Expert Advice for Medium and Midsize Businesses

A Necessary Checklist to Finding and Fixing Your Weakest Link

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with the expression, “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” In business, the weakest link can mean the difference between winning and losing customers, and money. A company can have the best products or services, but if they have disengaged employees, a poor marketing campaign, or less than adequate technology, customers will buy elsewhere.

To strengthen the weak links, I tell my clients to create a checklist to test each area of their business at least every six months. I also advise that they do spot inspections in the event that sales start to dip or there are noticeable changes in customer feedback.

Below is a list to help you start this process too. Feel free to add your own areas and then use it to start strengthening your company’s chain:

Company Culture
Are your employees excited to come to work every day? Do they understand and buy into the vision you’ve created for your business? This is arguably the most important link in your entire company. If your employees are disengaged, apathetic and/or unmotivated, it will be impossible to achieve the objectives you laid out at the beginning of the year. Define your company’s culture for your employees and allow them to help you reinforce it through suggestions and company programs. If you want to win, you need their support.

Is your management team all rowing in the same direction? Are they engaged? Your team leaders must exemplify your company’s culture and help execute the business strategy while dealing with any obstacles that pop up to prevent or block your path to success.

In most cases, your sales team is the face of your company. How well do they know your products and services? Do they understand the needs of your customers? How about the competitive landscape? Can they articulate your unique selling proposition vs. the other players in the market? Ensure your company is investing to properly onboarding new salespeople and give them the training they need—don’t simply throw them into the deep end.

Today, most buyers have done all their research BEFORE they first reach out to your company. Are you having the necessary discussions online with prospects and customers to make sure they’re receiving the correct information? Being on social media, on the platforms your customers and prospects are using, is critical. Otherwise, you allow outside “strangers” (people and companies) to tell your story. Separately, how robust is your digital presence? Have you looked at your website from your own smartphone? Tablet? Desktop? How is the user experience across these different devices? Is it easy to read and navigate on all devices?

Customer Service
Customer experience happens when a company delivers on its promise without any glitches. Customer service happens when something goes wrong. The ability of your customer service department to timely rectify an experience gone wrong is usually the weakest link in most growing, entrepreneurial companies. It’s often viewed as an expense within companies, which means minimal staff and training.

Things go wrong in business; companies are imperfect. But, help a customer successfully deal with a miscue (e.g. broken product, error on their billing statement), and you have a happy customer that sings your praises. Ignore the same customer or under-deliver on your promises, and they will tell everyone they know about how poorly you treated them.

New technology is being introduced to industries and marketplaces almost daily. Your challenge is to keep up with the changes and figure out which tech tools make sense for your business. Are you running an efficient and productive company, or are you falling behind the competition? The right technology is a competitive advantage; the wrong technology can put you either behind the 8-ball or out of business completely. Take time to make sure it’s the former and not the latter. 

Your Customers
Customers control today’s conversations, not the business. Customers are posting pictures, reviews, and recommendations online, any time they want, to anyone that will look. Influential customers are telling massive audiences about which products and services they love, and which ones to avoid. Your customers must be one of the strongest links in your chain. If it isn’t, fix it.

Talk to your customers and prospects. Ask them for honest feedback, and then follow up with them to show that you are listening to them. Customers want recognition and love. Give it to them every day.

As I mentioned above, you can and should add to these to make your own checklist. Your next step is to schedule time regularly to review and update the list—you don’t want to find a weak link after the chain is broken.

For daily insights and advice from Brian Moran and other SMB Experts, join our LinkedIn group, Ask the SMB Experts. The Ask the SMB Experts group is a forum for growing businesses to come together with industry experts to discuss key issues, trends and more.

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