Summer, B2B and Booming Business – September 10th, 2015

b2bbbWhatever happened to the summer doldrums: The lighter workloads, the longer lunches spent outdoors, the institution of summer hours? Summer used to mean more time off, less pressure, an opportunity to get caught up, to daydream. It was the perfect time to refresh one’s creative side without making a project out of it.

No more. Summer has blended into the rest of the business year. The only significant difference these days, it seems, is a drop in office temperature as even the air conditioning unit kicks into overtime.

The increase in workload is perhaps one sign of a strong economy and increased productivity. Times are good for everyone, and many in business-to-business think this area is making real headway, in dollars and perception, and that means more time at work and less time in the sun.

As one advertising agency executive told us: “When I first started in the business, the market was dead in the summertime. Now it’s a 12-month market. It just keeps going and going.”

It seems that for our readers, that lack of summer space is in reality a reflection of the big growth in business-to-business marketing. In putting together this year’s list of business-to-business advertising agencies, for example, we saw some real growth in revenue. We also saw a lot more agencies wanting to be counted – a jump from 174 agencies last year to 208 in this issue. And many of these agencies are experiencing not just a boom in business, but a boost in status.

In talking to people about the industry, the overwhelming reaction is that the business-to-business arena is suddenly red hot. In the past 12 months, business-to-business has actually moved beyond its also-ran status, in relationship to consumer marketing and advertising, to become a powerhouse in its own right.

Of course, this didn’t happen on its own. It took years of hard work on the part of business-to-business marketers for their efforts to even approach center stage. They’ve committed their time and their energy to making their businesses grow and their work flourish.

But the hours had to come from somewhere – and, ultimately, that means summers, for many people, have ceased to be the light, easy family-oriented months they once were.

While the payoff for many is good, growing workloads and responsibilities can also lead to increasing stress levels and worker burnout. The Chicago Tribune reported recently that the average workweek has risen over the past 25 years to 50.8 hours a week with 19.5 hours of leisure activity. That compares with 40.6 work hours and 26.2 leisure activity hours in 1973.

In addition to a growth in business that requires people to spend more time in the office, some also blame this shift to longer workweeks on the growth of technology. Those laptop computers and wireless phones and beepers that once made it so much easier to work at home now just make it harder to get away from the office (and of course that summertime sand and saltwater is just murder on these convenient little electronic gadgets).

So how do you put summer – or, at the very least, the concept of summer – back into your life? Peter McLaughlin says the best way to re-energize your business life is to make sure you get some time away from the day-to-day grind, even if it’s just for a few minutes at a stretch – enough time to stare out a window and munch a piece of fruit.

In his work with the Denver-based Hibbert Group, Mr. McLaughlin, author of “Catch Fire” and president of his own consulting company, promotes exercise and eating right. He also puts a lot of emphasis on humor in the workplace and the need to create an environment that’s energizing and fun.

So far, the plan seems to be working for the Hibbert Group, says President-CEO Bill Walsh, who hired Mr. McLaughlin after a rapid growth spurt in business left Hibbert employees somewhat listless and stressed out.

In other words, it seems that if we can’t get to summer, we’d better make sure summer gets to us. Our business rhythms often run counter to our life rhythms, and the only way to remain energized on the job is to make sure we get the space we need. Easy summer hours may seem like an old-fashioned idea, but sizzling-hot work doesn’t come from burnt-out people.

Perhaps, amid the hot times, it’s a good idea to remember the easy times. Productivity has its limits, and while daydreaming won’t pay the bills, it does go a long way toward kick-starting the creative mind.

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