You think you’re ready. You’ve grabbed your laptop. Maybe you’re going old school and got your notepad beside you. Either way, you’re ready to get this SWOT analysis started…
I don’t want you to put in all that work, only to realize you’ve accidentally triggered a few mistakes. These mistakes can make it impossible to start, finish, and use your findings. So let’s quickly get them out of the way, shall we?
1. You’ve no idea what SWOT means!
Has someone told you they did a SWOT analysis and it really helped them? Since they were so excited, so are you. You’ve decided you’ll do your own SWOT analysis. What could go wrong, right?
Everything, before you even start! That’s not to scare you into not conducting your own analysis. But hopefully, it scares you into pausing for a second and thinking. Because now you’ve realized you don’t exactly know what SWOT even stands for!
SWOT stands for four things:
It’s an analysis anyone can do. Business analysts are likely to use SWOT to quickly grasp a situation. But more owners and entrepreneurs are using SWOT to understand their company, product, and even themselves! It’s a preferred method to zero-in on the best and worst things about your topic.
Why is it so popular?
For many reasons, but the top two would be: it’s simple to do and it’s actionable. Once you know what’s holding you or the product back (weaknesses) you can set out immediately to correct the issue. SWOT analysis helps you to actively get the results you want. It’s not like other strategic tools where you put down info, read it, then shove it in your back pocket.
If you only have 10 minutes, you can use SWOT. Even though it might be shallow, it’s enough to get the wheels turning. But the more time you have, the better. Spending 2 hours thinking critically about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats helps you get the full picture.
But that’s only a recommendation.
2. You didn’t look at examples beforehand
Okay, you know what SWOT analysis is now. You know you’ll be writing about four categories regarding your topic. But that doesn’t mean you know exactly what to write down in each spot.
Examples can help. By looking at other examples of SWOT analysis, you can understand what matters in a strength or a threat. Luckily, we have a ton of SWOT examples, from companies to personal achievements.
Yes, you should be asking questions. It’s the easiest way to start brainstorming. If you’re about to start a company online, you’ll want to know how to stand out. For that, you’ll need to know what makes your company special. Essentially, you’re trying to find a major strength you can use in future marketing materials, during sales calls, and while developing your products.
You could ask: What makes me special compared to every other company out there?
Or you could ask: Why did I start this company?
Both of these questions can lead you down the same path but for completely different reasons. You may get two different answers, but maybe one is more suitable than the other. You wouldn’t have come to this realization if you hadn’t looked at SWOT analysis examples.
So, while you can just dive right in, it’s best to take a couple minutes and surf around. Find examples you identify with. Think about the answers and the questions they may have asked to get there. It can make a huge difference in your own SWOT analysis.
3. You’re not finishing
It’s OK to do the SWOT analysis out of order. Many people may find it more difficult to locate opportunities rather than write down some strengths. But what matters is to finish the entire analysis. That means, eventually, figuring out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of your topic.
I know that right now, opportunities might not seem as necessary to identify as weaknesses. You want to fix yourself or the company before moving forward, and that requires understanding your weaknesses. But that doesn’t mean, later on, you won’t need an opportunity to get your name out there.
As mentioned before, SWOT analysis can give you the whole picture. It focuses on these four topics specifically because they’re essential for growth. One without the other could cause trouble. Not finishing or simply ignoring one of the sections may hurt you later on.
Don’t let that happen. Finish each aspect of the analysis.
4. Only doing it once
People do their SWOT analysis that one time. They get new insight and start working. And then, eventually, they forget about their findings. The problems are fixed, so who needs it, right?
That couldn’t be more wrong. You’re not confined to one SWOT analysis in your lifetime. In fact, you shouldn’t limit yourself. It’s not necessary to break out the old pen and paper every week or even every other week. But it doesn’t hurt to sit back down a few months later and try again.
You may have changed. Your company may be taking off. Or your career. Or you’re developing a new product. The point is, something new is starting. It’s smart to understand the best and worst things about this new change. SWOT is happy to help you out with that.
You may find you still have a few of the same weaknesses hanging around. Or maybe those old threats are now your current weaknesses. What can you do about them? You can only start to figure that out once you do a new SWOT analysis.
Never be afraid to do it again. It’ll unravel some new gems of information.
5. Not using your findings
What if you go through the whole analysis and then… scrap it? Maybe shove it aside for another time? Even if you promise it work on it tomorrow or next week, chances that you do become slimmer and slimmer. Because life gets in the way.
Sometimes, people get caught up in doing the analysis. They uncover interesting information. They’re happy about it. They realize that X and Y are keeping them from meeting their goals. And now… nothing.
The thing is, even if you know what your strengths are or uncover what’s keeping you from reaching your goals, it won’t matter unless you put in the work.
That’s the truth: the SWOT analysis isn’t the hard part, what comes afterwards is.
If you don’t want to work on everything at once, then don’t. But pick the most important thing and start to piece it together. Doesn’t matter what section it comes from. Just work on it. Slowly. Widdle away until you can check it off your to-do list. And then do it again.
It’ll make a world of a difference later. Trust me.
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash