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How Businesses Can Exploit the Summer Doldrums

Monday, August 1, 2005

It's not atypical for many non-seasonal businesses to suffer a "summer slump," but it needn't be prolonged or fatal if business executives understand its nature and take steps to deal with it.

The summer slump is often more perceived than real. "There is an unspoken circadian-type rhythm to many businesses," says Alan Weiss, Ph.D. and CEO of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting (SAC), which polled its members on the topic. "A combination of customer vacations, lack of new product and service launches, key people themselves out of town, and the general need to 'take a deep breath' creates inevitable slumps in many businesses."

SAC member Keith McLeod, owner of The Business Centre in Tucson, AZ, believes these phenomenon affects service providers both internally and through the by-product of client rhythms. "Consistent customer value-enhancement mailings and follow up phone calls are crucial," he observes. "If you're a catalyst to help your clients out of the doldrums, you'll help yourself out, too."

"We're seeing television networks, particularly cable operations, break the mold by launching new series in the midst of the summer. That pattern should hold true for products and services," notes Weiss. The 24/7 mentality has become a twelve-month mentality, and there is no longer a unstated prohibition against starting a new initiative during the summer or immediately following it.

Howard Adamsky, managing director of HR Innovators in Stow, MA, advises a proactive approach: "Communicate with your best clients about the things they need to be thinking about to improve their conditions in the fall. A great line to say to a client is, 'If I were you, I would do this…' That is a good starting point for conversation and a great way to explore the possibilities. Also, submit a proposal even if the client is not chomping at the bit. You never know…the client might just go forward and sign off on the project."

Many SAC members observed clients creating their own self-fulfilling prophesies by assuming that the summer and its aftermath will be slow. By acting that way, you create your own reality. "If you look at the summer and the very early fall as an opportunity to steal a beat on your competition," says Weiss, "you probably will do just that. And if you don't, the competition may very well be thinking about doing it to you."

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