Select Page

As a business leader, the battlefield you navigate is the ever-changing landscape of the business world.

To emerge victorious, you need a clear understanding of your position and a strategic plan that leverages your strengths while addressing your weaknesses – and this is where a SWOT analysis becomes your most valuable weapon.

In fact, “most companies are like boats. Barnacle-encrusted, never-cleaned behemoths lugging extra weight.. They bolt on more and more people, processes, tasks, to-do’s until they’re drowning in hairy, useless things weighing them down.” – James Watt, Brewdog co-founder, who spent 7 years as crab fisherman.

That’s why boats have to be taken out of the water entirely at least once a year and have all the barnacles chiselled off? If they don’t, the boat will have too much drag and can’t perform.

Do you know companies like that – unwieldy, weighed down with years of accumulated processes and layers? Just as the boat needs a good clean-up regularly, so, too, do companies, and a SWOT analysis is an invaluable tool to review your strategy and direction, and to remove some of the detritus.

So, what is a SWOT Analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It’s a strategic planning tool that helps you assess your business’s current situation. By analysing these four key elements, you gain critical insights to make informed decisions and steer your business towards success.

Strengths: Unleash Your Inner Champions

Which abilities can you leverage? Your strengths are the internal attributes and resources that give your business a competitive advantage. These could be your talented team, unique IP, products or services, a loyal customer base, strong brand recognition, abundant capital, or cutting-edge technology. Identifying your strengths allows you to maximize and leverage them further.

Weaknesses: Confronting Your Achilles’ Heel

What’s getting in your way? Every business has its Achilles’ heel, and acknowledging these weaknesses is crucial. It might be operational inefficiencies, outdated processes or technology, high staff turnover, a lack of skilled personnel or expertise, high costs, departmental misalignment, or a subpar brand image or online presence. Identifying and understanding your weaknesses is the first step toward addressing and mitigating them.

Opportunities: Grasping the Golden Tickets

What are the trends, forces and ideas that can help you advance? Opportunities are external factors that you can capitalise on to drive growth. They could be emerging market trends, untapped customer segments, weaknesses among your competitors, potential new partnerships, or technological advancements. Recognising these opportunities helps you align your strategy to seize them effectively before your competitors, gain a competitive advantage, and drive innovation within your industry.

Threats: Defending Your Castle

What are the real, and potential issues you face, even if outside your control? Threats are external factors that can harm your business. These might include fierce competition, shifts in customer or supplier behaviour, economic downturns, political instability, or regulatory changes. Identifying threats enables you to develop strategies and plans to protect your business and minimise their impact.

Why Conduct a SWOT Analysis?

  • Informed Decision-Making: A SWOT analysis provides the information you need to make decisions that align with your business’s current reality.
  • Risk Management: By identifying potential threats, you can take proactive steps to minimise their impact.
  • Resource Allocation: It assists in allocating resources effectively. Invest more in areas that leverage strengths or capitalise on opportunities.
  • Competitive Advantage: Understanding your strengths and weaknesses relative to competitors can help you gain a competitive edge.
  • Strategic Planning: It helps in formulating a clear, actionable strategy that leverages strengths, minimises weaknesses, capitalises on opportunities, and prepares for threats.

How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis

Gather Your Team: Involve key team members from various departments to gain diverse perspectives and provide complete coverage across the business.

Strengths and Weaknesses (Internal Factors):

  • Identify your unique selling points.
  • Evaluate your team’s skills and expertise.
  • Analyse your processes and systems.
  • Assess your financial health.

When assessing these internal factors, provide context on their scale, impact and implications, supported by metrics and examples. Focus most of your SWOT time on the internal factors you can control.

Opportunities and Threats (External Factors):

  • Research market trends and industry developments.
  • Monitor competitors and their strategies.
  • Conduct a PESTLE (Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal and Environmental) analysis to identify macro-environmental factors.

Contextualise the likelihood and potential effect of these external forces. While you cannot control them, by anticipating them you can position yourself to capitalise on opportunities and plan risk mitigation. This external view complements internal realities.

SWOT Matrix:

Create a matrix to visualise the findings. List strengths and weaknesses on the left side and opportunities and threats on the right side. This will help you with the next step – analysing your findings.

