Why a SWOT analysis for your business is important now
Nearly five million years ago, before recorded history, the Earth changed in ways that seem unfathomable to us now. The land link between what is now Europe, and what is now Africa, broke or was submerged sufficiently for them to become separate continents.
The earliest Homo species groups that had been using that land bridge to migrate suddenly found themselves isolated. It would be many billion years before ships were built and we would rediscover these lands again.
It is interesting to think that all of this resulted from something that the earliest humans probably did not see happening. It unfolded a few thousand metres underwater, in the form of the movement of the Earth’s tectonic plates.
We use the words ‘tectonic shift’ often without grasping the magnitude of what that means and yet this story shows us what it must have been like to be left truly adrift, without any framework to plan around.
In our living memory, the COVID-19 pandemic will be that tectonic shift. It will hopefully make us more resilient, and more aware, of the forces that shape the world we operate in.
In this article, we discuss how to conduct a SWOT analysis to understand the risk for small businesses in 2021 and beyond. Now, several models are used to study the impact of various forces on business and each of them has a distinct purpose. We do find that for small businesses and teams, a SWOT analysis is often a necessary first step. Here’s how to go about one.
The Five Steps for a Post Pandemic SWOT Analysis
1. Identifying strengths: One of the things about doing a SWOT analysis now is that it gives us a great perspective. Businesses today have physical proof of what their strengths really are. A restaurant business we work with has discovered that their strength is community (loyal patrons and wellwishers), and not really the food itself. A toy brand has discovered that its strength is sustainability that's innovative. When you set out to answer this question of what your strengths are, consider what helped you really tide you through. This is what you need to strengthen further and leverage.
2. Looking for weaknesses: The business environment today is such that weaknesses no longer lurk in processes alone. Any business’s weakness rests in its systems- the mistakes that invariably continue to be made, the culture that becomes so inflexible as to be frozen, the people who continue to be demoralised one day at a time. These weaknesses are a wake-up call if heard correctly. For example, several small businesses now report that their closures were more in response to generalised fear than due to a real disruption in the supply chain. Could a business that quickly moved online have survived better then? The answer is, actually, a ‘yes’ and this applies to businesses outside of the retail domain too.
We have seen training sessions and workshops, even workouts and large events, move online. Weaknesses can be turned into opportunities with the right amount of thinking.
3. Identifying new opportunities: One good thing about this year’s shakeup is that everyone is thinking a bit more about what they really want. One simple example we found by just looking at our team is the buying and selling of 2021 planners. Several of our own writers don’t want to jinx the year to come with a new planner but are willing to buy from businesses they know or are acquainted with. They want to support a business that is sticking with it and making sure they just come out with a really good product. The same goes for gift hampers for the festive season. There is a conscious effort to reach out to small businesses with unique products.All of the relationships that were built so far will come in handy now. If content is king, relationships are the new business currency. Small businesses are at a particular advantage here, and the opportunity is massive. However, there is also a need to go beyond standard emailers and social media content, and really think about what their consumers want.
4. Preparing for threats: We may have moved (or almost moved) past a pandemic but we live in a world where the threats are many. The global climate is changing and we are barely keeping up. With climate change come more diseases, failing crops, changing economic situations, and more. Every business’s situation in this backdrop is unique, but we broadly see a trend of smaller, more agile teams and a group of people coming together for a common cause. This is in sharp contrast to the hierarchical organisations we have seen previously. The winners will be teams that can respond faster, learn faster, and do tasks that go beyond the repetitive.
5. Asking the right questions: A SWOT analysis is an exercise best conducted in a group. Be sure to get together with the people who influence your business. As a small business, you have the distinct advantage of being able to invite your customers to the conversation. Invite a focus group to spend the day with you thinking about questions such as
- what did we do really well during the pandemic? - what did we not foresee at all? - how do we look at the future of our business for the next year? - what are we doing to achieve these goals? - what are our competitors doing that we are not?
- how do we see our business five years from now? What are the values that will get us there? - what are the cultural aspects that will stop us from getting there? - what do we think we are missing in this process? Can we guess what we are not seeing?
As a next step, we will be sharing with you some guidelines on what to do with all of the answers to these questions. In the meantime, how do you foresee a SWOT analysis going with your team?
Sometimes, these interventions can bring up more than we bargained for.
In such cases, it helps to have a neutral third party join the conversation for a SWOT session. If you’d like such an intervention, please write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
What is a personal SWOT analysis and how does it work?
A SWOT is not just for a business. The best place to start is also by taking a deep look at yourself.