S.W.O.T- A study of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of a business, service, product, or people.

How to Create A Game Plan Using Your SWOT Analysis

Do you want to make sure that your business is always growing, developing, and staying ahead of the times? Who wouldn’t! This is where strategic planning comes in, a major part of strategic planning is thoughtfully deciding what changes are necessary to continue moving forward. While there are many facets to strategic planning, this article will cover specificity the SWOT analysis. In addition, how to use your SWOT to your advantage by creating game plans.

So What is A SWOT Analysis

A SWOT analysis is a study by an organization to identify its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats. The analysis is tool that businesses use to assess what the business services, products, or people can and cannot do. The process analyzes the two major contributing factors; the internal (strengths and weaknesses) and the external (opportunities, and threats). Your business SWOT analysis will be a bird’s eye view of what is helping to accomplish your goals. In addition to seeing what challenges you will need to overcome or minimize to continue getting results. Furthermore, your analysis will give you a current view of where you are today and where you may be in the future.

For example, in 2017, a Market Line SWOT analysis of Applebee’s Restaurant outlines its strengths of a robust operational network, and its brand image. While also addressing the threats of changing consumer preferences. Consumers are gaining a new perspective on their eating habits and taste preferences. Fortune reported that, Applebee’s made changes to their locations by adding new grills to be more modern and sophisticated. The company has lost sales by -5.3% in 2017 and closed almost 100 locations. With the loss in sales and the changes to their locations, their 2017 4th quarter sales improved by 1.3%. As you can see, using the SWOT gives a picture of where the company was, and where it needed to be. As a result, Applebee’s went from a loss of over 5%, to gaining sales by 1.3%

How Do I Create A SWOT Analysis

In creating a SWOT, you really want to start of with your objective in mind. Your analysis should be free of biases and emotion. In addition, have an open mind to what you will find regarding your business current state. In terms of strategic planning, an objective is one of the basic and fundamental tools that you will use for business activities.

To create your SWOT analysis, you need a simple Excel, Word, or PowerPoint document. A paper and pen will work just fine as well. It doesn’t have to be fancy, just effective!

Your document will start off with your company overview or objective. Then go straight into your SWOT. Using a grid layout, you will want to label your quadrants. The top two grids will be your internal factors (Strengths and Weaknesses, and the bottom two grids will be your external factors (Opportunities and Threats). Next, the left two grids will be labeled as your Positive factors (Strengths and Opportunities), your right two grids will be your negative factors (Weaknesses and Threats). Take a look at the example below, once you have your grid you will be ready to fill in your information.

What Level of Detail Do I Include?

The details are the fun part. You gain a great perspective of your business and what your can do currently and can do greatly. The best part in my opinion is seeing what you can do differently to give yourself the competitive advantage and continue to grow. You will be including four sections (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) and aim for about five bullet points each. You can do more or less; the key is to be objective. Your information should be relevant to the current market and the near future market. Realistically, we can’t tell what threats will be happening many, many years from now. We can however research if a new product or service from a competitor being released in 3-4 months will pose a threat.

The Breakdown

Strengths– these will be what you, your business, your product, or service does excellently and stand you apart from your competitors. Think of things like your positioning, your brand, how your product solves a problem, how effective and simple your service is, ease of use, etc. The possibilities are endless, and the answer sometimes is right under your nose. Answer these questions, what do your clients compliment you on or give praises on about your business? What do you do better than your competition? What skills or abilities have your strengthened? What can you do effortlessly?

Weaknesses– these are the things that hold you, your services, or products back from performing at its best level. Often, the weaknesses or areas that need to be addressed immediately to strengthen the competitive advantage. Weaknesses could be things like positioning, out dated brand, lack of cash flow/capital, accumulating debt, slow response times, inadequate processes, etc. Think about what your customers complain about? What has stopped you from making sales? Are there any things that is causing you to lose competitive advantage?

Opportunities– these are the external factors that your company can use to gain a competitive advantage. For example, learning a new web development platform to strengthen your services and reach. This will show you have more expertise, in addition to allowing additional sales by being able to service clients who are using either a newly developed platform or looking to switch their current platform to the new one.

Threats– these will be the factors which have the potential to hurt your business. Some of the threats may be obvious, and others may need time to really research. Factors to consider are increase costs for operations, increasing competition, lowering demand, changes in technology (could be an opportunity), weather, and competitor’s strength’s.

Create a Game Plan Using SWOT

*WARNING* this area takes the most time… it is WORTH it.

Your SWOT analysis is a great way to effectivity create strategic plans throughout the weeks, months, and years. A single document can be a working, living document by addressing the four areas throughout the year. With the document you can add, remove, or change things as you learn more about your internal and external factors.

Before getting into creating a game plan, decide how you want to work your plan. You will need to rank your plans starting with the ones that require immediate changes, to those that can be addressed later. We find that using a 30/60/90-day planning system works very well. We can focus on two or three action items during that time in order to make effective changes.

A few keys to remember when creating a game plan

  1. Strengths can be used to correct opportunities and minimize threats
  2. Opportunities can be used to create new strengths and support weaknesses

Now that you have your SWOT completed, you can create action items to help your business grow and thrive. To do so, you will need to create a short list of action items that will have a strong focus.

A great way to start will be to look at your strengths and make a comparison to your opportunities. Think about how you can use each strength to leverage each opportunity. In addition, look at you opportunities in comparison to strengths, what new strengths can be developed from each opportunity? You should be able to come up with three highly actionable and highly impactful actions.

Look at the chart below to see the full areas of comparison along with a few questions to get you started on creating your action plans.

Strengths-Opportunities Weaknesses-Opportunities
What ways can our strengths be used to leverage our opportunities?

What new strengths can we develop based on our opportunities?

How can we leverage opportunities to reduce weaknesses? Or eliminate weaknesses?

What weaknesses could this opportunity create?

Strengths- Threats Weaknesses-Threats
How can we use our strength to reduce or counter threats?

What are new strengths to build to reduce or counter these threats?

How can we eliminate or reduce our weaknesses when dealing with these threats?

How can we strengthen our weakness to reduce or eliminate the threat?

The amount of questions your can come up with and answer are endless. Take the necessary time to come up with 12-15 action items, about 3-4 for each quadrant. If you come up with more, that’s great. From the action items, narrow them down to the three most important for each quadrant. From there choose the three most important that you will focus on for the next 30, 60, and 90 days. If you accomplish your goal quicker than the time frame, you have a list of other action items you can easily add to continue.

You SWOT analysis and action plans needs to be easily and readily available. It all means nothing if it simply sits in your desk and nothing ever gets done to attack the crucial areas your business needs to thrive.

The best and most effective plans are the ones which offers you and your company a high chance of success, creates a visible impact (this could be seeing more cash flow), and will generate more income and clients.

We would love to hear about your experience with creating your SWOT analysis, leave us a message below.

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