What is a SWOT Analysis?

A SWOT Analysis is a tool that any business owner can use at any time to evaluate what they are doing well, and areas they can improve on. Furthermore, this tool is so effective that not only can it be used to evaluate large corporations, it also works when starting a small business, and even individual projects. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT Analysis is a list that organizes how well your company is doing, what it can improve on, what opportunities are available, and what competition is out there. SWOT Analysis has also been referred to internal/external evaluations. Strengths and weaknesses are internal characteristics that can be controlled (to some degree) by the company, while opportunities and threats are external characteristics that can’t necessarily be controlled, but opportunities and threats are largely outside the company’s control.

How do I perform a SWOT Analysis?

Typically, a SWOT Analysis is an informal proceeding. Small companies may choose to include their entire team in the process, while larger companies will want to include a few people from each department (while remembering to include everyone from the highest executive to representatives from the lowest departments). An effective SWOT Analysis may take place in a conference room with a whiteboard available, but could also take place via teleconference or email. When conducting a SWOT Analysis in a conference type setting it’s important to ask questions for each category of SWOT, but also encourage the participants to keep their answers brief. Ensure that the focus stays on completing the analysis and the team doesn’t get stuck on one subject. Conversely, one conducted by email or any other individually based forum may need to remind their participants to take it seriously, and that their answers will be seen by some of the highest company officials. Limit the points to bullets in a conference setting, and ask specific questions when conducted electronically or by other means.

What questions should be asked?

Different questions can be asked for different sizes and types of companies, but since this exercise can be completed on specific tasks it makes it difficult to create a comprehensive list.  However, the following questions should help provide direction.

  • Strength:

-What are we doing well?

-What do our employees do well?

-What do we have to offer that our competitors don’t?

-What do we need to continue doing?

  • Weakness:

-What resources are you lacking?

-What steps do you need to take to compete with your strongest competitor?

-What do you know you need to improve on?

-What skills are you lacking personnel wise?

  • Opportunity:

-What gaps exist in your current market that you can fill?

-How does the community view your business?

-What do your competitors lack that you can act on?

-How is your market changing?

  • Threat:

-Who is your biggest competitor?

-What do they do that you don’t do?

-What advancements threaten your market?

– What changes have taken place to your supply chain?

Using team members from all levels to perform the SWOT Analysis can provide valuable insight into the overall health of your company.

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