Six Ways to Boost Your Credibility and Close More DealsThe time off requests have slowed down, the holiday parties have been celebrated, and the new year is here! Small business owners everywhere are trying to get their teams back on track and ready to tackle 2015. We asked some of our small business experts how they were getting back into the swing of things. Here’s what the had to say:

“Create a strategic sales/marketing plan for the YEAR for your top clients (we choose our top 30=75% of our profit). Document EXACTLY what you can do to grow your book of business with them, how much money it’s worth to you (personally) and where that takes you with your business goals for the year. 

This will align your mind for the new year and instead of wondering…who will I call today and what will I say, you just go to work. Finally, have a picture of your goals for 2015 as part of your strategic plan to visually remind you of WHY you’re doing it…the mind processes a picture 65,000x faster than words and that will help keep you on track.” –Michael Bremmer,

“As a speaker and trainer, it’s my job to do that work for many companies. They hire professionals like me to train employees, which get them back into work mode. It also gives them an out because it’s an outsider spurring them on to greater productivity and performance.” –Daphne Mallory, The Daphne Mallory Company

“Our Digital Marketing Agency sets goals each month and we put a strong focus on the goals that was set-forth in December. Once we get back into the swing of things after New Years, this makes it easy for our team to come out swinging after the Holidays.” –Jason Parks, The Media Captain 

“Managers have to confront this head on. They should call a meeting and say that they hope everyone is well rested and got to spend some quality time with family and friends. Next, they should talk about the quarter’s goals. Finally, they should discuss with everyone on the team how they’ll help achieve these goals.” –Rasheen Carbin,

“I’m finally getting my business back into the swing of things. A main part of the delay was due to clients taking it slow last week! Now we are picking up the pace. 

For Flourish, I start planning for January in December. I know it’s quiet leading up so I use that time to set goals, compile to do lists and clean up older projects. Doing this allows me to take some time off and hit the ground running after I return in the new year.” –Caroline Pigott, Flourish Marketing

“Have each small team/individual set themselves small stretch goals (preferably new goals) for the end of January AND schedule some type of celebration/party/office get together for early February. Post-Christmas is often a time when employee engagement drops and personal dissatisfaction with life increases. It’s been my experience and the experience of many of my client companies that this formula works. The party is not contingent on achieving the goals but they work together quite well.” –Nancy Morris, 

“We like to get excited about new products! eCommerce is a product driven business and Simply Bags starts each year the same – On a buying trip. We boarded a plane to Orlando on January 3rd and returned from Atlanta January 13th. Our team started the new year focused and excited about our new products offerings. 

Steve Jobs said it best: 

‘You need a very product-oriented culture… Lots of companies have great 
engineers and smart people. …..there needs to be some gravitational force 
that pulls it all together.’” –Bob Shirilla, Simply Bags 

“Focusing on Q1 goals and writing them down in manageable daily and weekly tasks is the quickest way for me. Sometimes, we’re in a fog after so much time off and we come back out of the work flow. Getting those tasks onto paper and in a list is a constant reminder that work has to continue and there are immediate things needing attention.” –Jason Fisher, Best Life Rates 

“It’s the new year and you want everyone to fire up the engines back to work. They need to know you care as a company. Host a coffee and donut/bagel day on a Monday to make them smile. Food does wonders. Have leadership walk around, greet their team and shake their hands. Ask each team member if there is anything leadership can do to start their year off on a positive note.” –Tom Morrison, Author of “How to Get Your People to Scream Your Name and Beg For More”

“We had a very relaxed schedule in December, so everyone is recharged and ready to work in January. The best way to prevent burnout is to strive for work/life balance, because everyone will be more productive in the long run. 40 hour work weeks, doing fun things together, etc.” –Katherine Long, Illustria Designs

“At TechnologyAdvice, we have a team of about 44 right now, and recently revised our PTO policy to offer unlimited vacation. I believe shifting to a more results-oriented work environment that reinforces our culture and trusting employees to have ownership over their work urges them to think about their projects and customers as if they were running their own business. Naturally, you can’t just take advantage of the system, run out the door at any time, and expect to come back and pick up exactly where you left off. This level of freedom, trust, and accountability for employees means that work gets done, goals are met, and we don’t skip a beat, even after the holidays. Moving to this policy places more focus on results as opposed to tracking how much time someone spends in the office, giving employees the initiative to hold themselves accountable for pulling their weight.” –Rob Bellenfant, TechnologyAdvice

