5 Ways to Make the Most of Your Holiday Downtime

Things can get a little bit slow around the holidays. But that’s not an excuse to let your productivity lag! Here are five ways to take advantage of any slowdowns this holidays season.

For many companies—excluding, of course, retail—business slows down during the holidays as people take vacations and defer new decisions on purchases for the following year. This downtime creates a wonderful opportunity to reenergize yourself and your business.  

Here are five ideas on how to leverage your downtime this holiday season:

Idea No. 1: Organize and refresh your space. Like many of you, I struggle to keep my business organized and clean. Clutter builds up, files get disorganized and the environment gets stale. The holidays are a great time to purge extra clutter, reorganize your files and update your décor. By concentrating on these tasks during the “offseason,” your team will be more productive and engaged throughout the rest of the year.

Idea No. 2: Evaluate opportunities. Whether it’s identifying process improvements, talent needs or new innovations, now is the time to look at your business and see what opportunities exist for improvement.

Idea No. 3: Plan for next year. The holidays are a great time to reflect on the past year’s goals, accomplishments and challenges and set new goals and plans for next year. Your planning can include setting new sales targets, adding new products and services and instituting new processes to improve efficiency.

Idea No. 4: Conduct teambuilding and employee engagement activities. Teambuilding and engagement should be a year-round activity. However, the holidays create a unique opportunity to amplify efforts to improve your culture. The spirit of the holidays means appreciation for others and creating a feeling of family. Volunteering to serve food at a kitchen, throwing a holiday party and providing a gift to your team are great ways to bond and to show your staff how much you value them.

Idea No. 5: Work on yourself. Many of us work long hours and wear many hats. Our time is stretched. As a result, we have less time to work on self-improvement. With downtime during the holidays, you can read an extra leadership book, brush up on skills and work on areas that can help you become more successful in business and life.

By doing one or all of these activities, not only have you set up your business for more success next year, but you have figured out how to gain personal value at a time when business is slow. Keep in mind that, above all else, it is important to take time to enjoy this time with family and friends. That is what the holidays are all about! 

Nevin Bansal is the president and CEO of Outreach Promotional Solutions. 

  • Email
  • Next up: 5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees (Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook)

    5 Ways to Recognize Millennial Employees (Without Digging Deep into Your Pocketbook)

    Sure, money talks, but so do these five ways of recognizing the amazing work your millennial employees are doing.

    It’s no secret millennials are job hoppers. On average, Millennials change positions four times within the first decade they graduate from college and that number is only increasing. What’s more telling is why. They are looking to grow and for opportunity. Often times that comes with a new job and maybe a better salary, but there are other ways to help millennials grow without offering them a promotion or salary raise.

    Consider these five tips to keep your millennial employees satisfied.

    Tip No. 1: On the job skills and training

    Do you have a millennial employee who is hitting it out of the park? Recognize this individual by giving them special projects and such to work on. Show them you appreciate what they are doing and are going to give them ways to grow inside the company. Sure, that college degree matters, but what matters more is real life experience and getting as much of it as possible.

    Tip No. 2: Acknowledge their work

    This can be done by giving them a title that accurately reflects their work. After some time, if your administrative assistant is really the office manager, give him or her that title. This shows you are understanding of the extra work they are putting in and are acknowledging it.

    Tip No. 3: Provide professional development opportunities

    Encourage your millennial employees to participate in professional development opportunities that will help them to grow and pay for it. Many of these seminars are relatively inexpensive, but will show your staff that you care about them and are supporting their growth.

    Tip No. 4: Suggest your employees get involved in civic organizations

    They can join a young professionals group, a nonprofit board, etc. There is nothing harder than managing volunteers, so not only will they learn to give back to the community, they will learn some new skill sets that will help them grown and transfer back to the company. How is a young professional supposed to get management experience to get promoted if they are not supervising anyone? The answer is through civic experiences. You can help by paying the dues, becoming a member, etc.

    Tip No. 5: Sell them on Northeast Ohio

    Sure, someone can leave their $50,000-a-year job in Cleveland for a $70,000-job on the West Coast, but they will also be faced with a much higher cost of living. Help your millennials grow by showcasing how much Cleveland has to offer them. There are a few sayings I live by in Cleveland, “You can be a big fish in a small pond” and “There is one degree of separation between you and most other Clevelanders.”

    What’s your strategy for recognizing the amazing work your millennial employees are doing? Let us know on Twitter!

    Ashley Basile Oeken is president of Engage! Cleveland, a nonprofit whose mission is to attract, engage and retain young, diverse talent to the Greater Cleveland area. Learn more about her organization’s work by clicking here.

