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With Labor Day about a week and half away, we are effectively entering what we fondly like to call the “mean season.”

Summer is all but gone. It’s time to put the cover back on the pool, break out your NFL team garb and get back to business.

Business always ratchets up in the third to fourth quarters, and if you are not prepared going into it then you will not be optimizing your opportunity.

So here are some friendly tips for you VARs out there from me to you on how to get one leg up on your competition. While many of your competitors are still trying to have one last hurrah before summer officially ends and blowing off the majority of the next week, you can use this to your advantage.

Before September begins and you find yourself playing catch-up, use the five days before the Labor-Day break to do five simple business exercises that will position your organization better for the busy months ahead.

1: It’s time for a true customer evaluation.

Now is the time to re-evaluate your business objectives and client base. While every business has high-maintenance and unprofitable customers that they just tolerate, you need to evaluate which are resulting in more solution opportunities and which are looking for free service and cheap products.

Put an end to it, and drop the deadbeats. Either devise a scheme to bring these troubled customers up to be a positive influence on your P&L statement, or drop them once and for all. Make an oath not to chase bad business just for top-line results.

2: It is also time to reach out and grab someone.

Make that extra call or company visit. Do it for the contact and not for the sell.

Use your downtime to build relationships, so that when business picks up in the fall, the prospecting is done and you’re ready to close. While your competition is working on one last tan, you’re working on new business.

It’s a great week for a client lunch or corporate site visit. I always found that there is nothing more valuable than visiting a customer on his/her own turf.

3: Bone up on education.

Maybe your customers are also working on their-last minute tans and they are not around for an impromptu visit. If not, then do some research.

Check out the latest products and services associated with your specific expertise. Get the education tool kits and read some manuals.

Hey, Longhorn, I mean Vista, was just released in beta. Learning all you can about the new OS while your competitors are sliding down water slides will put your company in a better position come official release time.

You can actually check out an archived version of an eSeminar we just completed that goes through the system’s new functionalities at Do the prep work now. Use this time to better yourself and be a more valuable asset to your company and to your clients.

Also, see what products and services are natural extensions of what you already provide. Reach out to potential partners and other VARs that can compensate your own solution. Now is the time to get to know them before you are both too busy and client requests are coming in.

Next page: Plan your meals.

4: Eat your own dog food.

Take a day to be a customer and go through your own help desk, support services or product offering. Walk in your customer’s shoes, and see if your staff is treating your client base the way you want them treated.

Test your customer service representatives, contact center and even technical support. If it doesn’t meet your expectations, do something about it.

5: Go through your company Web site.

I can’t tell you how many errors I see on organizations’ Web sites.

Out-of-date products and services, contact information and even management bios appear constantly. Most times marketing messages are mixed, information is old and the site in not a robust experience, but a frustrating one instead.

In this day and age, a Web site tells a lot about the professionalism and business acumen of an organization. Is information easy to find? Do you like the design? Is the information up to date? Does it effectively communicate what your specialty is and what services you offer? Go through your competitors’ sites and see what they do as well. Borrow their ideas to customize your needs. Once September hits, there will not be time to effectively evaluate your Web site.

Now, you may not have time to exercise all of these suggestions. That’s fine. Keep them in the back of your mind for any slow period. The key thing to remember is to not just pass the time, but to make time work for you.

Elliot Markowitz is editor at large at The Channel Insider. He is also editorial director of Ziff Davis Media eSeminars. He can be reached at