A SWOT analysis –– focusing on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats –– gives your company a way to analyze both the positive and negative factors that affect your business now and in the future. You can include a SWOT analysis in your business plan. It also can be used as a standalone document to help decide the future of your company. The key to writing an effective analysis is to be honest and encourage your management team and others to give real feedback that you can turn into useful and insightful conclusions.
Take a look at your internal strengths and what your company does well. Explain what your business does better than anyone else, such as providing customer service people rave about or offering a unique service or product that no one else sells. Examine your location, the equipment you use to create your product and the unique abilities of your employees, to find more strengths. Include examples of what you do better or different than your competitors, suggests Shell Live Wire, an online community created by Shell Oil to help young entrepreneurs succeed. Summarize the most important strengths into factual, succinct statements that simply express what gives your company an edge, such as the samples provided by CPS HR Consulting, a company that helps improve an organization's performance.
Carefully look at what your customers and competition see as your biggest weakness. Review your product or services as well as your sales and marketing methods for this, suggests Entrepreneur. For instance, if you are a franchisor, one of your weaknesses may be the inability to offer consistent products or service in all of the stores. Review staff, financial, location and facilities resources to identify any problem areas. If you manufacture products, for example, not having enough space at your facility to take on larger orders would be considered a weakness. List the most critical weaknesses in short statements that sum up the problem and explain how they could effect your company.
Look at what possibilities exist to grow your company or increase sales. Review technological advancements, government policy changes and market trends that represent a possibility for positive growth or advancement. For instance, if you haven't yet offered your products and services via the Internet, that would be considered an opportunity since it represents a chance to expand your market and increase sales. The University of California Santa Barbara suggests reviewing your strengths and weaknesses to see if they could open up into opportunities. Write down three or four points, and don't be afraid to add details to keep everyone on the same page.
Identify problems your business faces, such as increasing competition, technology and trends. For instance, if you own a design agency that builds websites, the fact that clients want to update their own site could be considered a threat if you rely on making revisions to provide additional income. Take a look at your financial information, such as cash flow problems or accounts receivables that aren't paying on time, to identify further threats.
Your final SWOT analysis should be easy to read and understand. You can create an extensive analysis that also lists strategies, such as in the sample provided by the University of Kansas Community Toolbox, or go with a simple format as follows:
New Local Competitor
- ABC Company, located 3 miles from our store
- Offers similar products and services
- Same target market
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.