“I own a chocolate shop where we make handcrafted, all-natural chocolate right in our store. December is crazy and my staff works very hard, so the first thing I do is close the shop for a couple days after Christmas to give everyone a break. We all need to take a breather before gearing up for Valentine’s Day. I found the best way to re-motivate my staff is to put sales incentives in place–I choose the ‘contest items to sell’ and they choose the gift they want if they win, then we run a contest for a month. We keep a sales tally on the production board so everyone can see where they stand.” –Julie Pech, The Chocolate Therapist

“We don’t have an end of year holiday party. Instead, we have a New Year’s lunch with the whole team, celebrating the past year’s successes and reviewing how much we have grown, and looking ahead to our goals for the next year. It is a great way to kick off the New Year and dive into work after the holidays with energy and enthusiasm.” –Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

“My team tends to get a little behind because of the Christmas holidays, so I’ll usually send out a few reminder emails as necessary for upcoming deadlines for my staff. But I also focus only on the most pressing items, leaving some of the less important stuff for later. That way, no one gets overwhelmed as the New Year kicks off. In addition, I’ll usually send out a quick message thanking my team for the previous year and reinforcing any business goals we have set up for the upcoming year.” –Andrew Schrage, MoneyCrashers

“My go to strategy for getting my team back on track after the holidays is to have a welcome back party/meeting on the first Monday of the new year. I bring in food and try to foster a relaxing, social atmosphere where my employees can catch up with each other, talk about what they did over the holidays, and generally transition back into the work environment. Eventually, once everyone has gotten their post-holiday socializing out of the way, we sit down together as a company and talk about the various projects we are working on for the new year. Every year after the meeting, I notice that my employees are much more focused.” –Michael Talve, The Expert Institute 

“After the holidays, I come back fresher than ever. It’s the excitement of embarking on yet another journey and writing another page that keeps me motivated. Traditionally, our first order of business would be to set goals for what we want to achieve by the end of the year, along with rewards. Being as detailed as possible always helps to elevate energy levels in the rest of the team.” –Aaron Lin, ZOOM Articles

“We scheduled for the first month of the new year to work on a project with one of the companies we partnered with. This got everyone motivated to work because we love our business partners. It also held us accountable to hit the ground running because other people (outside SCOUT) were depending on us. We had no choice but to get back to business because people were counting on us to deliver.” –Cody McGraw, SCOUT Military Discounts

“Always have a plan for the new year. Then when you come back from your winter break, have a meeting with your team. Go over the plan, and make changes as needed. During this meeting, get them excited for the new plan and its intended success. Reel them in with that excitement and then get back to business.” –Rich Kahn,

“After the holidays, employees – and bosses – may find themselves buried in email that has accumulated, and it can seem to be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help get through the daunting task of organizing and processing that mountain of email, and get back on track to being productive. 

If you have thousands, or tens of thousands of messages in your inbox, here’s the first step I suggest you take: 

• Create a new email folder. Call it “Old Email to Process.” 
• Move everything from before the holiday season into this folder. 
The idea is to get to zero (yes, zero.) Having an empty inbox is very freeing. Hundreds or thousands of messages in your email inbox is like an overflowing pile of unopened mail on your desk. You may think you aren’t worried about it, but there is part of your brain thinking, “Anything important in there?” The bigger the “pile” gets, the more worry there is, even if that worry is tucked away in some part of your subconscious. So the goal here is to get to zero. You can address that folder later, as necessary.” –Maura Thomas,

“I start setting the tone for January in December. At each December meeting I mention that the holidays are a slow time with clients, and so my staff should take the time to relax and recharge their own batteries. I also emphasize how busy we will be in January, getting them mentally prepared to jump back in energetically after the holidays. 

