SWOT Analysis: Identifying Your Threats

Last week I talked about opportunities, following up from my post on SWOT Analysis:  Simple Tool to Improve Your Business.  If you missed one of these previous posts it may be best to go back and review them in order.

Today I will review our discussion on Threats (the “T” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise.  The discussion on Threats was led by Angie Swartz, Executive Coach and Founder of Six Figure Moms Club.  Angie opened the analysis with a brief discussion on threats.  Angie quoted from Wikipedia’s definition of threats:  “Threats: external conditions which could do damage to the business’s performance”.

The group had the following ideas to think about before our discussion insuring each person was prepared to discuss possible threats:

What is your competition offering that you are not?
Are competitive businesses moving into your area?
Are economic trends changing your customer spending habits?
What social trends are impacting your business?

Angie then opened it up to the group for discussion asking members to discuss their discovered threats.  Here is some of the discussion:

  • Justin Stewart, Customer Service Supervisor with San Diego National Bank talked about his larger institutions undercutting the value of what his bank can offer and the negative perception and distrust of financial companies in the current market.  Leon Alchalel Investment Realtor with Keller Williams added while this is a threat it is also an opportunity because more people and businesses are looking for service the larger institutions cannot offer.  Justin also added that while the larger bank institutions are getting a lot of negative publicity, San Diego National Bank is financially very strong which attracts new clients looking for financially strong institutions.
  • Katina Jackson, Independent Associate with Pre-Paid Legal said her biggest threat is the amount of Pre-Paid Legal representatives in her market.  Art Kriegsmann, President of H.R. Servs., Inc. asked if there was a way to separate herself from the other Pre-Paid Legal representatives?  Katina stated she focuses on seniors working within that niche market.  She also does a lot of networking events and then follows up with each of them creating a stronger connection.  This connection leads to more clients and referrals.

I found identifying my threats the most difficult part in the SWOT Analysis.  I look at threats as a negative which I typically stay away from.  Looking at negative influences around me is like adding fuel to a fire that I am choosing not to see.  With that said I also realize the need to be aware of both the positive and negative around me to help identify potential opportunities.  So with much thought the main threat I have identified is the perception of the businesses and sales professionals I work with.

Right now, most small business owners are cutting back on all marketing and advertising like appreciation campaigns, referral strategies, and follow up systems, as this is a simple fix to cash flow problems. The current economy amplifies the creativity in coming up with a great excuse not to do it implement new marketing and advertising ideas.  The reality is now is the best time to implement these types of strategies!  Implementing strategies like this will not only bring in new customers now it will also propel the growth of the company for years to come.

The following are examples of threats that might me affecting your business right now:

  • As a business owner or sales professional, when competitors move into your area that is a threat.
  • When internet companies focus on your target market or your area, this is a threat.
  • When economic trends change, this could be a threat.  When social trends change like Baby Boomers leaving the workforce and Generation Y moves into the workforce, this could be a threat to you.

I encourage you to be aware of these threats and discover creative ways to react to them.  Remember threats can be looked at as a negative or you can see them for an opportunity to create positive change, the choice is yours.

For a Small Business Positive Perspective is Everything

In response to my post last week: SWOT Analysis:  Exploring Your Opportunities, here’s a great example of a friend who is seizing an opportunity in the current marketplace:

Jay Riordan, President of Dream Design Builders and I were talking about how great his company is doing while many of his competitors were closing down or downsizing dramatically.  Dream Design Builders is one of the top remodeling and home building companies in San Diego, winning multiple design and customer service awards including the San Diego Better Business Bureau Torch Award .  Jay and I were discussing the unusual problem of whether he should aggressively expand his business.  The challenge was growing too fast as well as where to find good employees to handle the expansion.  So where is Jay’s opportunity you may be asking?  Because Jay is like me and absolutely refuses to participate in the negative economy, his business is growing while his competitors are closing or downsizing.  Now is the PERFECT time for Jay to expand as he will have a pool of very talented potential employees from his competitors closing and downsizing.  This is the perfect example of looking at the opportunities right in front of you based on the current trends in your marketplace.

It’s easy to buy into the negativity of the media but its your choice whether you seize the opportunity around you or allow the media to paralyze you.

SWOT Analysis: Exploring Your Opportunities

Last week I talked about weaknesses, following up from my post on SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business. If you missed one of these previous posts it may be best to go back and review them in order.

SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business
SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths
SWOT Analysis: Acknowledging Your Weaknesses

Today I will review our discussion on Opportunities (the “O” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise. The discussion on Opportunities was led by Rufino Autus, Independent Financial Planner for Autus Financial Group. Rufino started out the discussion with a brief over view of SWOT Opportunities. Opportunities are things that are external, things that are happening around you which you can capitalize on in the current business climate. The group had the following ideas to think about before our discussion insuring each person was prepared to discuss possible opportunities:

  • Where are the good opportunities facing you?
  • What trends are happening around you that your company can capitalize on?
  • What changes in technology have a positive effect on your business?
  • What changes in industry standards or government policy impact your business?
  • How can changes in social patterns, population profiles, aging consumers, and lifestyles change how you approach new customers?

Rufino then opened it up to the group for discussion asking members to share their discovered opportunities. Here is some of the discussion:

  • Kerry Klindtworth, a realtor with Keller Williams talked about how it’s a buyer’s market. It’s a great market to buy so she has changed her focus to buyers. She still loves taking listings because she is very good at selling homes but her focus is on buyers. Kerry also talked about everyone going green! With this in mind she has become a Certified Energy Specialist in the state of California. This means she can go into your home and provide you with CFL light bulbs for free from SDG&E. When she does a home inspection her appraisers do an energy audit on your home and tell you how to make your home more efficient. Kerry also talked about how one person turns 55 every 30 seconds so she is in the process of getting certified as a Senior Residential Specialist as well as getting her brokers license. We all agreed this was a great example of looking at your current opportunities and taking advantage of them.
  • Tammy Williams, a representative with MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) highlighted one of her opportunities. Right now it’s the end of the fiscal year for most corporations and they are planning their budget for 2009. Now is the time to make contact with these corporations to make sure MADD is part of their budget for 2009.
  • Kraig Stahl, President of K.D. Stahl Construction Group talked about how the construction market has changed. Kraig talked about projects which used to have two or three bidders now have 12 and large building projects are slowing down dramatically. Kraig is focusing on tenant improvements, looking for companies that may be downsizing and need to change walls within an existing building or create new office spaces. Most of Kraig’s business comes from referrals, “not many people just look you up in the yellow pages”, so he is focusing on meeting new referral partners like architects, electrical engineers, and commercial brokers. Angie Swartz, founder of Six Figure Moms Club suggested using the words “we are flexible and agile” so referral sources know you are changing your businesses to adapt to the current market. Tammy added MADD is all about branding and by partnering with MADD you will set yourself apart from your competition. If you are one of those companies competing for the same customer look at ways to partner with non profits as a way to expose your brand.

So what were the opportunities I discovered? Now more than ever building relationships and following up with prospects and customers is the key to any marketing strategy. My opportunities are to help companies and sales professionals improve their relationships, creating connections with prospects who will allow me to review their follow up strategies. Through these meetings I can suggest ways to improve their strategies and help them implement new systems to capture referrals that are currently going to their competitors. So if you are reading this post and want to learn how to double your referrals in the next 90 days maybe your best next step would be simply calling me!

I found the opportunity process very positive. Hearing how the other members viewed their opportunities allowed me to explore deeper into what might be right in front of me but for some reason I was ignoring or just did not see. The power of this SWOT Analysis is amazing and I look forward to sharing the last part of this discussion next week. Our discussion for next week is Threats (the “T” in SWOT).

SWOT Analysis: Acknowledging Your Weaknesses

Last week I talked about strengths, following up from my post on SWOT Analysis:  Simple Tool to Improve Your Business.  If you missed one of these previous posts it may be best to go back and review them in order.

SWOT Analysis:  Simple Tool to Improve Your Business

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

Today I will review our discussion on Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise.  The discussion on Weaknesses was led by Alan Underkofler Blogger for Follow Up Success and Consultant on follow-up strategies for your business.  (that’s me!)  I started out the discussion just like the previous week.  A brief description on SWOT, and discussed how are we going to interact as a group, as well as setting some guidelines for the discussion.  I really stressed to everyone not to take the feedback personally but really look at the feedback and decide it it’s you or not you, is the weakness real or not real?  The more real and honest the weakness is the more value you will have with the SWOT Analysis.  The group had the following ideas to think about before our discussion insuring each person was prepared with at least four weaknesses:

  • What could you improve?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?
  • What factors lose you sales?
  • What would your clients say your weaknesses are?

