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Your secret weapon in business – setting up your SWOT matrix

Setting up your SWOT

The S.W.O.T. (Strengths – Weaknesses – Opportunities – Threats) matrix is a traditional business marketing process used to benchmark your company versus the market and competition. It is a valuable exercise to put yourself through annually and will help you refine your strategy and align your efforts well for the upcoming year.

The process is simple enough, and fairly quick, but that doesn’t mean it is easy. It only works if you take a hard look at yourself, the market, your customers and your competition. If you are ready to do this, then I suggest taking a few hours to do your own S.W.O.T. analysis.

To start, bisect a blank page of paper both horizontally and vertically – this will leave you 4 equally sized quadrants. Put an S in the top left, W in the top right, O in the bottom left and T in the lower right.

Strengths (S) – In this quadrant, write everything that you are great at, regardless of how important it is to your business. Your strengths can be things like: attention to detail, a huge rolodex of contacts, a large twitter following, a friendly personality that people respond to and a great CRM system to help you follow up with customers well.

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Weaknesses (W) – In this quadrant, list all of your weaknesses. Your weaknesses can be actual things (i.e. a lack of a technology system to help with client management) or personal preferences (i.e. if you don’t like to wake up before noon or you are shy at open houses).

Opportunities (O) – In this section, use your understanding of the market and competition to identify all areas where you believe there are opportunities to innovate and/or increase business in your industry or region. Include present and future opportunities. Make your list regardless of whether your skills (strengths) match up to them – just list everything where you see on opportunity for advancement.

Threats (T) – In the final quadrant, list all of the threats to your business specifically and to your industry in general. Economic factors, competition, legal regulations and more are all in play here.

How To Use Your S.W.O.T. Analysis

Your worksheet is packed with your data for the process. At this stage I like to analyze the data and then transfer the most import items and interpretations to a formal written report. This is how to compile your formal S.W.O.T. analysis report.

Strengths (S) – Identify your strengths that have biggest positive impact on your business. Consider your past and present, but also factor in the opportunities you have identified in this process. Do any of your strengths match up well to tackling some of those opportunities? Those will be your most important strengths to focus on – so you might as well lead with them in the report.

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Weaknesses (W) – Identify the weaknesses that most hold you back in your profession. We have two schools of thought on how to deal with these. One, you can work hard to improve your weaknesses and try and turn them into strengths or two, you can avoid strategies that rely on your weaknesses and focus on putting yourself in a position to leverage your strengths. Both can work, but I am solidly in school number two.

Opportunities (O) – Identify the opportunities that match up best with your strengths. This list will be a great starting point for your personal business strategy.

Threats (T) – You have identified the strengths and weaknesses that are most relevant. You have a list of present day and future opportunities that you can shape your efforts and strategy around. The final step is to identify which of your threats are specifically related to you and your plan. Identify these, and address how you will work to protect yourself against each of the most relevant threats.

Your S.W.O.T. analysis is a relatively quick way to get a valuable snapshot of your business, your industry and your place in the marketplace. It is strong starting point for future strategic plans and more. It is not a replacement for a business plan, but it is often a good way to prepare you for writing a full business or marketing plan, and is usually an important component of these plans.

If you have read the other articles in this series, this may sound like a broken record, but this process is as important as the end result document. You get out of it what you put into it. With S.W.O.T. you don’t need to much time though, so it is a high reward, low risk project.

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Written By

Hoyt David Morgan is an entrepreneur, angel investor and business strategy leader. He is an investor and/or adviser to a handful of exciting and high growth companies, and has been a part of several high-value exits. He is passionate about customer experience, smart business and helping innovative companies grow... and sailing.

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