Identify Connections and Prioritise Factors:

A robust SWOT analysis highlights interrelationships between different factors. For example, a new technology (opportunity) might bolster your product quality (strength) but require retraining employees (weakness), while not taking early advantage of it might enable your competitors to do so (threat).

Think holistically about how strengths can maximise upcoming opportunities while mitigating threats. And how improving weaknesses might open new doors. These connections inform strategy.

With a list of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, now prioritise the most impactful few in each category. Avoid getting lost in the details, condensing the points to pivotal ones with significant strategic implications.  For strengths, choose those providing greatest competitive advantage. For weaknesses, pick ones severely inhibiting performance. Select major opportunities within reach and serious threats needing attention. In all cases consider the potential impact (positive or negative) on the business and the likelihood of them occurring.

SWOT and Your Strategy

Having identified your priority SWOT elements, look at these in relation to your strategy. Consider questions like:

  • How can you leverage strengths to capitalise on key opportunities?
  • How can you minimise weaknesses to avoid priority threats?
  • What core competencies or resources will be integral to future plans?
  • What strategic partnerships could neutralise threats or augment strengths?
  • What innovations could counter competitors?
  • What weaknesses, if addressed, would support long-term goals?

Let this SWOT analysis shape your vision, priorities, initiatives, overall strategy and next steps, considering them in the context of primary strategies such as Low-cost leadership, Product/service differentiation, Customer relations/service, and the Network effect. Consider where your strategy has been focused and whether the focus should remain or change, recognising that significant strategy changes will impact your vision, values and mission, too.

Develop action plans to capitalize on strengths, address weaknesses, seize opportunities, and mitigate threats, setting clear goals and allocating resources, remembering that all plans must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) if they are to be effective. And don’t be afraid to be creative and to think outside the proverbial box as you develop your ideas and plans – this is where strategic advantage can truly come into play.

Then, once you’ve developed your strategies, get feedback from your team, your customers, and your advisors. This will help you refine your strategies and make them more effective.

Communicate, Implement and Monitor

Implementation is at least as important as strategy, because a strategic plan is worth little more than the paper on which it’s printed unless it’s properly executed.

Communication at this point is key if you’re to get the best results from the process. Share key takeaways with executives to align leaders. Discuss during team meetings to outline relevant insights for different groups based on their roles and functions, providing context on the SWOT process to build understanding. Welcome ideas and feedback, using the information to inform decisions at every level.

All employees should become involved with implementation – and to do so, they must have the right skills and experience. Thus, implementation may require you to offer additional training, provide incentives or bring in new workers who are more attuned to the organisational mission. Establish performance goals and reward good performance.

Once you put your strategies into action, you need to monitor progress regularly, and be prepared to adapt as circumstances change, reviewing the process at least annually, or when conditions change if this is sooner, to ensure it remains relevant.


A SWOT analysis is your compass to understanding your business deeply, allowing you to make informed decisions and craft a winning strategy. When used effectively, it becomes your secret weapon in the battlefield of business, guiding you towards victory.

By conducting regular SWOT analyses and incorporating the insights into your strategic planning, it’s like cleaning off that boat, making you better equipped to navigate the ever-evolving business landscape and achieve your goals.

In the words of Sun Tzu, “Know yourself and you will win all battles.”


When did you last conduct a SWOT analysis of your business and update your strategy?


If you’d like learn more on this topic, the following articles and posts might be of interest.

Other articles in this month’s focus on Assessing Your Situation:

Related Posts:


University of Kansas: SWOT Analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats

HBR: Are Your Company’s Strengths Really Weaknesses?

Forbes: Is A SWOT Analysis Worthwhile For Businesses?


Working together to take your business to new heights!

With over 50 years of experience in the technology industry, spanning three continents, and three decades in CxO roles driving exceptional growth in revenue and profitability, I now work with and coach other business owners and CxOs to reach even greater heights.

Let’s talk about your business goals and challenges, culture, leadership, board dynamics, strategic direction, emerging trends, joining a peer advisory group and anything else that can accelerate your business growth. Book a complimentary 30-minute call with me today!

Unlock the full potential of your business – and schedule your call now!

P.S. If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to subscribe to my blog simply enter your details here or drop me a note by just pressing here.

#BusinessFitness #Change #CompetitiveAdvantage #Leadership #Opportunity #Planning #Risk #Strengths #Threats #Weaknesses #Strategy #SWOT #QOTW



%d bloggers like this: