As a business owner, you’ve probably heard of a SWOT Analysis – a process where you identify your business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. However, performing this analysis is nothing more than a time-consuming exercise unless you can put its results to good use. You need to spend time working on those shortfalls. In this article, you will learn how to do and implement a SWOT analysis to increase the value of your small business.
“Performing a SWOT Analysis is nothing more than a time-consuming exercise in futility unless you can put its results to good use.” – Justin Goodbread, CFP®, CEPA®, CVGA®Click to tweet
When you’re strategically planning the value growth of your business, you’ll come to the SWOT Analysis. Thus far in the VMVSOSTA strategic planning framework, you’ve established your Vision and your Mission. Then, you aligned those statements with your personal Values and aligned your team’s values to your business’s culture of values. Now that you’ve identified what your business will look like at its most valuable, it’s time to examine its present state.
First, you and your team members need to identify your company’s strengths. Sure, you know your own strengths, but what are the strengths of your business from an internal and external perspective? As an owner, what do you think your business’s strengths are? Do your team members agree? What do your customers believe your strengths are? What are your strengths within your marketplace?
You see, when you’re looking at your company’s strengths, you want to think about them in relation to your competitors. Don’t think of your strengths in a vacuum. Identify the advantage your company has over its immediate competition. In other words, what is your competitive advantage? Maybe it’s size. It could be the volume of sales. Perhaps your employees have unique intellectual capital. Is it your location or your accreditation? Do you have patents or certifications others don’t have?
If you’re having trouble identifying your company’s competitive advantage, write down a list of your organization’s characteristics and values. Then, write down your competitors’ characteristics and values. Compare the two. The items unique to your list will be your strengths – your competitive advantage.
For more information on types of competitive advantages and how to utilize them in your marketplace, I recommend that you read my article Mastering Competitive Advantage…A Key to Increasing Business Value.
When it comes to identifying your company’s weaknesses, you want to face the unpleasant truths as soon as possible because your customers and your competition already see them. Now is not the time to be overly optimistic or pessimistic. Work with your team members to identify your business’s weaknesses as realistically as possible.
Like you did with your strengths, find your weaknesses by looking through the eyes of your competition. Are they playing upon your weaknesses? Are they strengthening parts of their organizations to fill in gaps your company is leaving in the marketplace? Do you have certain disadvantages? Maybe you can’t change your “less than perfect” location, but can you do something to let more people know where you are. Are you providing slow customer service because you need more team members or more qualified team members? Are you short on cash flow and resources?
You can’t strengthen your weaknesses or turn your disadvantages into advantages unless you identify them. Therefore, be realistic and honest with yourselves and listen to trustworthy opinions of your team members.
After you identify and list your company’s strengths and weaknesses, you’ll look for its opportunities. Go back through your listed strengths. Do any of them provide a chance for your business to grow or to become stronger? What about your weaknesses? Can you turn any into opportunities?
Instead of looking through the eyes of your competition during this planning step, look at your competition. What are their weaknesses? Are they missing the mark in any area? Can you fulfill customer needs that others cannot? Do you see vulnerabilities in other companies? If so, can you fortify and protect yourself against those same vulnerabilities? Can you capitalize on other companies’ misfortunes? In other words, can you learn from their mistakes instead of repeating them yourself? Can you pick up the pieces their companies have left behind?
Maybe government policies are changing. Is your company ready for those changes? What do you need to do to prepare? Are the demographics of your marketplace changing? If your customer base is aging, can you continue to meet their needs, or do you have the opportunity to reach new customers? Perhaps you need to open a second location or relocate your existing company to a structure closer to your customers.
Opportunities can be fairly easy to spot. However, threats are harder to identify. You can’t predict what external forces will affect your business or when they will happen. How do you know which PESTs – Political, Economic, Social, or Technological changes or threats – will affect your business next? Change is inevitable. Yet, it’s unpredictable. Therefore, you must identify risk factors that could harm your company’s revenue, profitability, growth, and value. Then, you must do your best to mitigate and manage those risks.
For more information on types of business risks and how to monitor them, I recommend that you read A Business Risk Assessment Today Can Boost Value Tomorrow.
Now that you’ve examined your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats in your strategic planning meetings, what do you do with all of the information you’ve gathered? You don’t want to expend all of this time and energy only to know “more.” Now’s the time to APPLY the “more.” Use the information in front of you to make improvements. Repair what’s broken. Reinforce what’s working. Uncover possibilities, and fortify defenses.
Set your SWOT lists in front of your team, and rank them according to their urgency. Once you’ve identified which items on each list need your immediate attention, develop plans of attack. Establish objectives and create strategies. Essentially, follow the remaining steps in your strategic planning framework VMVSOSTA.
Be sure to look for my next article where I’ll give you all the information you need to create goals and objectives based on what you’ve learned from your SWOT analysis!