Create Your Annual Growth Strategy in 20 Minutes

Want this year to be a lot better than the last? Not sure where to focus to maximize growth? For most of us, our head is spinning with tons of ideas, and our to list is full of issues to address. It’s hard to get perspective on the big picture.

The quickest and most powerful way I know to make your growth strategy is a “SWOT analysis.” I recommending doing this simple exercise at least once a year. It allows you to get your head out of the weeds, see at the big picture, and think strategically about growth.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats … and doing the analysis is as simple as brainstorming on these four areas.

Paint the Big Picture…Strategically

A SWOT analysis helps you look comprehensively at both positives and negatives of your current business situation, as well as considering factors outside your company, like competition and industry trends. Invented in the 1960’s by Albert Humphrey, this classic business tool is frequently used by companies from startup to Fortune 500.

The SWOT analysis consists of four boxes arranged like this:

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To do the SWOT analysis, you list your company’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in the appropriate boxes. (In a minute I’ll give you detailed questions to help complete each portion.) Each pair of boxes has special meaning. The top two show what is happening INSIDE your company, while the bottom two look at situations OUTSIDE your company. The left two boxes are HELPFUL things to capitalize on, while the right two boxes are HARMFUL things to address proactively. Neat, huh?

Doing the Analysis for Your Business

Doing a SWOT analysis only takes about 20 minutes. (And you can certainly go deeper if you have more time.) Get a sheet of paper and fold it into 4 parts. As you brainstorm for each section, ask yourself the following questions:

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  • What does the company do well?
  • What are your advantages over competitors?
  • What do your customers love about you?
  • What special people or resources do you have?


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  • What could you improve in your processes, products and/or service?
  • What resources or people are you missing?
  • What things are causing you to lose sales opportunities?
  • What are your competitors doing that you can’t?


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  • What opportunities for improvement do you see?
  • What positive trends could you take advantage of? (technology, laws, economy…)
  • Based on your strengths, what growth opportunities could you pursue?
  • What new niche or market opportunity could you expand into?


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  • What obstacles are you going to face from the market, competitors, etc.?
  • What are your competitors doing that could hurt you?
  • What negative trends are there in technology, law, your neighborhood, etc.?
  • What challenges might come from evolving customer interests?



So what? Making your growth plan

Based on your SWOT analysis, identify 3-5 growth strategies to pursue in the coming year!

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  • How will you use your strengths to take advantage of opportunities?
  • How will you shore up your weaknesses?
  • How will you counter key threats?


What do you want to accomplish in the coming year? Let me know by posting a comment!

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