You might have seen the term SWOT analysis in a business magazine and wondered what it means. You might have even assumed it’s a form of corporate doublespeak that doesn’t have applicability to the individual agent or entrepreneur.
However, SWOT — which stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” — is simply a way to easily get some of your concerns and fears out of your head and into the world where they can be evaluated and dealt with.
It balances positive and negative in a way that lets you be more strategic about the future of your business.
This isn’t an in-depth analysis; it’s meant to be an overview, similar to a mind map, to spark energy and new directions. Generally, each section should have no more than five bullet points.
Ask yourself these questions as you try to SWOT your business.
This is a fun one, and the best place to begin. It’s where you get to list all your advantages and benefits.
What are you doing well? What resources do you have? What makes you win against your competition?
Sometimes when doing this, it’s helpful to go back and look at client letters and testimonials to see the places that others believe you shine.
This is where honesty comes in. What could you be doing better? What do you know that, even though you should do it, you probably won’t? What is a weakness that you cannot change?
This isn’t just about places you can improve but also about things that you know others could use against you. Imagine a client is evaluating you and another agent — what might that agent think your weaknesses are?
After that bitter pill, it’s time for another fun one. What does your future hold based on what is happening in the marketplace? What are ways that you could get more business, more clients and more energy for your business?
What external factors in the marketplace can you capitalize on? Is there new technology you can adopt or new ways to market yourself?
Now it’s time to put your pessimist cap on and explore the worst-case scenarios. Look at both factors impacting your business and the economy at large. Threats are things that are not generally in your control. They are factors to be aware of and protect yourself against.
Once you have your SWOT, it’s time to develop an action plan. For each strength, ask if there is a way you can get even more value from it or capitalize on it more. For each weakness, is there a way to correct or mitigate it?
For opportunities, how are you poised to seize the chances that might come and take full advantage? Conversely, for threats, how can you defend yourself so that you are best protected if they happen?
Need inspiration on doing a SWOT? The Fortune 500 list this year contains SWOT analyses for 100 of the biggest companies in the world including Wal-Mart, Apple and Ford Motor Co. Access the list here and click on the company profile to access the SWOT profile.
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