Unless you run a lakeside resort or sell ice cream bars on the boardwalk, summer is a great time to dig out, clean up, and think about why you are in business.

Here are some simple things to do while the days are long and spirits are generally high:

-Hire summer help. If you can't round up a high school or college student, put your kids to work. You can put your children on your payroll and book their salary as a legitimate business expense, up to a certain limit. Ask your accountant or CPA for the details.

Even a 12-year-old kid can open the mail, deliver it, paste address labels on postcards or clean out the office supply closet. Find a computer-savvy student who can de-fragment your hard drive, install new software, network your computers or do online research. If you can't find a young person, advertise or ask around for a retired person who is looking for something to do.

When I first started my communications company, I had my grandparents folding, stapling and stamping flyers, and responding to requests for information. They also read and drafted responses to story ideas and fan mail. When they went back home, I recruited my great aunt.

-Update your database. First, make all the changes you can based on the new business cards you've collected or by reviewing change-of-address notices you've received. Ask your employees to go through the list and delete people they know have changed jobs or those they haven't heard from in awhile.

Another way to clean up your list is to send out postcards with a special offer or discount to everyone on your list. Stamp "address correction requested" on the front so the postal service will return the undeliverable mail. You'll pay the return postage, but you'll end up with the information you need to keep your list current.

If you don't have a database, start one. Buy contact management software and a card scanner if you collect a lot of business cards. When things are slow, get on the phone and call customers or clients you haven't heard from in awhile. One Midwestern paving contractor I know called former customers on a slow day in July and ended up with a $63,000 contract.

-Meet face to face with your best customers. When things are going well, we tend to take our customers for granted. Big mistake. Set up a series of individual or group breakfasts with the people who keep your cash flowing.


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