Best Practices, Maren Hogan, Marketing

Author’s Note: WordPress won’t let me post a stupid picture, which has upset me greatly.

2012-2013 has been a crazy year for Red Branch Media. We’ve grown from little old me to a 7 person team, in no time at all. It’s been exciting, crazy and…exhausting. I wrote about my need for a break in Forbes last month (myabe you saw it…no? Go look.)

And I really did it! I took a whole month off. I didn’t sorta work, or just “call in” or scramble to find wi-fi so I could upload a document. I completely disconnected from my clients, my team and anything remotely resembling work. For an entire month.

Now that it’s August, I am back in the office and making up for lost time. Calling clients to see how the time went is part of that process. Nearly every one has asked me:

“So…how did it go?”

To answer that I have to go back to a conversation I had with Mary Ellen Slayter the month before I left. I was lamenting that all the pre-vacation work wasn’t worth it and we were commiserating the way only hardscrabble entrepreneurs seem to do; about kids, about work, about payroll. She is my “forced mentor” (because she doesn’t want to play nicely and just BE my mentor) and said, “You know, you’ll come back to an empty calendar and be able to focus again.”

At the time, I thought she was crazy. I figured by the time I got back, my phone would be ringing off the hook and I’d have new projects popping up everywhere. But the truth is, my team ran things so well while I was away, there is very little for me to do…right now. I really feel refreshed and renewed, as corny as that sounds. Here are 5 things I am doing right now that I forgot to do while growing my business.

1. Writing to friends. This industry is full of amazing people and I am proud to call many of them my friends. However, as Red Branch Media spilled over with work, there was no time to write, call or Skype my friends. Facebook became a wasteland of spam DMs and promoted stories. The phone only seemed to ring with clients (also wonderful friends but you get my drift). Now, I am taking the time to reach out to people who are not just business associates but friends….just to say hi!

2. Writing period. Now that there are content creators on staff, I write pretty rarely. This is bad. Writing is as essential to a marketing company (and to me) as anything else I do. If I let that skill get rusty, which I have, what am I even selling? I tell stories: when I speak, when I market, when I sell. If I cannot tell stories effectively, I cannot do my job or teach my team how to do it for when I move off to the Florida Keys 🙂

3. Cleaning my desk. Well, I didn’t really clean my desk. My project manager Dana cleaned it while I was away. Apparently, my car was barely out of the driveway before he went nuts and started creating order out of chaos. Even my whiteboard is neater. I will take this opportunity to file papers from last year, dust off the business card pile and pick just ONE notebook to keep me organized.

4. Reading friends’ books. I have galleys, manuscripts, finished books and white papers from friends near and far, all unread….all in a pile. Simply because I haven’t had time to look through this impressive collection of work. I leave them on my desk for two reasons. 1) Because if I ever write an entire book, I want someone to read it! and 2) Because if I look at a book and see my friend and peer’s name in the author slot, that means maybe…just maybe I can do it too!

5. Meeting new people. I don’t know about you but I have a lot of acquaintances. People that are my friends on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn that I have never really “talked” to. So while I’m familiar with their lives and vacations, relationships and companies, I have no idea who THEY are. I’m not sure when this happened but a whole crop of fresh faces came along when I wasn’t looking. I want to meet them, so I am taking a chance and reaching out.

So that’s it really. I know not everyone can take a month off but I highly recommend it. You have to work three times as hard beforehand but truly letting go and enjoying life has been an eye-opener for me. And I think that it’s making me better at my work now that I am back. Have you taken a vacation this summer? What did you learn? How did it change how you’re approaching work now that you are back?