines of communication in an informal manner. And don’t forget to spring for the food. Free food never fails!