by Lorraine Ball

There are two important facts about owning a business:

  • You won’t be good at everything
  • Some things are beyond your control.

These truths shouldn’t make you give up. Instead, I want you to take a closer look at your business evaluating internal and external factors which can impact your business success and build a plan to take advantage of the opportunities you identify and the challenges you will need to address.

Look Inside First: Find your Strengths and Weaknesses.

Your strengths are the characteristics of your business or product which give you a competitive advantage. This may be a unique talent or skill set of one of your employees, elements of your fulfillment process, pricing, delivery or customer service. These are the characteristics which answer the question, ” Why should I buy from you?”

Be honest about your weaknesses. There are things your customers value that you don’t do well or at all. Acknowledging a weakness give you a starting point for change. If you are missing a critical skill, take a course or find someone you can outsource the project to. If there is something wrong with your process which turns potential customers away or leaves them dissatisfied, change it.

These internal factors, your strengths and weaknesses, are the things you can change, but only if you know what they are. Not sure if you have a complete picture of your strengths and weaknesses? Ask customers why they do business with you, and prospects who went elsewhere why they didn’t.

What’s Beyond Your Control? – Look Outside for Opportunities and Threats

These are the things in the larger business community which will impact your business. You can’t change them, but you can decide how you want to react. Natural disasters, economic shifts, changes in tax code or regulations governing your industry are all examples of things which could positively or negatively impact your future sales. Also in this category are things like the emergence of a new competing product, service or company, or management changes at key clients.

Putting the Pieces Together to Build a Plan

The purpose of this exercise is not to simply list these elements, but to use this information as a starting point for your action plan.

How can you use your strengths to overcome threats in your market?
What can you do to compensate for your weaknesses or eliminate them completely so you can take advantage of new opportunities?
As shifts occur in the marketplace, what actions will you take to stay one step ahead?

Revisit the Analysis

The market continues to change. Competitors come and go, and so do employees and clients. This analysis, also referred to as a S.W.O.T Matrix, is simply a snapshot in time. You should review your S.W.O.T every six months, adjusting your strategies and tactics to match the new picture of your company and environment