How to analyse your small business’ strengths and weaknesses

SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis - napkin doodle with cup of espresso coffee on old wooden table

Introspection is a valuable process, especially when it comes to running your small business. Taking the time to sit back and analyse the state of your enterprise including its strengths and weaknesses can reveal which risks you face – and which opportunities you are missing. Small businesses that regularly make this analysis are more likely to experience growth and to endure as a going concern over the long term.

A broad view is crucial

The only way you will successfully build a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of your business is by taking a wide range of steps to create an understanding of your business environment. Simply taking a pause out of your busy business life to think through the challenges you face is a good start, but you will need to broaden your sources of information to get a comprehensive picture. Here are 5 ideas that will help you achieve that.

  1. Start with the industry-standard SWOT analysis

If you are not in the habit of analysing your company’s strengths and weaknesses you should start with a SWOT analysis. This classic business technique is thoroughly documented in most management textbooks and helps you to lay out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by your business. It is a systematic way of discovering important facts which you may otherwise overlook, and to see those facts in the context of your business and its environment.

  1. Hire a consultant to examine your business

Consultants are industry experts who can help you identify how your business is performing against its peers. The wide experience of a consultant makes it much easier for them to see the strengths and weaknesses in your business, whereas you as the manager of a small business may struggle to see some elements of your business environment. A consultancy like Quob Park will take you through the necessary steps to identify which areas of your business are the strongest, and which aspects of your business environment pose threats.

  1. Go to industry events and conferences

Networking at industry events provides an excellent opportunity to get a perspective on what other businesses in your field do. These networking events and conferences often feature excellent presentations on best practice in your industry and are a good source of information when it comes to what your industry faces in terms of threats and challenges. Conference participants are also often very willing to discuss their own experiences and you stand to learn an enormous amount by interacting with managers running businesses like yours.

  1. Research the behaviour of similar businesses in other countries

In any given industry, the state of development of that industry can be faster in some countries than in others. The way other businesses in other countries respond to changes in an industry will shed light on the way your own business is performing, and will give you clues as to which points of weakness can lead to future trouble – or which areas of strength you are currently undervaluing. Secondly, sometimes advanced industries forget past lessons, and these could highlight weaknesses in your current methods of operating.

  1. Monitor the press

Keeping an eye on the business press is another excellent way to stay ahead of your business environment, and to benchmark your business against what other business are doing. Looking at the challenges other industry participants face can show you where the strengths lie in your business and indicate ways in which you can build on those strengths. On the flipside, a fully informed view of your peers will quickly show where your business is underperforming, giving you the opportunity to make an improvement before it is too late.

Keep records of your past decisions, and see it is a continuous process

Any analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your business should be done in a rigorous manner which allow you to follow up on your past conclusions and decisions. Whether you adopt the SWOT approach or network with your peers, try to keep a diary of some kind that records the insights you come to and how you have implemented these insights.

Continuous improvement is the key benefit of a regular analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of your business. By recording your steps and continuously working on improvements, and regularly re-evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, you will be able to keep your business in tip-top shape. This will also make it much easier to deal with any challenges your business may face.

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