Throughout January I continually emphasize that we have an incredible sales opportunity. I talk about our prospects’ New Year’s resolutions and how they are extremely motivated to get our help. I convince my team this is a once a year sales opportunity, and so they are extremely energetic and productive throughout all January.” –Shane Robert, Green Vine Marketing, LLC

“Over the holidays, we all go back home and work remote for part of the time. Upon arriving back, I find that we’re all so excited to be back in the office and in Austin, that the work comes naturally. Though, we do lubricate the process in a few key ways: buy a ton of fair trade coffee, do daily standups to share our progress, and track our progress and goals for the upcoming busy season (spring for us).” –Ryan Farley, LawnStarter

“After congratulating and discussing successes and lessons learned from previous year, set your goals for the new year AND the first quarter and month (short term in important to give them immediate satisfaction and motivation). Ensure everyone is aligned to these goals and understands their role and importance in obtaining the company’s goals. Have a goal 
tracker in a central place and have weekly updates. Make this the best year yet!” –Pinky Shah, NJ Mortgage LLC

“It’s always a good idea to have a new project (or several new projects) at the beginning of a new year and after the summer. Think through some ideas which will engage teams and get everybody involved.” –Bettina Seidman, SEIDBET Associates

“Without a shadow of a doubt, holiday season is our best season, however, we are thankful that we use other holidays and occasions to highlight our products. We create a vision board of sorts, allowing all the exciting new changes and activities we have planned. This really gets us moving not only in the right direction, but with a fervor and renewed passion.” – Roberta Perry, Scrubz Body Scrub, Inc.

“Hold a staff meeting and discuss commitments in 2015 that will help organize and generate more revenue for the company. Have the team feel responsible for these big changes and they’ll motivate right back into full work mode.” –Adrienne Mazzone,

“Over the holidays I came into the office and left hard copy items on each person’s desk to help get their mindset ready for a great 2015. I included: 

1. A copy of our mission statement, the three desires to create and our sweet spot checklist for client work. These were pieces we created in 2014 and are a great reminder for 2015. 

2. A simple notecard that reads Am I using my time wisely? to display on their desks. 

3. Two laminated handouts from the Center for Brain Health with tips to boost your brain power. 

I also sent prescheduled emails and calendar invitations for key group sessions or solo blocks of time to propel us such as: 

1. Product development sessions 

2. Blog and social media writing

3. Business development” –Paige Rodriguez, MPD Ventures Company 

“We get our team going by having a Vision Party in which we brainstorm around where we want the business to go for the year, what (personal & professional) needs came up from last year that can be better addressed, and reasses our mission. This isn’t just the person in charge speaking up, but everyone sharing a unique perspective, with encouragement to get as creative as possible around new ideas or solutions. Those nuggets which excite us most are streamlined into the annual plan and become our template for success. People feel clear, motivated, and excited to make it happen.” –Dailey Little, Healing Heart Reiki

“It’s very important for my team to get back on track after a long holiday vacation. To help them brush off any rust I would hold a briefing in the morning. I would set realistic weekly goals in the meeting to help improve their productivity. Nothing extreme because I don’t want to overwhelm my team after a long break. It’s also great way to help them refresh their memories and get back to the flow of working.” –Lisa Chu, Black N Bianco

“I have a small team of writers and developers, and what we all do after a holiday season is get on a BOT. BOT (Back On Track) is our meeting after every holiday season. We use it to catch up and basically plan the weeks and months ahead. It works out very well. It’s like a reminder that hey, play time is over, it’s time to get back to work.” –Satrap Darabi, Money Pantry

“We have new individual goals in place, and we’ve decided to do quarterly outings this year, so we’re getting excited for our first outing, a paint night. Also, we always push our holiday party to January in order to look forward to something and also because December is such a busy month for everyone.” –Georgette Blau, On Location Tours

“There’s really nothing like incentives to get people to remember why they do something. We like to get the new year started with a challenge or two. Right now we have a contest running where our employees get to create a video of themselves explaining what our company slogan means to them. Winners receive a healthy cash prize, and not only do employees get back in the groove of working for things like this, but the company also gets to benefit from the video footage. This way everyone wins.” –Idan Shpizear, 911 Restoration 

