A SWOT analysis is a basic technique that is often used in strategic planning, improving company success, organizational development and identifying competitive advantage. Evaluating these four factors will help you make better decisions and keep your company on the road to success.
Start by conducting a brainstorming exercise with a group of individuals within your organization who are charged with the same or similar goals. Remember, a good SWOT analysis takes effort and the more you put into it, the better you will understand your company and how it operates today.
STRENGTHS: First, write down the strengths of your company. What do you do well? What makes you better than your competitors? What do you have, or do, that sets you apart from your competition? Here are some things to consider:
- The size of similar companies in your industry
- Perception by clients of your products or service
- Perception in the industry of your “brand”
- Advantages you have over your competitors
Accountability, integrity, strong staff loyalty, strong management team, outside-the-box problem solving, flexibility, camaraderie, sense of urgency, communication, always seeking best practices, moving employees to play to their strengths, respect for clients/one another, high energy, positive atmosphere, high level of client service and solid reputation in the industry.
WEAKNESSES: Now that you’ve determined how wonderful your company is, it’s time to look for the weaknesses. The same questions should be asked when looking for weaknesses. What do you do poorly, or not so well? What are other companies doing better? What is keeping you from greater success?
It’s important that you don’t gloss over this section. As a SWOT analysis is a brainstorming effort, don’t discount anything that comes to mind and don’t be afraid to point out a weakness because it may hurt someone’s feelings. If a weakness is perceived, list it. The weakness you fail to list could turn out to be the reason some aspect of the business turns out poorly or fails in the future.
Some areas of weakness to look for:
- Poor perception of your company’s brand
- Advantages other companies have
- Lack of management or other employee talent
Lack of automation, getting bogged down in minutia/cumbersome processes, managers doing staff level work, micromanagement, managers not asking for help until they are overwhelmed, need for measurement of employee work, i.e. quota system, disgruntled or unhappy employees.
OPPORTUNITIES: Let’s shift the focus to external factors when you look at opportunities. Try to identify areas of business you think your company should evaluate – opportunities to gain market share from competitors, and/or grow your market to include new customers.
In addition to external factors, opportunities within your company must also be considered. Can you streamline duplicate costs and/or move employees to different positions to play to their strengths? What kinds of things can you do better?
Some opportunities to look for:
- New markets for services
- Financial or legal trouble for competitors
- New technologies you could adopt
- Internal shifts to become more efficient
Empower employees to reach higher, maximize use of technologies, streamline activities between departments, analyze and reposition employees to play to their strengths, gain more business from existing clients, continue to stand out as being different your industry, cross-train employees, build your brand to attract both employees and clients.
THREATS: Finally, consider threats to your company. Again, threats can be internal as well as external. In fact, sometimes internal threats come first, which opens the door to external threats. Therefore, it’s very important to do a good threat analysis.
Internal threats aren’t usually classified as such, which could be a mistake. Any internal issue that is a threat to the well-being of your company should be evaluated alongside the external threats.
Some possible threats are:
- Internal inefficiencies
- Cash flow
- Technological advances in the industry (are you keeping pace?)
- Employee/department weaknesses
Leadership becoming divided, not living up to mission statement, managers becoming territorial, teamwork giving way to individual agendas, managers being overwhelmed/burned out, taking or continuing with business that is not profitable, not understanding the competition, falling behind in technology, maintaining employees who will not contribute to success, not managing aggressive growth well and failure to keep fees/prices competitive while still being highly profitable.
After you have completed these exercises, assign a leader within the organization to each category who will be responsible, along with their team, for maintaining it (such as Strengths); repairing it (such as Weaknesses); acting upon it (such as Opportunities); and guarding against it (such as Threats).
The group should then reconvene every six months to analyze the SWOT and revise it according to the reality it faces at that time.
Do you know what your company’s SWOT is? If not, now is the time to find out!