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    Sample SWOT Analysis

    Follow a SWOT Model or Template
    to Conduct Your Own Analysis

    Use this sample SWOT analysis as a SWOT model for building your own small business strategic plan. Understanding the definition of SWOT analysis will help you in effective strategic planning and in developing your sustainable competitive advantage. What's the first step in your strategic plan? Conducting a SWOT analysis.

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    This SWOT model can help you understand how to do this strategic planning strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats element of your strategic and marketing plans.

    A definition of SWOT analysis is the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of, and opportunities and threats facing, the organization.

    When conducting a SWOT analysis, include key members of your organization (if possible) in the process.

    If you do not have employees in your small business, then ask a valued friend or family member to help you with the strategic planning process.

    Conducting a SWOT analysis is more effective if you can view your business and your external business environment from different perspectives.



    A SWOT Model Outline:

    • Review of internal organization's
      • Strengths
      • Weaknesses
    • Review of external environment (including an industry analysis)
      • Opportunities
      • Threats
    • Focus your strategic plan on capitalizing on the strengths and opportunities; managing the weaknesses; and dealing with (or minimizing as much as possible) the threats.


    Sidebar:

    I conduct a SWOT analysis in my business annually. From time to time, I have asked a valued client to spend half an hour with me identifying what he or she feel are the strengths and weaknesses of the business.

    This can be invaluable information to your strategic planning process; if you have a strong client relationship consider working closely with them to do a thorough, and somewhat more independent, SWOT review.

    A Sample SWOT Analysis

    In the sample SWOT analysis below, there are action items beside the weaknesses. You could also add action items beside each of the additional factors; strengths, threats and opportunities. These might be ways to capitalize or leverage on those strategic elements.

    Most of the time, SWOTs do not include action items in that section of the strategic plan. I like to include them in the SWOT, and then carry them into the Action Plan, because it reinforces what element of the analysis necessitates the action. I have shown action items in the weaknesses section of the following sample SWOT analysis.

    I have found that by doing it this way more attention and understanding is focused on accomplishing the action plan.



    Organization: Internal

    This section looks at the strengths and weaknesses of the organization. The goal is to manage and control the weaknesses and take advantage of the strengths.

    Strengths

    • Our brand and reputation in our markets is strong. We are recognized as being professional, reliable and quality-driven.
    • We have excellent employees who are well trained, customer oriented and efficient.
    • We have a relatively flat organization (from bottom to top: 2 layers) which allows us to make quick decisions and be adaptable to changing market conditions.
    • We work on a continuous improvement operating model.
    • We capitalize on slow business periods by cross-training employees and taking employees out to meet customers which helps us to develop more capable employees and gives the organization more depth.
    • We have built a strong human resources program at our company; this helps us hire, train and retain the best people.
    • We pay attention to our costs and contain costs wherever possible but not at the expense of quality, safety or the environment.
    • We have begun to pursue a market and product diversification strategy; this enables us to leverage our capabilities and minimize our costs and our risks.

    Weaknesses

    • We are not the low-cost or low-price supplier in the market.
      Action: We need to continuously improve our productivity and efficiency to reduce cost. We are committing to a Lean process that is enterprise-wide and that will help us improve our efficiencies.
    • We need to build stronger relationships with our Top 5 Customers.
      Action: Make our service commitments and if we fail, admit our mistake, apologize, and learn how to improve and not repeat mistakes!
    • Cost of re-investment is high.
      Action: All capital expenditures must be planned and must have an acceptable payback (18 months).
    • We have recently focused on a diversification strategy which has a cost to implement.
      Action: Focus on cost and resource synergies and ensure that all diversified products have a strong benefit to the organization as a whole.
    • We are at risk if we lose one or more of our top 5 accounts.
      Action: We need to build new business, new markets and new services to mitigate that risk. We also need to ensure satisfied existing accounts and continue to build strong relationships with our customers.
    • We have too many price levels (for volume purchases).
      Action: Conduct a pricing strategy review. Reduce the price levels to better fit the market and the products and services.


    strategic goals

    Macroenvironment or external environment (include an industry analysis): encompasses external factors.

    The purpose of this section is to identify opportunities and threats to the organization.

    Threats and Opportunities are external to the organization.

    We can do little to impact them (they are not controllable by the business) but we can manage our way around threats and manage to leverage opportunities.

