Thank God for spell check! Without it I’d be lost. Now I’m a bad enough speller but this time I think I got it right. (Whoa that’s bad grammar if I ever heard it).
That’s right in order to make successful decisions we need to employ a SWOT Team. Now the Swat Team are those beefy law enforcement commandoes that storm evil doers or “enemies of state” (said with great fear and trepidation). But what I’d like to encourage all business owners to do is establish their own SWOT Team. That is, a team that can assess Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
Tired of reading already? For more information on this topic listen to the audio file “Complacency” by clicking here.
Why establish a SWOT Team?SWOT Analysis is a very effective way of identifying your Strengths and Weaknesses, and of examining the Opportunities and Threats you face. Carrying out an analysis using the SWOT framework helps you to focus your activities into areas where you are strong and where the greatest opportunities lie.
To carry out a SWOT Analysis write down answers to the following questions. Where appropriate, use similar questions:
Strengths:What advantages do you have?What do you do well?What relevant resources do you have access to?What do other people see as your strengths?Consider this from your own point of view and from the point of view of the people you deal with. Don’t be modest. Be realistic. If you are having any difficulty with this, try writing down a list of your characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths!
In looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors – for example, if all your competitors provide high quality products, then a high quality production process is not a strength in the market, it is a necessity.
Weaknesses:What could you improve?What do you do badly?What should you avoid?Again, consider this from an internal and external basis: Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you do not see? Are your competitors doing any better than you? It is best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.
Opportunities:Where are the good opportunities facing you?What are the interesting trends you are aware of?Useful opportunities can come from such things as:Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scaleChanges in government policy related to your fieldChanges in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, etc.Local EventsA useful approach to looking at opportunities is to look at your strengths and ask yourself whether these open up any opportunities. Alternatively, look at your weaknesses and ask yourself whether you could open up opportunities by eliminating them.
Threats:What obstacles do you face?What is your competition doing?Are the required specifications for your job, products or services changing?Is changing technology threatening your position?Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems?Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your business?Carrying out this analysis will often be illuminating – both in terms of pointing out what needs to be done, and in putting problems into perspective.
You can also apply SWOT analysis to your competitors. This may produce some interesting insights!
Let’s take a look at an example. A small consultancy business like SBA Network might carry out the following SWOT analysis:
Strengths:Our company has a strong market presence or reputationWe are able to respond very quickly as we have no red tape, no need for higher management approval, etc.We are able to give really good customer care with plenty of time to devote to customersOur senior consultants have a strong reputation within the marketWe can change direction quickly if we find that our marketing is not workingWe have little overhead, so can offer good value to customers
Weaknesses:We are vulnerable to vital staff being sick, leaving, etc.Our cash flow will be unreliable in the early stagesWe are not seen as an alternative for Fortune 500 companies due to our small size
Opportunities:Our business sector is expanding, with many future opportunities for successOur local council wants to encourage local businesses with work where possibleOur competitors may be slow to adopt new technologies
Threats:Will developments in technology change this market beyond our ability to adapt?A small change in focus of a large competitor might wipe out any market position we achieveThe consultancy might therefore decide to specialize in rapid response, good value services to local businesses. Marketing would be in selected local publications, to get the greatest possible market presence for a set advertising budget. The consultancy should keep up-to-date with changes in technology where possible.
Key points:SWOT analysis is a framework for analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats you face.
This will help you to focus on your strengths, minimize weaknesses, and take the greatest possible advantage of opportunities available.
For more information on this topic listen to the audio file “Complacency” by clicking here.