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

Do You Speak Employeese?

We talk with employees every day. We need them to complete tasks for their job and they need to tell us about the job they do. Seems simple enough, but why is it that there are still employees that we cannot get through to and have one team all working in the same direction? Maybe it is because you are not speaking the same language.

 It is not the phrasing or the words, but rather the lens they see your business through BEFORE you start talking that trips up a good conversation. Before you start a conversation with your employees, you need to understand what biases your employees bring to the table and how they are going to see what you have to say through that point of view. You are, after all, living in two different worlds and may never meet in the middle.

 You think about your business like a prize fighter does a big fight. You plan and train for the day and know that everything you do brings you closer to your goals. From the paperwork, the inventory you account for, and even the taxes you pay – both financially and physically, you are your work. It is something more than pride that keeps you going and you expect the best from everyone you meet. It is the lens that you see your business and your life through. Often you cannot see a reason not to work as hard as you do or why anyone would live any differently.

 Your employees, on the other hand, think about when they need to work and when they get to clock out. Their lens shows them how much money they bring in to the company (your company) and how much of that they get to keep. They see things in black and white. Black is the money that is coming in and white is the amount they get to keep after working hard all day long. They see other workers and calculate that you are rich off their hard work and they just get a small cut. They work – you get paid. They see when you drive up that you are in a nice car and that you have nice clothes. They know you take good care of your family and that, as your own boss, you have the time to spend with your family. They work and do not have as much to go home to. Their lens, to them, is clear since they see things this way every day.

 Recently, I was speaking with an owner of a successful company and he stated he could not get his employees to get extra training and was adamant that they would call in sick, just not show, or have one of a hundred excuses to keep them from showing up. My knee-jerk response was, “You pay them don’t you? Just tell them it is mandatory.” This advice was poorly given and received.

 What I should have done is find out more about the employees and why they did not want to show up. Once I asked the right question, I found out that they wasted their time in a training class in years past and did not want to repeat this. Simple. To them, they wanted to know more about the training before committing to the time required to go. Once we wrote an agenda and had a conversation about how it would help them, they all agreed to show up.

 What else do you want your employees to do that they approach halfheartedly or not at all? The job never end, it just takes on new challenges.

 Find the lens that they see things through by asking questions and removing your own biases and you will get the job done. Follow a few standard questions to help you see things more clearly.

  1. Is there resistance because of time, money, or education/ training issues?

  2. Is there prior experiences that keep them from committing?

  3. Does the message need to come from someone else?

  4. Have you had success discussing this issue before? What is different now?

Stop before you talk and think things through by looking at it as an employee would. Talk with them…not at them. You will find that they return the favor and explain things in terms you will understand too.

Bob Griffin

CEO – Business Bulldog

Business Bulldog