I then picked a few people in the group to start sharing their weaknesses.  Here is some of the discussion:

  • Rufino Autus, Independent Financial Planner for Autus Financial group listed his weaknesses is as, organization skills, time management, procrastination, prioritizing call backs, and at times when meeting with clients he tends to over educate or give them too much information.  Kerry Klindtwoth, a Realtor with Keller Williams suggested hiring an assistant and committing to a calendar system.  The group also talked about the perceptions we have of Rufino and making sure they are in line with who he is or wants to be.
  • Owen Fabert, Consultant for Pampered Chef listed his weaknesses is as lack of organization, lack of self confidence, uncomfortable in a leadership roles, follow up, easily distracted, and listening.  Paula Sassi, owner of Handwriting Consultants International added “What you perceive of yourself is not how we perceive you” .  The group all agreed Owen is a leader and we could see no self confidence issues.  Angie Swartz, Executive Coach and Blogger for Six Figure Moms Club quoted Howard Schultz Chairman and CEO of Starbucks on the challenge of facing obstacles and doubt while working through something unfamiliar and uncomfortable, “There’s a fine line between self-doubt and self-confidence, and it’s even possible to feel both emotions simultaneously.  Back then, and often enough today, I could  be overwhelmed with insecurities, and at the same time have an abundance of self-assurance and faith.”  Angie points out most people striving for greatness have this same feeling.  It’s not that you are not a leader it’s that you are striving to grow yourself at all times.
  • Ted Pittman, Owner of T.L.E. Promotional Products listed his weaknesses as organization, some limits on capabilities, small size of company, procrastination, awareness of his company in the market.  I added one of the products Ted provides is corporate apparel and suggested he should be wearing logoed apparel to promote his brand and business.  Angie asked about sponsoring events and suggested donating products with his company logo on the products to create more awareness.

With this discussion on weaknesses, I found myself looking at different areas of my life, both business and personal, where all of these weaknesses have come up for me at one time or another.  Time management, clients and potential clients perception of me, talking too fast, and even working too much are all areas I am currently working on.  Listening to the other members of the group really allowed me to identify weaknesses from my past, reflecting on these past weaknesses is a great way to insure they do not show up again.

My last thought on this discussion of weaknesses is no matter what your weakness is you can change it.  If it’s truly a weakness you cannot change the easiest solution is to surround yourself with people that excel in your weakness.  If organization is a weakness for you, hire very organized people.  If time management is a weakness for you, identify your highest priorities and schedule them into your day.  We have solutions to each of our weaknesses, most times right in front of us.  Quoting my friend John Assaraf, founder of One Coach “hire people that play at things you are not good at”.

As we move along in our SWOT Analysis reflect on your newly discovered strengths and weakness.  You can start amplifying your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses anytime.  If you have started making changes in your business from reading about SWOT please share them with us by leaving a comment.

Next week our discussion will be on Opportunities (the “O” in SWOT).

SWOT Analysis: Defining Your Strengths

In my last post, SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business, I gave an overview of SWOT and talked about a few of the benefits of applying a SWOT Analysis to your businesses or to yourself as a business professional. As I mentioned in my previous post I am part of a small group of business owners and sales professionals who have committed to SWOT exercise for the next four weeks. The format for our SWOT exercise is fairly simple. We meet each week prepared to discuss the current element of SWOT as it pertains to our business or ourselves. We then discuss our findings with the group getting valuable feedback from the other participants in the exercise.  This allows us the ability to further refine our SWOT Analysis.

Today I will review our discussion on Strengths (the “S” in SWOT) as it applies to my business as well as the 15 other small and mid size companies in the exercise. The discussion on Strengths was led by Kerry Klindtworth a realtor with Keller Williams. Kerry started out the discussion with a brief description of SWOT using sites like Mind Tools as references and discussed examples of different strengths from the site. These included the following ideas:

  • What advantages does your company have?
  • What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What unique or lowest-cost resources do you have access to?
  • What do people in your market see as your strengths?
  • What factors mean that you “get the sale?”