    Significant External Impacts on Output and Growth

    The global economy can have a significant impact on the business, our markets and our customers. Track economic indicators regularly and watch out for a 'free falling' economy, the size and depth of the problem, and the reach across all markets.

    Opportunities

    • Technology changes that drive new products and/or services expansion; look for low cost and high margin opportunities and ones that leverage our capabilities;
    • Partnerships or alliances with other businesses; growing the business by partnering on specific work (for example, submitting RFP proposals jointly);
    • Growth potential of two new customers (30% increase projected over the next 2 years);
    • Opportunity for growth in under-represented geographic markets;
    • Opportunity for growth in new locations;
    • Cost of marketing is less in this digital age: capitalize on the lowered cost with a stronger program.

    Threats

    • Industry strength or weakness: negative impact of technology/digital age and the adjustment needed within the industry;
    • Impact of global economy on local business;
    • Foreign currency exchange rate variation: for example, the US/Canadian dollar exchange rate fluctuations can impact our business;
    • Unsustainable competitive actions and reactions that force a response. For example, new entrants into the market; competitors with lower cost structure and/or lower price structures; competitors with more products and services (a broader range can be more competitive); competitors with a very focused niche (can become the best); competitors who don't make 'smart' decisions and disrupt the market.

    A common attribute of profit leaders among large, medium and small firms is to build a very focused business strategy. One of our key growth strategies is to target growing markets to which we can apply our core competencies and/or expand services into higher margin operations.



    Strategy and SWOT

    The above sample SWOT analysis demonstrates how to use a SWOT model in your strategic planning. SWOT analysis needs to be a key part of your overall small business plan strategy and process. It helps you to define your weaknesses and the threats to your business, as well as helps you to build on your organization's strengths and the external opportunities available.

    This sample SWOT analysis is a model only; you can, and should, customize it to meet the specific operating environment for your business. Make sure that you update it annually to continually improve your understanding of your organization and the environment it operates in.

    Note: There is a variation on SWOT called SOAR which is an acronym for strengths, opportunities, aspirations and results. I like the aspirations (which usually are the vision statement in my strategic plans) and the results (which are usually tied to my actions plans: action + timeline and responsibility + track and measure results). However I think it's a mistake to not review and assess the weaknesses and threats. So from my perspective, I prefer the SWOT model and I handle aspirations and results in the rest of my planning process.

    Many businesses do not know how to build a SWOT and/or how to use a SWOT analysis; follow this sample SWOT analysis and make sure that you build action plans out of your SWOT to achieve your business growth plan.

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    Read more the relationship of analyses to strategy in your business:

    Return from Sample SWOT Analysis to More For Small Business Home Page.

    Or return from Sample SWOT Analysis to Strategy.

    Review the criteria required to build a Value Chain Analysis for your business.

    Understand the importance of Small Business Strategy and the relationship of Vertical Mergers, Related Diversification and the Advantages of Diversification to growing your business.

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    The Importance of Strategy

    Why is strategizing important to your business?

    Because it enables you to more clearly understand what you need to do to more your operation in the direction you need, and want, to go.

    Doing a thorough analysis and review will enable you to implement more effective strategies, tactics and techniques.

    Results and Strategy

    strategic results

    Definition of Business Model: It's Different

    The type of tactical planning you complete as you strategize is important because it forces you to make difficult choices and difficult decisions.

    (Make sure you understand the definition business model - the practices, and focus, of the business on delivering the value proposition - to engage in a strong and successful strategic planning process).

    Also write down your choices and decisions to plan the actions necessary to move forward (use samples to provide you with a model for your own action plan).

    The action plan is your road map. You must ensure that you are managing the direction you take.

    Once you begin this planning process you will need to ensure that the plan you develop is do-able; make sure you include effectiveness measures in your plan.

    And remember that your plan for strategy in business needs to be reviewed on a regular basis and be adapted as market and economic conditions change.

    The end goal is not the plan but rather the results therefore make sure you have measurements in place to track results.

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    Tools for Strategy Planning

    Start with your SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis.

    Add aspirations and results to the SWOT (some do SOAR (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, and results) as a separate activity) to ensure that your vision for your business is incorporated in your goals and objectives.

    Conduct a market opportunity analysis and look for unmet needs that align with your objectives.

    Doing a thorough analysis and review will enable you to implement more effective strategies, tactics and techniques.

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