Fourth quarter is a busy timefor brokers! How do they keep sane? (Illustration: DanPage Collection/© theispot.com)

Go with the flow

Lots of happy hours! No, seriously, I allow very flexible hours. We work round the clock duringQ4 to deliver translated benefits booklets, etc. to our brokerclients on time and sometimes the deadlines are ungodly. If my teamneeds to sleep late and/or work from home, I have no problemwhatsoever with that. I am very lucky to have excellent people, andI have no doubt that they will exceed our clients' expectations, so I am happyto be flexible about their hours, especially during this seasonwhen we are drinking from a proverbial fire hose.

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Melissa Burkhart, founder and president, Futuro SolidoUSA

Planning, scheduling and chocolate

The motivation is not the hard part; it's the focus on priorities and managing the pipeline.I do a daily check-in with the team with a rundown of tasks athand. I plan out my day/week according to priorities and schedulemy work in 30-minute blocks so that I can stay on task. I schedulein breaks, too, like a walk around the block. I encourage staff todo the same. We use Salesforce to keep us on track and manageworkflow.

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Also chocolate helps–the kind wrapped in foil with the littlemotivational sayings inside! Don't worry; if you have to unwrap alot of chocolate to find the perfect saying, it's worth it!

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Barb Schlaefer, owner and president, C RoseAssociates

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Related: 25 tweet-sized info bites to motivate you thismonth 

Stay fueled

I bring in food for fourth quarter. Fruit, sandwich stuff, etc.And caffeine. Lots of caffeine. I also supply lots of paper platesand cups, because there's no time for dishwashing. There's lots ofasking, “Is everyone OK? Need any help?” And lots of water, withport-a-potties in their offices. (OK, JK.) If they stay late, webring in more food. We get additional help as needed. And we have“free days to cuss” a little if it helps. Lots of grace is given. Imay need it the most. I have been known to say “fudge” once ortwice…

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Tanya Boyd, president, Tanya Boyd & Associates

Close the inbox

While time management and planning your day and week are alwaysa priority, I make it my first morning priority in Q4. If I don'tand I open my email first, well, the inbox tidal wave can steal mywhole day by allowing other people's requests to take precedenceover my priorities for the day.

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Dr. Josh Luke, CEO, Health-Wealth

Celebratory Fridays

Our team realizes how important it is to keep the energy highduring the fourth quarter. From enrollment meetings throughout theweek to long days working to deliver another successful renewal, wefound a way put smiles on our faces at the end of the week. Ourbenefits analyst, Amanda Johnson came to the team and presented thegreat idea of weekly celebrations over lunch on Fridays.

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We are having fun showing our team spirit with our communityevents and individuality with a couple of cooking contests. Whenyou spend this much time away from your family, having fun duringthe most time-consuming quarter of the year is important to us.During these events, the entire team has more time to build closerrelationships and are often guaranteed a few great laughs.

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A few events:

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• Support the Home Team! • Chili Contest• Food Bank Donation Week • Pumpkin DecoratingContest • National Deviled Egg Day • Big DealBirthdays! • Holiday events

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Robson Baker, employee benefits and HR advisor, ClarusBenefits Group

Bonus Time

One thing we did this year is book our first out-of-statecompany retreat for the end of February, when everyone gets theblahs. We have always tried to do a fun quarterly thing, but thisyear, I wanted to do something different.

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We also do quarterly bonuses and that keeps everyone motivated.Third quarter bonuses come out the end of October and that helpskeep people going and also gives them a little extra Christmasmoney.

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Another thing we always for Thanksgiving is close the Wednesdaybefore to give people a little extra time with family, especiallywith the craziness of open enrollment. And for the week betweenChristmas and New Years, we rotate and have one person monitor allday, which gives everyone some extra family time.

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Susan L. Combs, president & CEO,Combs &Company

Retreat to the spa

As much as we try to prep for the fourth quarter throughout theyear, it inevitable that it still becomes the most stressful partof the year. For our team in Kansas City, I have found that spavisits work particularly well. We send them to the spa at thebeginning of the fourth quarter and again at the end (they choosethe treatment they would like to receive).

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In the past we have done group outings, lunches, chair massagesand early office closures on Fridays. None of these perks ever seemto be expected and are always much appreciated. You can see areturn on the investment without a doubt. Little things like thisgo a long way for office morale and ultimately for our clients.

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Brandon Scarborough, senior vice president, CobbsAllen

Put it into perspective

We all know that this time of year is like April 15th if we wereCPAs! We spend the majority of the year planning our timelines,work flow, and client deliverables for this year-end crunch.However, no matter how much we plan or prepare, there is alwaysgoing to be a little stress this time of year. Here are a fewthings we work on internally to manage the craziness:

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• Get together as a team to share stories, wins, andjust to connect personally • Create an environment whereit is OK to ask for help and build a team focused on helping eachother regardless of “roles” • Definitely bring in somebreakfast, lunch or even an adult beverage for social interactionand a mental health break • Encourage a few “walkingmeetings” to get up away from your desk for some fresh air and afew extra steps • Invite a key carrier/distributionpartner into the office. It is important to connect with ourpartners rather than always email/phone negotiations and issueresolution. • Most important, take pride in every meetingand the results we achieve. While the meeting volume is high, thesuccessful outcome from our work impacts the client's bottom lineand literally hundreds (or thousands) of employees, spouses andchildren.

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The fruit of our labor ensures access to quality and affordablehealthcare that protects the employee's paycheck and their personalhealth and well-being. It is noble work and every meeting weprepare for has a huge impact on people's lives! It is important tostop and reflect on this rather than running to the nextmeeting.

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Reed Smith, EVP/Employee benefits practice leader, CoBizInsurance

Keep it light

We strive for great employee engagement, especially during thefourth quarter. In addition to our monthly massages andtwice-a-month yoga, we add events including a hot fudge sundaeafternoon, bagels and cream cheese for breakfast and lunches withthemes. For example, in November, we have a “potluck” (RGEB bringsit in) before Thanksgiving with everyone's favorite comfortfood.  At the end of October we also dress up forHalloween, and one of our employees makes her famous pumpkin icecream pie with Oreo cookie crust. The idea is to keep things light,funny, and stress reducing.

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Barry S. Cohn, Really Great EmployeeBenefits

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