“Because our company is client driven and our services in high demand, we do not have the luxury of long holiday breaks as do other companies. Our fast-paced and team oriented, collaborative company culture enables our employees to remain motivated throughout the holidays. Companies with post-holiday employee motivational issues can utilize employee feedback and can implement incentive based goals in order to ramp up productivity.” –Joshua Weiss, TeliApp Corporation

“My favorite way for getting the team back to business after the holidays starts with a company day retreat. Taking one day at a separate location with catering allowing for the company goals and visions to be outlined clearly. Then the team works together to brainstorm ways to bring the goals and vision to life. Getting out of the office into a different environment allows for a fresh start and great opportunity to get the team back on track in the new year.” –Kisha Mays, Just Fearless LLC

“It’s been my experience that the best motivation in the workplace is always a little friendly competition. Upon returning to work on the first day after a holiday break I usually hold a motivational meeting accompanied by a contest with a desirable prize. Who doesn’t want to win something?? This years prize is an iPad, last years was a television, works like a charm every year!” –Sondra Sgarlato, S-Trainer Inc

“One technique I’ve found over the years is taking advantage of the feeling of new beginnings that comes with flipping a calendar to the new year. I use that energy to set new goals and to determine what the smallest steps I can take towards those goals immediately. While I’m still excited about the New Year, I can use that energy to motivate both myself and my team, letting us slide back into work with projects we’re excited about.” –Thursday Bram, The Business of Creativity 

“My focus prior to the holidays was clear communication with our team ending the year and beginning another once we reconvened. After the holidays, I re-iterated my expectations and communicated them with our team. With this communication, our team came back ready to work and take on the new year with a positive attitude.” –Jamal Robinson, Desiar

“Working in the resume writing industry, January is our biggest month, since many American make career based new year resolutions. Our team is thrown into the deep end starting Jan 1, though some are a little lethargic until Jan 3 or 4. I offer a January bonus which is based on client satisfaction and worker output for the month, which is awarded to the top 5 performing writers. By making bonuses available to 5 team members the whole team feel there’s a real chance of finishing in the top 5, and it significantly help motivate my team during what is by far our busiest month of the year.” –Howard Davies, Resume Writer Direct

“After the holiday season we regroup and plan our strategy to keep things exciting for our brand during the long winter ahead. Because this is harder than holiday marketing, the challenge helps energize the staff and keeps us on our toes as we try to stay creative. We also pull up projects that were on the back burner and work on initiating new ideas.” -Michelle Friedman, Medical Scrubs Collection 

“I’ve found that the post-Holiday season is the best time to start strategizing on new ideas to reach customers. Everyone on our team is rested and ready to tackle the new year on a good note, and have had downtime with which they can brainstorm out-of-the-box ideas to present that we wouldn’t necessarily have thought of during the typical hectic workweek.  So, we jumpstart the new year by bringing in lunch and reviewing what worked and what did not work in the previous year and brainstorming ideas for the upcoming year. This give everyone time to throw mud at the wall and to see what sticks, and give us motivation to get started on implementing ideas we wouldn’t normally get a chance to.” –John Kinskey, AccessDirect

“The day after the break is always strong: people are rested and ready to hit the ground running. The key is to maintain the new year enthusiasm for as long as possible. At Novosbed, we achieve this by: 
– Having a new years party instead of a Christmas party. It’s less chaotic for everyone this way and it’s something to look forward to after all of the holiday celebrations. 
– As a team, we create and review the objectives for the coming year. This gets everyone back on the same page after the hectic holiday season. 
– I like to make sure that the office has been cleaned and any repairs that may have been put off have been completed. i want my employees coming back to the best possible work environment. 
– I also like going to lunch with each person on my team individually throughout January and February. It’s a great opportunity to start fresh with each employee, and get on the same page for the coming year.” –Kendyll Messina,

“Ease back into it. Everyone knows the first day or two are going to be rough (maybe even the first week). If you expect that, then you won’t be so hard yourself. Everyone is going through the same thing, especially this year because the holiday season seemed to stretch out longer with Christmas and New Year’s falling toward the end of the week. So, set your expectations accordingly.” –Michelle Garrett, Garrett Public Relations