No, I am not talking about flies, and besides that word is spelled SWAT. What I am talking about is a very important and even critical part of business planning, and a simple yet powerful planning method you can use in your business daily. In fact, you should be showing/teaching this method item to all your managers and even most employees as a sound and consistent system to assure they stay on focus and also continually and effectively examine their operations position and plan to move forward. For those of you who have a business school degree, you already know what I am talking about. However if you are not using SWOT yourself on a daily, or at least weekly, basis, you probably ought to red over this brief article for a different perspective.
Let’s get to it now. SWOT is very simply an acronym. Initials for other words, and those are Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats! What a SWOT examination does is actually very straight forward and easy to do. First of all you need to remind yourself that you need to regularly reexamine your company’s (or department, etc) current position as regards all of these items. As I noted, doing a SWOT couldn’t be simpler. You will require a very complex form… NO I’m kidding! Just get you a lined pad (yellow, legal I don’t care). Now draw a vertical line down the center of the whole page. Next, write a column title of STRENGTHS on one side of the center line, and write the column title of WEAKNESSES on the other column. Now you have the first page of this two page form. Obviously you would do the same process on the next page of the pad, with those titles being OPPORTUNITIES and THREATS. Now you can start completing your form. And, like all business planning, in the case of a SWOT analysis, the act of completing the form is the most important thing about it, because it directs and specifically focuses your exceptional brain power and thoughts on details of specific importance to you and your business and its direction right now! Let’s get started!
Start necessarily with the Strengths column. In this column list down all the specific strengths of your business (or department, function, yourself or your program, whatever you are focusing your SWOT on). You will want to just let your mind go on the first pass using this so start listing away. Once you’ve done that (and don’t list more than 10 items), you may want to go back over them and prioritize them from the viewpoint of those items that you HONESTLY believe and know are greater strengths for you than any of your competition! If you think about it (and you will) there is a lot more that could be considered about the list you just made, but lets move on for now. Keep in mind your strengths could be things like knowledgeable staff, product advantage in market, location, financial strength, proprietary knowledge, patents, etc. Think hard about it, you can do this over the whole day or even two, but not more. Be sure however to keep on the focus of the page columns and know it is your form, you can come back and edit, erase, tear up and start over, etc. Remember, the form is inexpensive, the information is critical!
The next extremely important list is Weaknesses. It is of course imperative you be very honest with yourself here. In fact, the grave importance of this analysis to you and your business is so great, you may want to solicit input here from others (though no one outside your business as this is confidential of course). In any case, you need to list here ALL the items in your business that are potential or known weaknesses, start with the known ones and work on. Again, these areas could mirror the ones shown above for strengths? Does your staff need more knowledge, training, etc where that fact is a weakness of your business. Is your product not up to par or is it weaker than say your competition? List it, and any other items that are distinct or even potential weaknesses of your business! Go back over them and prioritize them as you did the Strengths list. Consider as well that some of these may be weaknesses you see and want improvement on so as to better your business overall, yet they might not be weaknesses as respects your competition. I’ve just touched on one optional process here for you to think about. That is to do a SWOT on your business based on your opinion of what it should be, versus a second one, maybe even more realistic for current purposes, that considers your strengths and weaknesses solely as respects your competition. I hope you see just some of the other potentials from this simple yet powerful planning and examination process? But continue, get your list done in this column, and let’s move quickly on.
Going to page #2, your first column is Opportunities. From the viewpoint of your marketplace and competition, this list should denote items that potentially represent things your company can “win” at applying and/or playing to its strengths or minimizing and/or avoiding items you listed as weaknesses. List as many opportunities as you can think of. In this function, I strongly recommend you include and solicit input from your support staff and management. This now also gives you an excellent opportunity to focus all that brilliance you pay so dearly for in payrolls! Your opportunities could include anything from getting a plum account in your market area, versus your competitors, to setting up advantageous relations/contracts with prized suppliers. Whatever would result in sound and measureable gains to your company that you can think of and that you know is achievable. Expand on this, THINK! Consider this and each section of the SWOT carefully and you (and your involved staff) will begin to see from this focus, many areas of interest and concern, potential and danger for your company. Trust me; too many companies (all in fact) don’t do this enough. How many times in business or life have you thought about adverse results and said to yourself, “WHY DIDN’T I SEE THIS COMING?” Good or bad, you can see it coming. Better yet, you can make things happen and “come” as you want them to if you will take the time to carefully consider opportunities and do so in perspective of your company’s strengths and weaknesses.
Now let’s consider the last letter of our acronym, “T” for Threats. Threats could be things like a competitor moving into the shopping center you are in and taking business from you if you are a retailer. Competitors stealing away your best customer(s), staff or technology, etc could be others. You understand this exposure to your business better than anyone and you will list what is currently of issue to you. List everything you can think of and again I recommend you include your staff and managers to that input. Also, consider these threats as with the opportunities from a priority position, plus whether they are long term or immediate. Are these threats competitor items, or are they just present in the marketplace or your particular area? Again, consideration of al these items in each of these columns is focusing your mind and thoughts and your talent on the issues of importance to you and your business right now, today!
Hopefully you readily see the distinct importance of doing this SWOT analysis regularly, and you will pass it along to your managers and staff as well for them to maximize their efforts and continually analyze and refocus. That is what a SWOT does primarily, while admittedly influencing you to do much more. After all, don’t you want you, your staff and your business over all to be focused every day on its best potentials, working to its strengths and avoiding, or eliminating weaknesses? How about maximizing and acting to take advantage of opportunities as they occur or better yet before they do! And of course you’d always want to avoid threats wouldn’t you? Well it should be more than obvious that to accomplish any of these ends requires you know what they are, consider them carefully and focus your and your staff’s efforts on them daily. Are you doing that now? I know you hope you are… but are you really! Could you do better? Can you see how this simple SWOT procedure and method applied to your business daily or at least weekly can help assure you do this?
Please note there is much more potentially to SWOT and considerations, but its great value is simple and straight forward as I note here. If you will use it and keep using it, your mind will be sharper, your business focus most acute and your results drastically improved, REGARDLESS OF MARKET CONDITIONS! I would recommend to you as well that you refer to my earlier article on business planning and the need and values of doing so. Use the link shown at the end of the article below. Then understand that doing a SWOT as part of your overall business plan, and individually in your marketing and operations plans, is imperative. GREAT, now get out there and get SWOTing, and I don’t mean flies!
Link to that article at https://feed.dampfang.com/examiner/admin/EntryController.cfm?data=RDFIczh2Q0szZkZLdjMxQ2xYTWVJdU0xUXVVTFpxbFMybTVZR093Qm1hRT0%3D.