  • Email
  • Next up: 5 Signs of a Networking Slug—And What to do Instead

    5 Signs of a Networking Slug—And What to do Instead

    They’re pushy and disrespectful of your time, just to name a couple signs of Networking Slugs. Make sure nobody can accuse you of Networking Slug behavior with these alternative approaches.

    I hate Networking Slugs—I really do. And so should you. They typically create negative first impressions at networking events by doing lots of dumb things. They probably didn’t plan to behave like Slugs and what they do is often out of mindless habit or lack of focus. But, the results are just as lame—and just as annoying.

    Most Slugs are real amateur networkers, but not all. I’ve encountered some veteran schmoozers who elevate Slug Behavior to the level of an art form. So have you. When you see them coming, you turn and run. Or, at least, start talking to someone else.

    •          RELATED: Phil also hates elevator speeches, and here’s why you should too.

    To help ensure no one ever accuses you of being a Networking Slug, here are five signs of Networking Slug Behavior and the Non-Slug Alternatives they—and you—should consider instead. No need to thank me–it’s my job!

    Networking Slug sign No. 1: They give you their business cards up front. And of course, most of the cards wind up in the trash can on the way out of the venue. I’ve even seen Slugs going around the room passing out cards to everyone, as if they were candy we’d all enjoy. Lame. Very lame. And I’ve been known to put on my curmudgeon hat on occasion and comment ‘I don’t recall asking for your card’ just to mess with them.

    Non-Slug alternative No. 1: Wait for people to ask for your card. Or, ask them if you can give them one. Wait until the end of a short conversation to initiate a possible follow-up. And ask for theirs first—that usually prompts the return request. 

    Networking Slug sign No. 2: They don’t respect your time. Slugs talk too much, too long, mostly about themselves and launch right into their sales pitch monologue when they call you. It’s all about them and what they’re selling, because they don’t realize—or care—that networking and selling don’t mix.

    Non-Slug alternative No. 2: Don’t dominate the conversation or talk too long. Tell less and ask more. Talk less and listen more. The conversation should be more about them than you. And never mix networking with selling. When you do follow up with a call, always ask within the first few seconds, “Is this a good time for a brief follow-up chat on…?” 

    Networking Slug sign No. 3: They don’t interact with class and style. If they suggest a coffee meeting, they show up late, expect you to pick up the check and can’t be bothered to confirm plans. And, again, they talk too much—about themselves.

    Non-Slug alternative No. 3: Send a confirming email or text the day before. Show up on time, if not early. If you initiate the meeting, always pick up the tab. Keep it short and simple, and focus on how you might be able to help each other.

    •          RELATED: Stop loathing networking and start love kibitzing.

    Networking Slug sign No. 4: They ask for something before they give. You’ll encounter two basic kinds of people at networking events—givers and takers. Slugs are takers—always thinking ‘what’s in it for me?’ And if you do help them, instead of a note of thanks, you usually get another request for your help. They rarely offer to return the courtesy.

    Non-Slug alternative No. 4: Ask what you can do for them before asking them for anything. And when you do need to ask first, make sure you have earned the courtesy. Believe that ‘givers gain’ and ‘what goes around comes around,’ and prove it by your courteous and consistent behavior.

    Networking Slug sign No. 5: They send you stuff you didn’t ask for. When following up, Slugs kill a lot of trees by sending you unwanted material that goes directly into your recycling bin. At an event, they shove brochures, resumes—even swag—in your hands without asking if you want any of it. Like they’re doing you a favor.

    Non-Slug alternative No. 5: Ask what is wanted or needed up front. Then, only send or give them what they asked for. Ask when they want it and respond accordingly. If they say they don’t want anything, honor that by not sending anything. Simple as that.

    •          RELATED: Read more on effective communication by Phil Stella.

    So, if you now realize that you hate Networking Slugs as much as I do, make sure no one can ever use that term to describe you. It’s all about networking with simple courtesy, class and style. No one will hate that!

    Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com,

    440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. 

  • Email
  • Next up: 5 Steps to Create an Agile Business

    5 Steps to Create an Agile Business

    The world moves fast and if your company’s going to keep up, it needs to be agile. Here’s how to get comfortable with change and keep your business relevant as the business world evolves.

    The world is changing and fast! Are you ready? Is your business ready? Are you and your leadership team prepared to tackle new workplace challenges and adapt to new norms? Do your managers have the capabilities and mindset to transform and inspire a whole new generation of employees? Does your workforce have the skill and the will to meet innovation demands, productivity requirements, company goals and customer expectations? 

    These are important questions to be asking yourself as a business owner seeking to thrive in today’s complex and ever-changing world of work. 

