A ‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats’ (SWOT) analysis should be one of your key tools to evaluate whether your business is moving in the right direction. Even if you completed a SWOT analysis before launching, revisit it now to see which elements have changed.

 

What makes it special?

The SWOT is a simple but effective long-term planning tool. It's special as it's both easy to create and to interpret, and is now one of the gold-standard business planning tools for world-class companies – both big and small. "A SWOT analysis gives an overview from where you can steer a clear and achievable plan for launch, growth and success," says start-up business coach, Judith Flowerday. "Without the enforced structure of a SWOT analysis it's likely you'll overlook vital factors that could later require a complete – and costly – review of your business operation. For example, you may be so focused on your own strengths you don't fully consider those of your competitors, and subsequently place yourself in an unrealistic position in the market."

 

How do I use a SWOT?

It's vital that you are ruthlessly honest when drawing up a SWOT. Strengths and weaknesses are internal factors; threats and opportunities are external. The idea is to work on an achievable plan to play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses. Then decide how you can take advantage of the opportunities you have identified and eliminate or deal with the threats. Your first SWOT may take you some time to draw up and work through, but practice will make perfect and the beauty of a SWOT analysis is that, once you are familiar with it, you can carry one out on your competitors and on specific areas of your business. As you grow, periodically complete a new SWOT overview to look back and see how far you have come.

 

An example of a SWOT analysis

‘Cactus' is an imaginary garden design and build company offering low-maintenance, low-watering contemporary town gardens. This example of its SWOT will give you a feel for how to complete your own analysis.

 

Strengths

 

 

  • Low overheads
  • High quality, trustworthy, friendly service and ability to listen to customers' needs
  • Qualification, experience and a natural gift for both design planning and garden creation
  • Establishing good relationships with quality, affordable suppliers
  • Extensive knowledge (and experience) of low-maintenance plants and systems suitable for every budget
  • Good knowledge of what types of plants flourish in this area
  • Genuine interest in creating happy customers to generate referrals and repeat business

 

 

Weaknesses

 

 

  • New business with limited testimonials
  • Can get carried away chatting about garden design so need to stay focused and professional
  • Can't say "no" so may end up with too much work and don't want to grow too much yet
  • Limited budget for marketing
  • Lack confidence in formal networking environments

 

 

Opportunities

 

 

  • Broad spectrum of potential with local residential and business customers
  • Regular, popular local and regional garden shows with reasonably priced stands
  • Low priced advertising available in local parish and community magazines / venues
  • Local builders and other tradesmen who may provide direct opportunities or referrals
  • Garden centres to approach with the offer of design service (see Threats section)

 

 

Threats

  • Local garden centre offering a free design service
  • More established competition
  • Less interest in colder months – would need to focus on offering maintenance/tidying jobs
  • Transport could break down
  • Potential customers may view garden design as a luxury
  • Gardens in centre of town possibly difficult to access

 

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