When I am asked by small business owners how to improve their business I ask questions. The more questions I ask, the better I can see how their business operates. More importantly, the more questions they answer, the more they can see about their business. Often we put blinders on when we look at our business, employee’s performance, or customer service. Having a list of questions to answer about facets of your business can bring a clearer focus to what you think you know about things. The way to do that is to SWOT it.
SWOT stands for:
Have four sheets of paper ready to work on this exercise. The more you are able to write (even if you think it is not important) the more clearly you will see your business and the changes that you can make to have an immense impact on your success.
What are the strengths of your business? This is also known as the elevator pitch. You should be able to give a clear description of what your business is about and why someone should work with you as opposed to a competitor in the time it takes an elevator to go from the lobby to the top floor of a building. Of course, you should have more bumpers sticker phrases to give all the strengths about your business. Starting with, “Why should I buy from you?” is a good focus for the first run-through on a SWOT analysis.
Weaknesses are tougher to name. Both because you do not like to mention them, but also because you may not easily see them. Answer the question, “Why do people NOT buy from my business?” and you will have an uncomfortable list of things to fix.
Opportunities are the part of your business that more often than not costs you in time, money, or effort. Be honest with yourself. Think, “If I had unlimited time, money, or manpower to make changes, what would I do?” The answers to where your opportunities are will show up on your list easily. Take your time and think back to when you were first starting your business. What vision did you have when you wrote your business plan? What do you need to change to bring that vision to life. Business Bulldog Rule #7 – Dream about where your business can go and then make it happen.
Threats are easier to see, but no less tough to see on paper. Competition is the first on the list, but what about internally in your organization? Are there people on your staff who are not helping make your vision come to life? What about cash flow? Are you able to ride out this economy and still make payroll? Threats can come from every direction imaginable. Are you covered if someone gets hurt at your store? What if the street in front of your store closes down for a week or a month? What can you survive and grow despite?
Bulldog Rules for Business were written using this format. Bulldog Rule #6 – Failing to plan for your day, week, month, and year is unacceptable is a good example of where this website came from. How about Bulldog Rule #8 – Re-examine your business often is what we are doing when we use the SWOT method. Even Bulldog Rule #12 – Be aware of your entire business is a SWOT in the right direction.
SWOT every business you can. Not only will you find interesting facts that can help make your business stronger, but you will be able to forecast when business opportunities become available before your competition. You can SWOT anything really. Your business is just one part of you day, so why shouldn’t you look at what else in your life takes time away from building your business. SWOT your business and then make the changes you need to grow, thrive, and build a business that exceeds your vision.
Bob Griffin – CEO and Chief Bulldog