September 15, 2022 at 7:01 p.m.
Richard’s Small Business Advisory, #2 SWOT
Who owns the pickup?
By Richard Koenings-
Last article, we explored the entrepreneurial mindset, that is, what thinking should be going through your mind as you pursue your dream business venture, alone or with others. I visualized that mindset as a triangle and at the top was an identified need, bottom left is an inquiring mind, and bottom right a solution. That process creates value and produces satisfaction, your real goal, your success.
Now it’s the time for the small business version of ‘blocking and tackling’ training — it’s that time of the year.
SWOT is not a misspelling of sweat, though that is probably often associated with the entrepreneurial journey. Here is what it does mean and how to get there. We start with a critical self-evaluation (the SW), looking inward, and then opportunity evaluation (the OT), looking outward. It’s an iterative process as you go through the four-letter acronym.
The inward look/SW
What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses. Put down a half dozen of each (yes we all have them) and be honest. After you do that and think about them and adjust them and rate them, have a few others that know you independently add several to each and adjust them again. You want to focus on the attributes that will help you succeed, but also what you will have to complement to address relevant weaknesses with other resources.
Yes of course it will be hard to succeed without passion, stubbornness, and very hard work; those are givens. But, if you want to produce and sell cakes, and your strength is selling but not baking, don’t try to become a baker, get a baker, and do what you’re best at — sell, sel,l sell! And if the converse is true, you’re an incredible baker but don’t have the personality to be a super salesperson, then get the salesperson and you bake the cakes.
The outward look/OT
What are the opportunities and threats to your success. The opportunity is the need you have identified, could be a product, could be a service that you think people will benefit from, that they will want. Great! We’re three letters down going for the fourth, but it’s a tough one: threats. Are others already providing the service or product, can you produce and sell competitively? Why will customers be interested in your version over theirs, what is your differentiation, your secret sauce and how will you maintain that over time?
Even if you feel customers will choose yours over others today, or you’re filling a void or niche not yet addressed, what about tomorrow, what can happen that minimizes or eliminates your advantage? Oh just maybe a pandemic, a supply issue, a better mousetrap, a production or selling means that leaves you behind, online vs. in store, labor shortage and on and on.
These are the threats, some you can anticipate and perhaps control, but others will surprise you and you will have to adjust on the fly. Now we’re back to stubbornness, determination, and passion, the belief that you can find a way forward. You may have to pivot, call upon your strengths, honestly have another look at the need you first addressed, or the solution you first saw, or the information your inquiring mind assembled. Identified strengths may no longer be as relevant as you thought, identified weaknesses may have become more relevant and inhibiting than first evaluated.
So, the end result of this SWOT analysis is not the end, not something put in a box and on the shelf. Your SWOT analysis is a continuous process that adjusts to the ever changing and dynamic marketplace.
The pictorial summary
You should now have a four-quadrant chart, each having a half dozen entries. On the left, top to bottom, strengths and weaknesses, on the right opportunities and threats. Review them from month to month, do they have a different value or priority today then yesterday, are there new ones to add, old ones to remove? How does the solution now look that you feel you can deliver that satisfies a need from your periodic trip around the quadrants of SWOT.
Oh, and by the way, if this is not the right time to plunge, be patient, what goes around comes around, if not when your 20 like Bill Gates, then maybe when you’re 70 like Col. Sanders, or somewhere in between, when you’re ready.
So what’s next? We’ll delve into research and forming the right lines of inquiry. There is so much information available through the internet, at the library, from friends and your own observations that you will have to be thoughtful and organized in your lines of inquiry.
We’ll showcase some local small businesses and how and why they chose the path they’re on and adjusted to surprises. Then we’ll talk about the relevance of John Dillinger and trees that too often fall in the forest and make no noise. Ultimately we’ll get to 1-3-5 year simplified Business Plan, doesn’t matter if its in a 3-ring binder or on a napkin. See you in two weeks.
Richard Koenings is an instructor and professor at Nicolet College and Concordia University, an executive manager of small and large businesses, a founder of three businesses, and has 30 years of experience as a business lawyer.