As a school child in England I was used to being urged to “swot” – it meant I had to get the books out and get some study done. “Swotting” meant I was better prepared for exams, that I was more informed about the subject and had a better chance of succeeding.

When I first went into business the first thing I was asked to prepare was a SWOT analysis – it was like coming home! After all a SWOT analysis gives us the chance to become better informed about our business and gives us a better chance of succeeding.

One thing that Trischel does is to prepare a yearly SWOT analysis in order to position ourselves to succeed in our strategy for the year ahead. And as it is the first board meeting today I thought I would get myself in the correct frame of mind by reviewing the issues covered by SWOT. So what are they?

Strengths : what are our strengths? What are those things that give us the edge in our particular industry? What sort of things do customers or clients compliment us on? Are we located competitively; are we recognised as the experts in our field. Can we deliver what we promise; are we truly customer focused and what does our web site do for us? All these are factors that add strength to what we do – but the final question is the most important – are we acknowledged as being good at what we do?

Weaknesses : Perfection is a rare commodity ; and there is very little around, and (be truthful) how perfect is your business? There is a tendency to want to avoid examining the weaknesses of our business as if in some way we are being disloyal. But a weakness is only an area of possible improvement, so let’s say “What can we improve?”

Looking at the weaknesses of a business means that we examine those areas that we are having difficulty with. Is our marketing hitting the right people; are our accounts being paid on time? Do we have difficulty with delivery or is our administration performing effectively?

By conducting an unemotional analysis of our business we can find those areas where improvement will enhance our potential for success.

Opportunities : When we are reasonably successful we often find branching out into new areas challenging. What if we lose our niche market? What if we fail? These are the questions of avoidance. Every business needs to examine areas of opportunity – those gaps in the market that we can fill effectively to add more value to what we are already doing.

When examining what opportunities are out there just waiting to be filled we should consider changes in technologies – is there now a new and exiting way we can extend our business using these? What about your demographics? Are you positioned to take advantage of changes in social patterns or population growth?

While reaching out for new ways to expand our business we should not be frightened of taking these options. If we plan well, we should have a good chance of succeeding.

Threats : While this sounds a little like war –it really means what obstacles are we likely to face in the coming year. What are our competitors doing, are they leading or merely imitating? Do we have a cash flow problem? Are the requirements of doing business itself changing or are there new qualifications that we will need to consider.

Identifying threats merely give us the opportunity to plan to eliminate them as best we can. How do we nullify this threat; what actions do we take to overcome the problem. It is not an exercise in doom and gloom – so do not avoid it.

Carrying out a SWOT analysis on our business as a regular routine means that we are always aware of where we are positioned in our industry. It is the basis for designing our strategic plan for the coming months. Whatever business strategy we decide to adopt if we base it on a comprehensive SWOT analysis we have a much better chance of succeeding.

Just like I did, when I took out my books to “swot” up for my coming exam – with some solid work behind me I could look forward to a successful outcome.

And so can you – so it’s time to get “swotting” – so go to it.

Michele @ Trischel

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