A really useful and high-level tool is the SWOT analysis, helping you to discover your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It works great as a jumping off point when strategising a new business initiative or even as a personal tool when thinking about your own career development. You may have heard of it before but here are some questions from MindTools to really get the most out of it (it even comes with a free downloadable template!).
TOP TIP – If you’re planning this in advance, it’s a great opportunity to ask for feedback from colleagues, customers and friends and get a really well-rounded perspective of how they view you and/or your business.
What advantages does your organisation have?
What do you do better than anyone else?
What unique or lowest-cost resources can you draw upon that others can’t?
What factors mean that you “get the sale”?
What is your organisation’s Unique Selling Point? (USP)?
Consider your strengths from both an internal perspective, and from the point of view of your customers and people in your market.
Also, if you’re having any difficulty identifying strengths, try writing down a list of your organization’s characteristics. Some of these will hopefully be strengths!
When looking at your strengths, think about them in relation to your competitors. For example, if all of your competitors provide high quality products, then a high quality production process is not a strength in your organization’s market, it’s a necessity.
What could you improve?
What should you avoid?
What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
What factors lose you sales?
Again, consider this from an internal and external perspective: do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you don’t see? Are your competitors doing any better than you?
It’s best to be realistic now, and face any unpleasant truths as soon as possible.
What good opportunities can you spot?
What interesting trends are you aware of?
Useful opportunities can come from such things as:
Changes in technology and markets on both a broad and narrow scale.
Changes in government policy related to your field.
Changes in social patterns, population profiles, lifestyle changes, and so on.
A useful approach when 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.
What obstacles do you face?
What are your competitors doing?
Are quality standards or 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?
Once you’ve completed all the fields you should have a clear overview of your initiative and what may need to be worked on in more detail for it to be a success.