Productivity tips and summer seem like a terrible fit on the surface. We're coming into a time of year when it's tough to stay focused as people inside and outside your company head off on vacation. Unless you're in an industry that depends on tourism or summer-related products, business will slow down a bit.

Take some trips this summer to gain a more complete perspective of your middle market business

This happens to be a perfect time to work on productivity. When the pace of work slows, you have a chance to do some things you might not ordinarily have time for that can help boost your business to the next level. To fit the theme of summer vacation, here are some productivity tips that revolve around travel. These tips have nothing to do with vacation but instead will give you the opportunity to take stock of certain aspects of your mid-sized firm. The investment could pay off handsomely.

Visit Customers

Good business depends on understanding your customers and satisfying their needs. As a middle market business grows, upper management can become increasingly isolated from the daily routine of dealing with customers. Ask about the industry that your customers are working in and the particular problems they're facing. Do those problems have anything to do with your business? Try to understand customer trends and the strategic decisions they are considering.

Visit Partners

Partners are the flip side of customers, though both are on your supply chain and are involved with your value chain — the process by which you create and deliver value. Gain an understanding of your business from another direction. Discuss mutual problems; vendors can often provide insight and solutions to issues that you may need a different perspective on in order to solve.

Visit the Competition

You don't operate in isolation. Stopping in at a competitor's facilities isn't likely to incur a warm greeting, but you can safely attend trade shows, go to retail or distribution locations, and review websites, collateral, and other materials. Look at reviews, undertake some competitive analysis, and learn their strengths and weaknesses. By gauging a rival's strengths, you can determine the advantages that a competitor has over your firm. Take stock of a rival's weaknesses, and you can learn how you might take business from them.

Visit Another Industry

A new perspective often enables innovation. Other industries deal with the same problems and possibilities that yours does, but they're expressed in a different context. Since there is no direct competition, you are more likely to receive cooperation and have meaningful conversations and collaborations that could result in benefits to both companies. Look at solutions, processes, and methods that you could adapt to your own needs.

Visit Your Employees

Don't forget to visit your employees, whether in a factory, warehouse, sales room, at your headquarters, at a remote office, or even on the road. See the conditions that they work under and try to understand the issues that trip them up. You'll learn things that would otherwise never make their way up the chain of command.

Visit Yourself

Stress and demands day in and day out often leave executives and workers drained. When all your effort goes into heading off problems and managing daily business, you have little mental energy left to put into making more strategic considerations. Even executives should have time for expanding personal horizons, which can have positive effects on your performance at work. So, take time for yourself. Attend a class or a seminar. Think, dream, and wonder.

If productivity is about finding more useful ways to spend your time, a series of summer trips could be a fine way to make the next few months interesting and profitable.

What other actions should executives take during a slow period of business? Let us know what you think by commenting below.

Erik Sherman is an NCMM contributor and author whose work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, Newsweek, the Financial Times, Chief Executive, Inc., and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch. Sherman has extensive experience in corporate communications consulting and is the author or co-author of 10 books. Follow him on Twitter.