Since we were kids, we have looked forward to summer as a time for kicking back and relaxing. Whether your idea of a great summer day is relaxing at the beach, taking in a baseball game or just reading a good novel under the shade of a tree in the park, summer can be a great time of renewal. In fact, many small businesses slow down during the summer months to adjust for vacation schedules.

grow small business

You may be wondering how you and your staff can enjoy the summer and still keep your business vibrant and growing. The answer lies in using a summer slowdown to your advantage.

Here are five steps to grow your small business

First, take advantage of a lighter summer schedule to build or strengthen your professional network. Register for a seminar or conference that interests you. Introduce yourself to other participants and tell them about your business.

Catch up with colleagues you haven’t seen in a while by asking them out to lunch. Get feedback on some ideas you have been formulating. Ask them about their projects and goals.

Potential clients have freer schedules as well. Pick up the phone and call them to see if they will meet you for coffee.

Summer is a great time to refresh and revamp your social media network as well. When was the last time you updated your LinkedIn or Facebook profile? Put your latest projects on your page and connect or reconnect with some contacts.

We usually shy away from mixing business with pleasure, but keep your eyes and ears open to potential clients or customers while at summer social events. You never know who you will meet at that wedding reception or summer barbecue. Keep your business cards handy just in case.

Next, use that time outdoors to catch up on industry-related reading. Do you have a stack of professional journals waiting for you or is your inbox loaded with e-newsletters? Charge up your tablet and head outdoors to a comfortable spot and get caught up.

And don’t forget about the latest best-seller either. In addition to helping us gain information and improve our cognitive skills, reading also helps us relax. According to a study by Mindlab International at the University of Sussex, reading works to calm our nerves better than listening to music, taking a walk or sitting down with a cup of hot tea.

Scientists explain that when we concentrate on a book, the tension in the muscles and in the heart decrease, helping us to relax. In the study, researchers examined the stress levels and heart rates of a group of volunteers through a range of exercises and tests that were followed up with a variety of relaxation methods. When subjects silently read for six minutes, their stress levels reduced by 68 percent, the highest percentage rate of all the methods tried. (Listening to music reduced stress levels by 61 percent, drinking a hot beverage by 54 percent, taking a walk, 42 percent and playing video games, 21 percent from their highest level).

Neuropsychologist Dr. David Lewis, who conducted the study, explained that when we read, the words stimulate our imaginations and cause us to enter an altered state of consciousness.

A third idea for building your company over the summer is to plan a staff retreat. When you get away from the office together in a relaxed, comfortable setting, you will find that ideas and conversations will flow more freely.

If you are planning the launch of a new business or a new product, if you need a new or revised strategic plan or if you just want to build a stronger team, it is unlikely you will be able to accomplish much in a standard one- or two-hour office meeting.

When you schedule a retreat, you tell your team that you value their time and you set a tone that you want to take the time to hear everyone’s viewpoint without the distractions of daily office life. Summer retreats don’t have to be fancy. Offer your staff comfortable seating, refreshments, space to talk in large and small groups and a place to have some fun.

Have a specific goal for the retreat, plan an agenda and keep to it, and you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish.

Next, summer is a good time to update your website. Make sure your site is simple to navigate. Is it readable on mobile devices? If not, you could be losing customers to a competitor whose site is.

According to recent research from Ericsson, global smartphone contracts are expected to reach 5.6 billion in the next five years. Compare that prediction with the 1.9 billion contracts of today, and you will see why you need to make sure your website is mobile ready. Smartphone searches are driving purchases. According to a study last year from Google and Nielsen, more than half of online purchases occur within an hour of an initial mobile search.

Now is a good time to update your website content as well. Keep you readers coming back with fresh blog articles and up-to-date images as well as current product and staff information.

Finally, use the longer days of summer to assess your professional goals. It’s hard to believe by we are nearing the half-year mark for 2014. Take out your list of New Year’s goals for your business to see how well you are doing. If you have gotten off track, what steps do you need to take to get things moving again?

If there is a goal that is no longer applicable because of a change in your business, what can you do to formulate a workable plan to follow for the rest of the year?

Many entrepreneurs tend to reflect only on what could be better. While that mindset can be motivating, be sure to take some time to think about what is going well in your company too. Use the warmer days of summer to recharge your mental battery.

Scientists who study the brain agree that when we allow our minds to relax and wander, we can come up with some of our best ideas.

Steve Taylor Ph.D., a senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, writes in a recent issue of Psychology Today that we have the wrong attitude towards “doing nothing.”

“Perhaps we should stop thinking of relaxation and inactivity in such a negative light, and begin to see them as essential – not only for our well-being, but for our creativity and even our productivity,” Leeds writes. “Great ideas and insights don’t come from thinking or activity – they usually come through us, when we’re sufficiently relaxed.”