    As an organizational consultant and business/leadership coach, I have observed that when business owners prioritize building strong cultures and take time to identify clear strategic direction, they are invariably ahead of the curve. I have found, however, that the most critical attribute to success in recent years is an organization’s ability to adapt and change and to take on a mindset of agility—always willing to capitalize on new opportunities (even if that means veering from traditional paths) and are able to shift directions seamlessly and efficiently (with the support of their staff and their management teams leading the way). 

    Keen awareness of market forces and the foresight to see what is coming around the corner in terms of new opportunities will ultimately lead to a greater competitive advantage. And it starts with stopping organizational inertia dead in its tracks and having the courage to put down the “old ways” of doing things and the “traditional hierarchies” of yesteryear and instead build a more collaborate, responsive and flexible work environment—one now known as an agile organization.

    Perhaps you’ve been selling computer software based on “product features” that were once appealing to customers and the only reason they bought from your company. Now you see that the features are secondary to the need to cultivate trusting and long-lasting customer relationships and a “solutions-orientation” that has become more desirable to customers. In other words, you sense that your target market is now more interested in comprehensive solutions from sales reps they trust and respect rather than merely purchasing software with specific product features. Time to shift gears! You may need to hire sales reps who have these desirable qualities (and an expertise in solutions-selling) and develop incentive and performance programs that reward establishing solid, enduring customer relationships.

    A mindset of agility and taking steps (even small steps can have a significant impact) to create a more agile organization will be the keys to success in 2019 and beyond! Begin by thinking about your business and organizational culture. 

    Start here by asking:

    • How would you describe your workplace culture?
    • How about your vision, mission and values? 
    • Do they effectively lend themselves to inspiring a more flexible, creative and highly engaged and empowered workforce? 
    • Are all your other workplace policies and practices aligned with this type of philosophy?


    • Are decisions made at the lowest levels possible (empowered) or all at the top?

    Bottom line—we know now that a company’s ability to adapt, move quickly, and rapidly seize opportunities will be vital differentiators and the secret to future success.

    So where do we start?  With a focus on agility!

    5 things agile organizations do well:

    No. 1: Get comfortable with change:  Agile organizations are comfortable with change and do what they need to do to address these new challenges.

    No. 2: Be clear and simple: Any process, procedure or policy that is overly cumbersome must get kicked to the curb and replaced with a simpler approach, and one that perpetuates and supports faster decision-making and more responsive actions

    No. 3: Balance stability with agility: First, the perfect blend of standardized and structured rules and processes combined with individual freedoms and flexibility needed to seize market opportunities and respond swiftly to customer demands.  Second, a workforce and leadership team functioning in perfect harmony and high collaboration, high trust work environments. 

    No. 4: Trust and empower employees: Trusting and empowering employees, divisions and teams to shift their focus and develop new products, services and methodologies is imperative. Employees must also be entrusted to make decisions at the lowest levels. 

    No. 5: Collaboration and teamwork: Siloes and barriers to teamwork are broken down and leaders lead the way to facilitating healthy dialogue and reward those who collaborate well. Agility-focused leaders know that having more “brains in the game” will lead to better ideas and innovative developments.

    Successful businesses today are making strides to create a culture that promotes agility, flexibility and adaptability. Everything from their policies, systems and core values encourage this type of workplace. Leaders of agile workplaces respect traditions and a certain level of structure; however, they are not so wedded to a strategy or process to a point of being unmovable.  Agile leaders inspire their employees to not get “stuck” and to also be looking for new ways of thinking and doing. 

    As an organizational consultant, I have had the opportunity to meet with many clients and discuss “what’s working and not working” and how do we keep up the pace with market demands and create an organizational climate where employees feel engaged and valued (because we know when this happens, productivity and profits go up!)

    An outside consultant can be a good way to start this process, providing insights on current workplace best practices and how to implement these practices to better engage employees and satisfy customers.  Retaining a third-party workplace expert can be the perfect way to start building agility within your workplace!

    Interested in learning more? 

    Plan to attend our Workplace Coffee Talk on Creating a More Agile Organization.  As a COSE member get $20 off when you use the code COSE20.

    Video overview Here

    Jill Windelspecht has spent 20 years coaching executives, leading global and regional talent strategies, managing change and developing people. She works with mid- to senior-level executives and business owners to reach their potential and help create organizational climates that lead to lifelong prosperity. Helping executives develop their leadership and communication skills so that they can build a strong, cohesive team and break through any barriers holding themselves and their team back ... and not have to burn themselves out by doing so!  View her website by clicking here or contact Jill via email at Jillwindel@talentspecialists.net.  

  • Email
  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

    Download the presentation as a PDF here.

  • Email
  • Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Entrepreneurs

    What goes into the entrepreneurial mindset and process? Turns out, entrepreneurs seem to share the same eight traits.

  • Email