Kerry started engaging the participants asking them to share their strengths with group. Once they were complete the group would question, add, and help refine the Strengths of that person. Here is some of the discussion:

  • Paula Sassi, Certified Graphologist and owner of Handwriting Consultants International listed her strengths as; 28 years of experience, knowledgeable, timely response (responding to client requests within 24 hours), very easy to contact, great speaker, and entertainer for special events as well as tradeshows. Kerry added “Paula is an expert in her field”. Rufino Autus, Financial Advisor with Autus Financial Group added “Paula is a straight talker and has a unique business for her market”.
  • Justin Stewart, Customer Service Supervisor with San Diego National Bank listed his strengths as; builds rapport with customers quickly, passionate about what he does, thinks outside of the box to find solutions, privately owned local bank, 11 years in banking, and constantly expanding his banking knowledge. Rufino added “Justin loves what he does”. Jexter Isip, IT Consultant and Principal of Dedicated Network Solutions added “Justin is amazing with followup insuring his customers know he values them”.
  • Cathy Peterson, Insurance Agent with Farmers Insurance listed her strengths as; great followup, vast insurance knowledge, and a personal passion to insure her clients have the right coverage. I added “Cathy not only has great followup, she has great follow thru! Always keeping you up to date with referrals she has received”. Jexter added “Cathy has great communication during and after the process of buying insurance”.

So how did I do in this process? What are the strengths of Alan Underkofler, Blogger for Follow Up Success, Consultant on followup strategies for your business, quickly becoming a go to person in the world of Social Media, Speaker, and soon to be published Author. Like everyone else in the process I took time to really reflect on my strengths in regards to my business. The strengths that I listed were; simple tools, unique solutions, cost effective, ease of implementation, 12 years of marketing experience working with both Fortune 500 companies and brand new at home startups, passion for followup, and enthusiasm to help clients achieve desired results. The group confirmed my strengths and added passion and enthusiasm.

Passion and enthusiasm have been strengths of mine for a long time! Passion and enthusiasm has always propelled me to my next challenge in business. Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to go after clients that everyone said were impossible to get, I was blind and deaf to the reasons they gave me! Passion and enthusiasm pushed me to commit to writing inventory and category management software that was unprecedented in our industry, I was blind to the fact that this was not possible! Passion and enthusiasm is what pushes me now… Right now! Pushing to be a blogger, pushing me to complete my book, pushing me to be a better speaker, pushing me to be a top producer in everything I do! I am blinded by my passion and enthusiasm! For me passion and enthusiasm allows me to be blind to failure and negativity, when you can’t see failure or negativity you can’t fail and you have no choice but to be positive! No choice but to be positive!

Obviously I got a bit more out of this than I ever expected! Hopefully you did too! This last paragraph was not about this post. It was about me and what I needed to hear! So, thank you for being a part of it!  What are your strengths, what inspire your passion and enthusiasm, what propels you to succeed?

Look for next week’s post as we take a closer look at Weaknesses (the “W” in SWOT).

SWOT Analysis: Simple Tool to Improve Your Business

SWOT Analysis is strategic planning method and effective tool to help you understand your Strengths and Weaknesses, and identify the Opportunities and Threats facing your business.  The analysis was created by Albert Humphrey during a research project at Stanford University using data from Fortune 500 companies.  Using SWOT you are looking at the internal and external factors of your business.  Internal factors would be your strengths and weakness while the external factors are the opportunities and threats.  Taking a look at these factors can help you apply your resources and capabilities to your market.

The reason SWOT is so powerful is that in a few hours you can discover opportunities within your business to expand or develop.  Exploring your business weaknesses will allow you to change or eliminate a negative pattern or element of your business you may be unaware of.  As you look at your businesses as well as your competitors using SWOT you will begin to see what sets you apart from your competition and then focusing on these discoveries can give you the competitive edge you are looking for.

SWOT Analysis can be completed by you, with a consultant or coach, with your management team, or with a group of business owners in your network.  The value of bringing others into the discussion is the discovery of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats you may not see on your own.  This should make your analysis more complete and powerful.

The benefit of participating in a SWOT Analysis for small and large business as well as solopreneurs and individuals are dramatic.  Starting next week I will be discussing each element of the SWOT Analysis with a group of small business owners and will share with you what we discover.  The goal is to give you real life examples of how to use SWOT and how it can make a difference in your business.

So you might be asking yourself how does SWOT relate to followup?  Followup will show up as a strength or a weakness for you and your business.  If it’s identified as a strength you might look for ways to improve on what you are already doing.  If followup is identified as a weakness then focusing on followup systems for your business will give you a huge advantage in your market.