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Time for Business to SWOT up?

Posted October 15th, 2008

This is a very worrying time for business. The banking crisis and the certainty of recession mean that there are very hard times ahead. Inevitably, some businesses will not survive. Even well run and stable businesses are likely to find it tough and will need to be flexible to thrive.

Business plans that were carefully crafted only a few months ago will need to be re-visited. In a world that is changing so quickly do those plans still hold good? The threats that business faces today are very different from those being faced only a few weeks ago. At the same time there will be new opportunities although they may be a lot harder to spot. The big question is whether your business is well placed to cope with the new threats and take advantage of new opportunities.

One approach that may serve business well is to conduct A SWOT analysis. Whilst this will not in itself provide the answers we need it is an important tool to help take proper stock of the situation. Only by recognising new threats and opportunities and how well placed we are to cope with both can we even begin to plan for the future. It may also help us to spot the actions that need to be taken in the short term.

Strengths

Now is the time to remind yourself of the strengths of your business and to consider which of these strengths will help you now. These will vary from business to business and it is worth considering some of the following areas:

  • Skills, knowledge, motivation and loyalty of the workforce.
  • Flexibility of the business. How well can it cope with change?
  • Financial strength of the business
  • The relationship with your business partners
  • The reliability of your business partners
  • Your spread of customers
  • Your spread of products.
  • Your control of expenses
  • How well managed is the business?
  • Your systems and efficiencies
  • How good is your risk management and contingency planning?

Weaknesses

What are the known weaknesses in your businesses? Again it is worth considering all of the points listed under strengths. For example, relying heavily on just a few customers may be a real problem. Do your employees have the knowledge and skills to cope with the changes you may have to make? If not, there may be a training need to be addressed. Of course, now is not the time for expensive training solutions but are there some priority needs that could be addressed with low cost solutions?

Opportunities

In these gloomy times it may be hard to think of too many business opportunities but they do exist if we look hard enough. Let’s take the example of the supermarkets. With money amongst shoppers getting tighter they have recognised that there is more of a market for their own label bargain products and have adapted their businesses accordingly.

It’s also worth remembering that your competitors will be struggling too. Some may go out of business and this presents potential opportunities if you can ride out the storm.

What other potential opportunities can you think of? Don’t just look for the obvious. For example, employees who have been resistant to change in the past may have a different attitude now. With the job market likely to become more challenging the opportunity to acquire new skills associated with change may seem a lot more attractive.

Threats

Of course, there are many threats at the moment. Will the bank manager continue to support the business? Will your competitors try to undercut you in a cut throat battle for your business?

What about your business partners? Will they be struggling too? If, so what might the threat be to your business?

What other potential threats can you think of? Again, it is important to look beyond the obvious threats.

We are not suggesting that a SWOT analysis will solve everything. It is merely a tool to help us to fully understand our situation and is one of many approaches that can be adopted at all levels of an organisation to start planning your way through the next few months. It may also help you identify some quick solutions that might even make a difference straight away.

By Karl Halliwell a Trainer Bubble author.

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