Business development · 3 April 2020

Using a business review to identify what you can do to build up your business

business-review

Many businesses are currently grappling with the impact that covid-19 is having on their day-to-day life. A constructive way that you can use this time is to work on longer-term strategies that will help your business to come out stronger. To help you do that, why not complete a business review?

A SWOT analysis is a simple review format covering your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. All you need is a piece of paper and a pen. Fold the piece of paper into 4 and start brainstorming. Don’t overthink it. Afterwards, you can write up your notes into a more coherent report, but for now, just let things come out.

Strengths

Your business strengths are your internal advantages. As a retail business, your strengths could cover all kinds of different things from your brand story to your branding, your products, the people working for you, your business model, your marketing efforts or your customer service.

Really celebrate what has worked well including identifying your best selling products and the marketing and promotions that have been the most successful in the last 12 months.

Once you’ve identified everything that’s worked really well, see if you can pinpoint what it is that has allowed the successes to happen. For example, when you identify your best sellers, what is it that has helped you create them? Do you have a fantastic designer who helps you? Are you really connected to your customer and able to work out exactly what they want from you?

Weaknesses

These are the flip side of your internal advantages. Considering your weaknesses allows you to identify the skills and resources that you need that you don’t currently have. For example, are you aware that you could do more PR to promote your business but don’t know where to start? Are you not tackling key business activities like SEO? Could your business model be more diversified?

At a time like this, it is easier than ever to identify where your weaknesses are, so use that knowledge.

Has this crisis highlighted how reliant you are on one particular supplier who is now not operational? Is it showing you that you need to improve your digital marketing and online presence? Use the current difficulties to reflect on where you can improve as a business.

Opportunities

Is there anything about the current situation that could actually become an opportunity? For example, if you are heavily reliant on other retailers to sell your products which is a weakness, it is also an opportunity because it shows that if you build up your online presence this will strengthen your business in the long term.

Go back over the list of your weaknesses and ask yourself if any of them are also opportunities.

In addition, are there any opportunities for your business to pivot? Could you add new methods of selling or new products to your range that is appealing to your customer right now? Many retail businesses have pivoted to supply or deliver the products that are still being purchased such as food and essentials. Only you will know if a pivot, even a temporary one, is right for you.

Threats

These are any external threats to your business from an outside source. The current situation with Covid-19 is a massive threat to your business but consider if there are other threats that perhaps you haven’t had time to think about during day-to-day life.

For example, changing consumer habits such as the move towards conscious consumerism – is that a threat to your current business as it stands? Are there threats to your business from your supply chain or are there new entrants into your niche?  Does the Covid-19 crisis represent a shift in how your niche will operate? Can you look ahead and draw any conclusions about how life will be after the virus?

These questions are painful and can be anxiety-producing but it is much better to face them head-on. It is also better to get these niggling thoughts and worries onto a piece of paper so that you can start formulating a plan.

What to do next

Once you’ve completed the SWOT analysis, identify what you are actually going to DO as a result of this analysis. It may be useful to sort these into short, medium and long-term actions. For example, is there a short-term opportunity to offer delivery to your customers or to otherwise address the Covid-19 crisis in some other way?

However, if you’ve identified some bigger weaknesses or threats that you want to address, you may need to do so as part of a long-term strategy. Can you use this quieter time to work on some of the areas for improvement that you have identified?

It’s always worth re-visiting your SWOT analysis once a quarter to keep moving your business forward. And hopefully, by the time you carry out your next SWOT, we’ll be looking back at this time rather than living through it.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Catherine Erdly has over 19 years experience working with product businesses of all sizes from high street names (such as Paperchase, Laura Ashley and Coast), all the way down to brand new businesses with just a handful of customers.

Business development