Tag Archives: SWOT

Yogi and Strategic Planning

Rhodes croppedBy Stephen Rhodes

“The future ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra once said.

Strategic planning identifies where a business or organization wants to be at some point in the future and how it is going to get there.

It scares people, in part, because it seems so remote from the tactics required to keep one’s eye on the ball, especially now. The old joke about draining the swamp when you are up to your keester in alligators comes to mind.

Strategy is about looking around corners a few years away, while many businesses are currently focused on what’s happening right now and rightly so.

Last week, I was one of the mentors at the Brampton Small Business Enterprise Centre’s Energize Your Business workshop. I had table chats about strategic planning with four groups of eight businesses, all different,  but all wondering if long-range planning was some sort of magic elixir, perhaps because the short-term view was so unappealing.

Some openly mused about the value of strategic planning in such a volatile environment. And nearly all complained about external factors, things they could not control, impacting success.

yogiI talked about better understanding internal and external factors and suggested each conduct a simple SWOT analysis to separate the things they could control from those they could not.  Planning helps identify what they are and forces you to think about how you might respond.

Most of the 32 businesses were coping, some even doing better than expected. But only one had a plan that spanned more than a year.

The “strategic” part of planning is the need to pay attention to changes that impact your business – internal and external -over a period of time. Unless you have a crystal ball, strategic plans will undoubtedly require course corrections.

As Yogi would say, “you gotta be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, otherwise you might not get there.”

Do you have a vision and a long-range plan for your business or organization? How is it weathering the current economic storm?

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SWOT the flies

By Stephen Rhodes

Are there flies on your business?  Use SWOT.

Businesses have been using the SWOT analysis tool since 1960 when it was first invented at the Stanford Research Institute . The background to SWOT stemmed from the need to find out why corporate planning failed. The research was funded by Fortune 500 companies to find out what could be done about this failure. It was first called SOFT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Faults and Threats) but it hardly seemed robust enough for such a bold exercise.

Fly swatterToday SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is used in business planning, strategic planning, competitor evaluation, marketing, business and product development and research. It’s a gut check on your business. Where’s the missing link? Why are you falling short on projections? If you are weak in accounting should you outsource? All sorts of things come to light in this simple exercise.

It’s a great tool for startups, and for established businesses it is a reality check.

This week I spoke to a number of managers of Ontario’s Small Business Enterprise Centres on how this tool might be used to help them analyze business plans prepared by their clients. Ontario’s SBECs work with small businesses across Ontario providing guidance, mentoring and resources to help them grow and prosper.

SWOT only works, of course, if you do something with the information. And it’s important to engage others in the process – staff, customers, suppliers – because they may have an alternate viewpoint.

Once complete, write action plans that help you maintain, build and leverage your strengths; remedy or consider an exit strategy for weaknesses; prioritize and optimize opportunities and counter whatever threats are indentified.

And then do a SWOT analysis on your key competitors. They likely have flies too.

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