These are uncommon, uncertain, and really frightening times. The escalating health risks are pushing hard into financial risk which is putting us all at risk. Hunkering down, stocking up and holding on until this passes went from unimaginable two weeks ago to the new normal today. The unknown is leading to feelings of fear, pessimism, isolation and inactivity. Our new planning horizon has moved from 1 year to 1 day.

As leaders, everyone is watching what you say and what you do. How you show up matters!

  • Set the tone of possibility in these challenging times.
  • Instill a sense of confidence while being open and caring to those in need.
  • Extend the planning horizon beyond today while being flexible to new happenings…in the moment.
  • Be more inclusive because none of us is as smart as all of us.
  • And finally, refocus from what you sell (self-interests) to how you can help customers survive and thrive.

I’m not here to offer working from home tips. I’m confident we will all figure that out within a day or two. Barking dogs aside, your video conferences will be fine. I’m here to help you get back to your best. We are all closer to our best when centered, balanced, and even keeled.

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Conducting a SWOT analysis when growth opportunities are abundant and investment funds are readily available can be misleading. Times of “easier” growth can make us overly confident in our Strengths and overly optimistic in available Opportunities – and more importantly we tend to minimize our Weaknesses and disregard our Threats. I propose that now is a perfect time to engage your leadership team in a SWOT analysis and conversation – which will expose new strategic growth options. Why now? You are close enough to the “easy” growth times and your eyes are wide open to this “challenging” growth environment.

Select a cross-functional team to participate and use available remote working tools (Google Sheets, Zoom Video Conferencing, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to manage the flow of information. Three important elements to remember:

  1. Include team members with customer contact / insight across every critical customer touchpoint from sales, operations and service. Having an “inside-out” perspective is critical. (Better yet, conduct 10-12 customer interviews to inform the process.)
  2. Define a SWOT facilitator to engage all important voices in the process and to extend the thinking of the team. (An outside facilitator is optimal to avoid bias and group think.)
  3. Have compelling questions to push the boundaries of common and traditional responses to the SWOT. (Common thinking is limiting is uncommon times.)

Compelling SWOT Questions to Help You Push the Boundaries of Team Thinking

 I’m sure that you will not adopt 100% of these questions for your process. View these as a starting point and adapt my questions to meet your specific company needs.

Strengths

  • What do you do exceptionally well? What do you do better than anyone else?
  • What strategic advantages do you have or will you have soon?
  • What is it about your company that makes you want to be part of it? Would you do it again? Why?
  • What do customers / partners identify as your strengths?
  • Do you have a unique selling / value proposition? What is it?
  • How well do you understand the needs of the customers / markets?
  • What makes you more agile / responsive to shifts in the market?

Weaknesses

  • What could you do better? What could be improved?
  • Where are you vulnerable? What would expose your company if partners or competitors knew this about you?
  • In what areas do competitors have an edge? Do competitors gain access to the best deals or best funding sources?
  • Are you relying primarily on just a few projects or customers?
  • When and why do you lose opportunities? Why?
  • Do you have a large supply of new ideas and new opportunities to draw on in the future?
  • Are you always consistent in terms of service quality and communication?
  • Can your business model profitably scale? Why not?

Opportunities

  • How do you systematically uncover new opportunities?
  • What opportunities do you know about, but haven’t been able to address?
  • Is your growth challenged lack of opportunities or prioritizing opportunities?
  • Are there emerging trends on which you can capitalize?
  • Is there an unmet need or want that you can fulfill? What is missing?
  • Is there talent / assets elsewhere you could acquire to accelerate growth?
  • Do you focus on a neglected market segment that is profitable?
  • What issues do your customers face in the buy / apply cycle?

Threats

  • What external roadblocks exist that limit your growth?
  • Are competitors or quasi-competitors changing the game?
  • Is there significant change coming in the customer sector?
  • Is technology dramatically changing the market and how the market is served?
  • What if one of your suppliers runs into funding issues (or shuts down) and you experience an extended stock out, shortage or delay?
  • How will consolidation/mergers/labor impact your growth?
  • Is your footprint or size of market served as a limiting factor towards growth?
  • What external factors limit your upside potential the most?

Turning SWOT into Strategies

Many might say that their company conducted a SWOT in the past but nothing was done with it. Well, that is a problem…and a common one. You must turn your long list of SWOT into a prioritized SWOT – and then develop structured strategies for growth from your SWOT. That is for next time together.

In times of great challenge and great need – you can still add great value. Getting you closer to best has been my aim for the past 19 years and will be for the next 19 years.

I hope this was helpful and as always…I’m here to help your company grow through coaching key leaders or leading key marketing / customer processes.