SWOT at Start Up Lloydminster
Having used the SWOT analysis tool for some time as part of strategic planning, I had fresh insights into other applications at a recent Soup’r Lunch n Learn hosted in the Dream Forest by Start Up Lloydminster presented by Entrepreneur in Residence, Wendy Plandowski. A focus of Start Up is new entrepreneurs and business but all the presentations and tools apply to established businesses and organizations. As Stephen Covey puts it with one of his 7 Habits – Strengthening the Saw.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or SWOT is a key step in strategic or business plans but it does not need to be reserved only for a once a year event. SWOT is a high level but simple exercise and can be performed any time an entity needs to gain perspective of their position. It can be conducted by a business team, for a product launch; by an external or third party, as part of marketing and sales or even personally to perform a self-assessment. It is a way to evaluate new or existing approaches, better understand how one is perceived in the market place and more importantly as a way to respond proactively to changes and trends.
Strengths represent internal factors that are within your control and impact the organization. Questions to ask in the analysis of strengths can be:
What are one’s internal strengths and areas of excellence?
What areas are most profitable to your business?
What type of resources are available to you?
Where does one have a unique advantage or significant head start?
What things are exclusive to your organization that add value or give you a competitive edge?
Weaknesses are also within your control but these factors prevent you from successfully maintaining a competitive edge. Look for things that you can do that will aid in achieving your business objective.
What areas leave you most vulnerable?
Which areas of your business cost you the most time and money?
What things within your control can you improve on?
What factors create a competitive disadvantage for you?
Opportunities are factors external to your business that when identified will help you understand the market and environment and position you to profit from areas exposed.
Where can we take advantage of market trends?
Are we using our resources effectively?
Where can we exploit our strength’s and the competition’s weaknesses?
Do any products or services offer new opportunity for growth?
How are we\our competition perceived in the marketplace?
Threats are factors outside of your control that represent risks to your business and strategy.
Which competitors are coming on strong?
How will economic issues impact our ability to thrive and expand?
Where are market trends working against us?
What are the greatest risks presented by competitors, marketplace trends including consumer behaviour?
To actually do the SWOT divide a blank paper into four quadrants. Top left is strengths and bottom left is opportunities. These are both positive categories. The top right is weaknesses and bottom right is threats, both negative. The top two, strengths and weaknesses, are internal and the bottom two are external.
Fill in the categories and then start prioritizing. The aim is to maximize strengths and opportunities and of course to minimize weaknesses and threats. By prioritizing you can identify the most important areas and then further develop strategic objectives that are also specific and measurable and can further be developed into action items with person responsible and dates to be achieved.
By including an entire team the process can be enhanced by capitalizing on multiple ideas as well as building communication and information sharing.
It was a valuable exercise to explore a new tool in business planning or expand on the uses and application if it has already been used.
Many ideas and applications were starting to develop among the group in attendance by the end of the lunch hour session. It was a great learning and networking event at Start Up Lloydminster.