When conducting a SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats – business owners are likely to have the most difficulty identifying their weaknesses. Will you recognize, for instance, that you or your company lacks the experience or expertise of competitors?
 
If you’re like most people, you may say “yes” when the answer is “no.” If you can’t honestly recognize weaknesses, a couple of helpful paths can take you there. Survey your customers and prospects. Ask them where your firm falls short and where competitors outshine your company. Inc. magazine provides helpful tips for using surveys to understand customers better.
 
You might consider a small business or management consultant. This professional’s services are probably more expensive than a survey, but less expensive than watching your business deteriorate because you don’t have honest feedback.
 
With a consultant’s candid advice you might find that your company doesn’t have an online or social media presence in an industry requiring them. Maybe you don’t accept credit cards online when your competitors do. Perhaps your company has difficulty dispelling a bad reputation that’s no longer accurate, and it needs reputation management.
 
Beyond expertise, a consultant shares the same attribute as an anonymous customer – the ability to honestly identify weaknesses and provide solutions to help your company overcome your deficit. Better yet, you may find the ability to convert this deficit into an opportunity.

Game Plan

  • Looking for potential weaknesses? Go to this section’s first in-depth chapter, Strengths: Your Competitive Advantage and ask the same questions.
  • To identify your company’s – or your – weaknesses, you must seek objectivity. Find that objectivity through the Institute of Management Consultants USA or the Association of Management Consulting Firms.
  • If you don’t belong to your local Chamber of Commerce or trade association, consider joining them. Their members may offer quality referrals, and these organizations may also count industry-specific consultants as members.
  • Once you identify weaknesses, develop a strategy to address them. Then consider publicizing your improvements to prospects and customers.
  • Update your marketing and business plans to make sure they reflect improvements and adjustments you make. For more about these plans, see “How to Create Your First Marketing Plan.”
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