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How to Use a SWOT Analysis to Find and Maximize Opportunities

business skills growth May 14, 2023

Strategic business planning sounds complicated. The process can be as intricate as you want it to be as long as it’s created with your customer in mind.

The critical component of a strategic business plan is a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats Analysis. It's a mouthful—no wonder most businesses call this exercise a SWOT analysis.

When you need a SWOT analysis

You should do at least one SWOT every year.

If your company is growing rapidly, set aside four to eight hours every quarter to perform a SWOT analysis.

The analysis is about zeroing in on the O (opportunities).

Even threats and weaknesses can be growth opportunities when you understand them.

The foundation of a SWOT analysis is understanding who your customer is, from where they live to where they work—and the problem your business helps them solve.

How to prepare a SWOT analysis:

1. Gathering feedback from within your organization.

The newest people in your empire know your strengths and weaknesses better than you do. They are still learning.

Sit down with your newest team members and ask them to list your organization's strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities.

Pay attention to what your newcomers say. They're not nearly as emotionally attached as you and longtime employees are.

2. Listing every strength, weakness, and threat throughout every area of your business.

This part of the process is as simple as capturing the information you gathered from Step 1 and the insights you have noted since the last time you performed a SWOT.

Work quickly through every aspect of your business;

  • Financial
  • Technical
  • Market share
  • Team capabilities
  • Missing elements
  • Product or service

When you return to this list after a break, you can evaluate the quality of each list. For now, you're gathering.

3. Assessing how you can capitalize on your competition's weaknesses or double-down on your strengths.

The number of questions you ask—and answer—in this step are endless. Nobody knows your business like you do, but here are some quick examples:

  • How do your strengths match up against your competitors?
  • Are you in a position to capture a greater section of the marketplace if you add one more piece?
  • Are your finances strong enough to invest in a potential competition-killer?
  • Who has tried something like this before? What was the outcome?
4. Choosing your highest-leverage opportunity.

You most likely have more options than you can spin up during the next three months to a year.

Now you get to choose which opportunity is a balance between the easiest and most realistic implementation against the opportunity with the highest impact.

At the center of a SWOT analysis is your customer and adding value to your product.

In today's marketplace, it doesn't matter what business you're in; your customer and what they're willing to pay for are ever-changing.

Being the first to identify and respond to their needs gives you a strategic advantage.

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