Scrabble pieces on top of a notebook spelling S.W.O.T. and handwriting on the notebook pointing at each letter explaining their meaning: Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat. The background is a blurred working station with a laptop, glasses, mobile phone, and a cup of coffee.

Improve your 2021 Business Outlook with These 5 Steps

In Planning by Alexandra Mitchell

When I was taking strategic marketing and business development courses at N.Y.U., one of the best things I learned was the importance of doing regular S.W.OT. analyses.  I actually do them twice a year because after doing each analysis — if I take my cues from the previous one —I make changes that alter my business for the better.

S.W.O.T. — which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (and I add an extra T for Trends) —doesn’t’ require any special training or learning, only an honest and unflinching view of your business. The goal is to not beat yourself up, or sit in fear or immobility if something seems wrong or negative, but instead to look at the results and respond positively with proactive actions and improvements.

Here’s are the key questions to ask yourself, your partner, and your team in this process:

· STRENGTHS (Internal): What makes your business succeed, what’s working well? Look at your successful products, services, packages, and offerings. Also, who are the staff members that are going above and beyond?  Which plans and strategies are working that you put in place months ago? Do you have a strong network?  We often forget to count our supportive friends, family, mentors, and colleagues as a strength, but it’s important to acknowledge to yourself — and to them — how much you rely on them, especially when times get tough.

· WEAKNESSES (Internal): What’s impeding your growth and success? Does a staff member have a bad attitude and they’re dragging down morale? Are you and your partner fighting constantly? Are you being reactive and constantly putting out fires? Is a favorite vendor becoming more and more unreliable? If you’re missing critical deadlines because you can’t get the products in and out on time, and clients are jumping ship, it’s time to have a talk with that vendor, and/or find a new one.

· OPPORTUNITIES (External): What factors outside of your business can help strengthen it? Did something change in the market? Is the virtual assistant you’ve wanted to hire now available? Can you negotiate a lower rent or move into a better space?  Maybe it’s time to join that networking group.  Opportunities are always available to us — always. It’s up to us to step out of our comfort zone and take advantage of them.

· THREATS (External): What outside threats may harm your business?  Did a competitor come into your space? Do you rely on one client for more than 1/3rd of your business? Are your products or services seasonal, so that there are always fluctuations in revenue? Are environmental factors or changes impacting you?  For example the ban on plastic bags, which now means you have to purchase paper bags, or reusable bags and sell them to disgruntled customers who forget to bring their own.

· TRENDS (External):  What has changed in the region, city, or world which makes your products or services perfectly positioned to take advantage of a new trend? For example, because of COVID-19, home workout equipment sales have skyrocketed.  Taking advantage of trends means that you have to be tapped into and know what’s happening in the world, AND see the opportunity it presents to help your business.

Do a SWOTT analysis this week, then again in June, and then again in December 2021. What do you see? What should you keep in place, what should you rework?  Keep your notes, make proactive changes, and watch how your business improves over the year.