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SWOT Analysis: More than a Business Cliché

written by MO.com Subject Matter Expert Greg Wolff

Strengths. Weaknesses. Opportunities. Threats.

Said together, you have a cliché heard every day in business seminars all across the country.

Still, after 25 years in business, you would not believe how many owners and managers I have met who have never conducted a serious SWOT analysis of their company or division. We all talk about it, but very few do it.

I would love to compete against those who skip this step.

Sure, we are incredibly busy and it is easy to say we don’t have time to sit down, take a breath, and give serious thought to the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats our businesses face. But, in my experience, those who make the time are the ones who succeed. For my part, consistently doing a thorough SWOT analysis at key times has made a big difference in my business success.

When is the right time to conduct a SWOT analysis? Regularly.

Almost 25 years ago, I started what is now Marathon Building Environments. As a team – well, a team of just one, to start – we conduct a SWOT analysis at least once each year. This process is integral to the way we conduct our business and has led us to make far more good decisions than bad. Taking the time is a big part of what has made us a growing, profitable company, even in difficult economic times.

We’ve grown quite a bit over the years; today we have six divisions, each with its own manager, responsible for P&L (profit and loss) for that division.

At the first management meeting of the year, each manager goes through the results of his or her SWOT analysis, taking questions and comments from the other managers. Then, for the rest of the year, each division’s SWOT analysis and overall plan are taped to the wall where everyone can see them. They serve both as a reminder and point of further discussion, ensuring that none of us loses focus on the company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

When I started venturing beyond Marathon Building Environments to other business opportunities, I brought my commitment to the SWOT analysis with me. As a fairly active investor in early stage companies, I have found that the unwavering discipline of performing a thorough SWOT analysis has made the difference between success and failure. Setting forth the process, putting the thought into it, and providing a framework for discussion with the other players has brought success time and again.

Whether you are working on your own business or evaluating a new opportunity, make sure your process includes the tried and true SWOT analysis.

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