Forget the sunshine – it’s time to SWOT!

It may be a while since you first felt those tremors of excitement (and fear) at the idea of starting your business.  Now it’s up and running… things are going well… but where do you go from here? Do you just keep ticking along? Of course not – because apart from anything else, you never know what’s around the corner and you’re probably not the type to sit and wait for things to happen.

A good time for a review

You might be thinking of taking the business in a new direction. You might even want to sell up and retire or start something else. Who knows – whatever your motivation, it sounds like a good time for a review. It’s always worth taking the time out, every now and then, just to make sure that you are where you need to be, still heading in the right direction, and still in touch.

At the risk of throwing in some jargon, it’s good to do a SWOT analysis (Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats) – maybe once a year – with your primary motivation in mind. If it’s to sell up, focus on what a potential buyer might be looking for. Look at the Strengths and Weaknesses associated with everything to do with your business and your products or services (these are the internal things). Think about what you could do better, or differently, to make the most of your strengths and minimise the impact of your weaknesses.

Similarly look at the opportunities and threats in your business environment that might affect how, and where, you operate (these are the external factors). Again think about the best ways to make the most of the fantastic business opportunities that are out there and how to avoid the threats and pitfalls.

Finding your strengths

I find it easiest to lay everything out in a 2 by 2 matrix with strengths and weaknesses at the top and opportunities and threats underneath. That way I can see everything on one spread (plus it stops the temptation to go into great detail). It’s sometimes difficult to see the things that we are good at, for ourselves, and all too easy to see the things we are bad at. So, if you feel you might be too close to the situation, it always helps to get feedback from a trusted friend or colleague.

Just some things to consider when looking at your strengths:

  • What’s great about your business/you/your workforce? It doesn’t have to be unique in itself but when combined with everything else it will add up to something pretty special.
  • Is there something about your product or service that you are particularly pleased with? How it’s made/delivered…
  • Is there a particular expertise in the business, or a sector knowledge, that gives you the edge?
  • … and don’t forget your customers. Are they high value/fiercely loyal/specialist?

Acknowledge the weaknesses and threats

Somehow we rarely have a problem picking holes in what we do, so the weaknesses section is always easier to fill in. Similarly with threats, although they’re a little different because we’re looking at what the business environment and our competitors might throw at us. That said it can be easy to overlook things like:

  • Legislation: How is your business currently affected by legislation? Is there anything that could pop up, and cause a problem, in the near future such as changes in employment law or a new EU directive on food?
  • Technology: If for example you are in the business of developing apps, or other software, or manufacturing a product, could new technology make it less desirable, more expensive, or worse still – obsolete?
  • Political: If there is a change of government, whether national or local, how might that affect how and where you do business…? If you are in property development, for example, it could affect things like planning permission…
  • The state of the economy… (Need I say more…?)

Make the most of the opportunities

Opportunities and threats can be two sides of the same coin and it’s important to also think about the positive benefits that changes in legislation, technological developments, and social and political changes, might bring to your business. For the environmental consultant say, a change in legislation could make their work easier and the advent of online technologies have certainly made it easier for small businesses to compete with the big fish.

Wherever your business sits at the moment, have fun with the exercise of reviewing your strengths and weaknesses every now and then. When everything is laid out in front of you, it’s easier to make plans to maximise your strengths, minimise your weaknesses, and make the most of the opportunities that are undoubtedly out there for you.

Deborah Rowe
Deborah Rowe

Deborah is a chartered marketer, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, and fellow of both the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing and the RSA. She has more than 20 years of solid marketing and communications experience which she puts to good use as principal consultant of Sheba Marketing. Sheba Marketing provides no-nonsense business-to-business marketing support to small and medium-sized organisations that want to achieve great things.

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