Over the past few weeks, we have been working on year-end checklists, sorting paperwork and reviewing our actions over the year to understand where our business stands. A final step in analyzing the state of the business is reviewing the information we have gathered using the SWOT analysis to develop actionable plans that we can implement in 2019. Using the analysis tool, we took an objective look at our organization to identify the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that can impact its ability to successfully meet stated goals and objectives.

Now that you have created these lists using the suggested questions, you may be asking: what do I do with these responses? The answer is simple: sort, organize and prioritize!

  • Use the template: if you haven’t already done so, use the SWOT template (several versions available online) to organize your responses into one of the four quadrants. This will provide a clearer visual representation of the state of your business.
  • Review: read through your responses, check for repeated information, clarify points, eliminate unnecessary information.
  • Refine: drill down each response into bullet points or short phrases. This can help with providing actionable plans
  • Prioritize: Rome was not built in one day; review each section and rank the bullet points to have your most pressing issues worked on first.

Once your responses are organized and prioritized, you can use the points to develop strategies for your business. One way to create these strategies is to look at how your responses in each SWOT quadrant can connect and overlap to capitalize on or mitigate factors that impact your success. The TOWS matrix is a variation of the SWOT tool and can give you a better idea of the strategic choices that you face, especially as internal and external factors change.

  • Strengths-Opportunities: How can you use your internal strengths to take advantage of opportunities identified?
  • Strengths-Threats: Which of your strengths can be used to minimize your threats?
  • Weaknesses-Opportunities: Can any of your opportunities be used to improve your weaknesses?
  • Weaknesses-Threats: How can eliminating weaknesses limit or avoid threats?

Performing a SWOT analysis is a critical part of any business strategic planning. Whether in operation one day, six months or ten years, this exercise can be very useful. However, remember that the analysis tool is only as good as the information it generates. Avoid creating long lists that can be overwhelming and hard to tackle, do not be afraid to identify sensitive or controversial issues if they impact your business, customer or industry and do not confuse internal with external factors. However, when completed objectively and honestly, a SWOT analysis can help improve your organization’s focus by ensuring the team is on the same page, identify unknown factors that impact your business and provide strategies to improve the business market position. We hope the pointers provided will help you develop key strategies to not only jumpstart your 2019 but to also catapult your business into new areas of success.