Analyze your situation with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.
James Manktelow: Hello. I'm James Manktelow, CEO of MindTools.com, home to hundreds of free career-building tools and resources.
Amy Carlson: And I'm Amy Carlson from Mind Tools. Do you ever feel your career lacks focus? Or would you like to have a clear strategy in place to grow your business, but don't know where to start? If so, you'll find the SWOT Analysis tool very helpful.
JM: SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. By analyzing your business – or career – in these four areas, you'll be able to cut through the noise, and focus on what really matters. You can use SWOT Analysis to identify a sustainable niche for your company – or on a personal level, to help you develop your own career. By understanding your strengths and weaknesses, you can exploit the most relevant opportunities in the marketplace – and manage threats that might otherwise take you by surprise.
AC: To do your SWOT Analysis you'll need a piece of paper – or you can print off the free worksheet at MindTools.com. And give yourself enough time. It pays to consider each of the four areas in depth, and to try to be as realistic and rigorous as possible.
Starting with Strengths, ask yourself some key questions. What advantages do you or your company have? What do you do better than anyone else? What do people in your market see as your strengths?
JM: Moving onto Weaknesses, ask yourself what could you improve? What should you avoid? What factors lose you sales? What do outsiders see as your weaknesses?
With Opportunities, you'll want to consider where your best opportunities lie. What interesting trends are you aware of? What opportunities might arise from changes in technology, government policy, social patterns, and the like? And – this is really important – what opportunities do your strengths open up for you?
Finally, Threats. Ask yourself what obstacles you or your company face. What is your competition doing that you should be worried about? Do you have bad debt or cash-flow problems? And what threats do your weaknesses expose you to?
AC: When you're making your lists, be precise – and prioritize, so the most important points are at the top. You'll find that your strengths and weaknesses are often internal to you or your organization, while opportunities and threats often relate to external factors. This is why SWOT Analysis is often called Internal/External Analysis.
When you've finished the analysis, you'll have a better understanding of how you can compete successfully, and you'll have made a good start on crafting an effective strategy for success.