As I write this I am chained to my desk. Not literally of course. And, to be honest it’s my home office. And If I am to be totally honest, it’s not even a desk: It’s a Morris chair, with arms wide enough to rest a laptop on one and my coffee cup on the other.
The trouble is that I’d much rather be working at the actual home office desk, but since I started out in this chair to do some quick emailing with my morning coffee before the sun came up, I’m stuck here for one simple reason: after many thousands of miles of travel and many thousands of hours of use, and abuse, my laptop has the same battery life as the Underwood typewriter resting atop the bookcase in my living room. Which is to say none at all. If I unplug it dies. Immediately.
So, while I have the benefits of Wi-Fi, high-speed Internet, and an IT department with the skills of the NSA, none of it will help me one whit to do what I really want to, and what the piece of technology was designed to allow: be mobile.
This is a pain.
This laptop, or more precisely, its battery, has become a weak link. Technology is like that. The most leading-edge piece of high tech goes from awe-inspiring to indispensable to infuriatingly out of date without us really noticing.
So what’s your weak link? Is it the old legacy system you’ve relied on for years to generate your stocking reports and the like? Maybe it’s your old telecom system, unable to integrate with your new systems. Maybe it’s your old flip phone that you carry as a badge of technophobic honour.
Of course, technology alone will neither save nor sink you. If the way you have your staffing organized isn’t flexible enough for today’s demands, or the way you train your drivers – or if you don’t train them at all – hurts your service, that too can be a weak link that competitors will capitalize on. Any areas of your business that either get in the way of you serving customers in the most problem-free, efficient way are weak links.
And that is really the measure of it.
Every business has weaknesses and can survive and prosper without ever eliminating them entirely. It’s the nature of the beast: in a market where customer demands are continually evolving, there are always going to be some parts of every business that lag a little.
So the only weakness that can really hobble a business in a significant way is if that weakness is you.
Ask yourself three things: Am I in touch with my customers? Am I in touch with my managers and front-line staff? Am I in touch with my key suppliers? If the answer to any one of these is anything but an enthusiastic “Yes!”, then you have some work to do.
The upside is that reconnecting on all those fronts will reinvigorate you: in terms of your business, the industry, and your own capabilities. And it will invigorate your business and your staff too.
I think you’ll enjoy it.
It all starts with being strong enough to admit the need to change.
—Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
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