Becoming an entrepreneur: start with a 2013 growth plan

NEW YORK | By Evan Horowitz

The quickest and most powerful way to make your growth strategy is a “SWOT analysis.” SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats … and doing the analysis is as simple as brainstorming on these four areas. It illustrates your growth opportunity clearly and succinctly. It makes sure you look at both positives and negatives of your current business situation, as well as considering factors outside your company, like competition and industry trends. Invented in the 1960′s by Albert Humphrey, this classic business tool is frequently used by companies from startup to Fortune 500.

The SWOT analysis consists of four boxes arranged like this:

Each pair of boxes has special meaning. The top two show what is happening INSIDE your company, while the bottom two look at situations OUTSIDE your company. The left two boxes are HELPFUL things to capitalize on, while the right two boxes are HARMFUL things to address proactively. Neat, huh?

Doing a SWOT analysis only takes about 20 minutes. Get a sheet of paper and fold it into 4 parts. As you brainstorm for each section, ask yourself the following questions:

Strengths

What does the company do well?
What are your advantages over competitors?
What do your customers love about you?
What special people or resources do you have?

Weaknesses

What could you improve in your processes, products and/or service?
What resources or people are you missing?
What things are causing you to lose sales opportunities?
What are your competitors doing that you can’t?

Opportunities

What opportunities for improvement do you see?
What positive trends could you take advantage of? (technology, laws, economy…)
Based on your strengths, what growth opportunities could you pursue?
What new niche or market opportunity could you expand into?

Threats

What obstacles are you going to face from the market, competitors, etc.?
What are your competitors doing that could hurt you?
What negative trends are there in technology, law, your neighborhood, etc.?
What challenges might come from evolving customer interests?

Based on your SWOT analysis, identify 3-5 growth strategies to pursue in 2013!

How will you use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities?
How will you shore up your weaknesses?
How will you counter key threats?

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