Is it time to swat SWOT?

As we are a month into the second half of the fiscal year for most businesses, savvy business owners are already planning for the year ahead, along with continuing to look 3 to 5 years ahead strategically. For decades, the norm for situation analysis within a business plan and strategy is to use SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) as a basis for making strategic decisions and prioritizing action.


Too often, however, specifically the weaknesses and threats are not effectively explored or understood as they relate to the business, resulting in missing opportunities and over-estimating perceived strengths. 


1. SOAR versus SWOT: The focus of a SOAR preview is in the present as it relates to the future. The problem with SWOT review is it tends to focus on the present as it relates to the past, which can sometimes make it difficult for people within your company, including you, to move forward. SOAR is proactive and this is where it gains merit for me as an alternative to the stale SWOT approach. 


2. S = Strengths: Reviewing your strengths is, of course, critical. Truly knowing your strengths is another story. Perception can sometimes not be the reality. Validate your strengths as a company and as a leader from vendors, customers, employees, and trusted colleagues. Consider what you uniquely set out to do within your business and ask yourself if this is still a strength today or if it has become a commodity with others doing it as well. Consider every strength that helps you operate your organization effectively, serve your customers exceptionally and keep your team members happy and productive. 


3. O = Opportunities: This is where you should really be rolling up your sleeves. Some of the greatest opportunities that businesses have uncovered to take them to the next level were in reviewing any weaknesses or threats with a mindset of potential opportunities in disguise. If you just acknowledge a weakness or threat, and don't explore them from a standpoint of solutions and opportunities, you are missing what effective strategy is all about. Additionally, coupled with a review your strengths, what are the biggest opportunities to leverage or set you apart from your competition? 


4. A = Advantages:  Too often businesses will confuse strengths with advantages when advantages really haven't been identified at all.  This is where competitive analysis and market analysis play a pivotal role. Through assessing both, you can then overlay your list of strengths and your opportunities to narrow down which pose the greatest potential for strategic positioning, preference, and next-level return on investment. 


5. R = Reach:  Where you are aiming is only as good as who you are aiming to reach as customers of your business and employees of your business. As your business grows, both are equally important as one can break the other if poor focus, intentions and expectations are undermining your efforts. I am a huge believer in niches and targeted focus when it comes to ideal profiling of your target markets. This also means ideal profiling your target employees, vendors, and suppliers to ensure that what you set out to deliver will indeed be exceptional and preferred.


As John Owens, author of the book, Corporate Cure, where this concept of SOAR versus SWOT is introduced stated, "By focusing on SOAR, you are taking your strategy to the next level. You are not just doing a situation analysis based on where you are currently; you are looking at where you expect to go in order to soar your business to greater heights in market share, sales profitability, loyalty …" 


Consider how shifting from a SWOT review to a SOAR preview can help your business grow to its next level. 

Sherré DeMao is author of the nationally acclaimed books, 50 Marketing Secrets of Growth Companies in Down Economic Times, www.50marketingsecrets.com, and Me, Myself & Inc., www.memyselfandinc.com, Her column seeks to help business owners build and grow sustainable enterprises and businesses with economic value and preference in the marketplace.