As I get back into the swing of things at the helm of CustomScoop after a multi-year absence from the day-to-day operations, it makes sense to undertake a review and planning process. Sure it goes against my desire as an entrepreneur to jump in and start trying new ideas right away, but this is a mature, profitable 11 year business. Much is right with the company, but there’s always room for improvement.
One of my favorite ways to begin a planning process like this is to use SWOT analysis. For those not familiar with the acronym, it stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It creates a pretty effective baseline for conversation about where a company is and where it is (and should be) headed. It accounts for the internal characteristics and external forces that impact current and future success.
To get the ball rolling at CustomScoop, I shared with our team my initial thoughts on what the SWOT might look like. Often I prefer to speak last rather than first when working on group planning activities because I know that as the Founder & CEO my voice often drowns out other good thoughts. But in some cases — like this one — I find it useful to start with a discussion document to get the conversation started and guide it in a productive direction. I also find that in business planning activities, it is often easier to shoot at something already drafted rather than starting fresh. Especially for team members without business management experience, it is helpful to be in a position to offer feedback rather than facing the daunting task of staring at a blank sheet of paper.
Over the past week, we have had a series of discussions about the CustomScoop SWOT analysis and some healthy debate ensued. Some of my own views shifted a bit and some new ideas were brought to the table. As we complete the process in the coming days and have a document that the team has largely reached consensus on, it will set the table for the rest of our planning activities.
Ultimately, a SWOT analysis matters for two reasons: thinking and doing. Let me explain. Like most business planning activities, it is often the planning itself that provides a greater share of the value than the final document created. The discussion and thinking that goes into the SWOT creation often surfaces important topics for review and generates new ideas.
But for the SWOT analysis to really make a difference, it requires that effort goes in to exploiting the positives and addressing the negatives. In some cases, there may be a conscious decision not to take action on some item — but it is important that be deliberate and not the result of an oversight or ignorance. By actively using the SWOT analysis, improvement becomes most likely.
Of course, once the SWOT analysis is in place, it’s time for the planning to begin in earnest!