Is your New Year’s resolution to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more and drink less? If you’re like me, you start with great intentions and then quit after a few months. Not to encourage abandoning these lofty and worthwhile goals but maybe a shift in resolutions is in order-one you can do, is timely and probably overlooked. Maybe a little reflection and looking at yourself or your company a little closer could be the resolution to make this year. Look honestly at your company or the segment of your industry to find out where you stand and formulate a plan for when the economy turns back. And it will turn around. In marketing, it is called performing a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats).
A SWOT analysis is nothing new or very complicated but it can help you plan your company for the future, particularly if the future includes an upcoming boom time. The SWOT must be based on honest input and a real assessment of your position or company’s position in the market. A SWOT can be big and encompass a large group of companies within a specific region or small for an individual, such as a salesperson. The reason a SWOT could be timely is you probably have some time now; you may not in the future when things heat up.
Strengths: What are your strengths? You did not survive this long without some good abilities; we all have strong points that we know gives us an edge on the competition. What are they? They could range from traits like our ability to adapt to change or adversity; being singularly focused on one issue to be the best; maybe your firm is best at supervision, or has the best sales staff. Whatever it is, you should know it, evaluate it and take advantage of it. Nordstrom is built on excellent customer service; the company’s SWOT revealed it and the company decided to make it the cornerstone of its marketing strategy. Other stores can only hope to be as customer-service oriented as Nordstrom is.
Weakness: You have to know what your weakness is, because your competition will find out and then use it to put you out of business (as would you in their shoes). For example, if your weakness is losing key employees, the competition will find out and aggressively steal your people. Knowing a weakness allows you to shore up that particular area or at least be prepared to take some action. Nothing is worse than being blindsided. National Lumber was a large chain store that had a weakness of picking poor locations and over-paying for its buildings. Home Depot knew that was an Achilles’ heel and took the competition down by strategically placing stores in better locations in areas near National Lumber. National Lumber bit the dust soon after Home Depot arrived, which could have been avoided.
Opportunities: Believe it or not, they exist, even in these times. I recently met with a person who has a great idea for today’s industry and is making it work. He noted the green movement years ago and now the future looks pretty bright as he positions himself within the market to be there when the economy turns around. Starbucks saw an opportunity to sell premium coffee when most people would have told them they were crazy to think anyone would pay $3.00 for a cup of joe. Starbucks, Costco, Whole Foods, and CarMax all saw an opportunity and took full advantage of it.
Threats: This is a tough one. You may not even see or know your threat exists but it is there. Everyone wants a piece of you or your business, especially if you are successful. And in tougher times, business tends to get tougher too, even downright nasty. The threat may be as obvious as a local competitor with new technology, someone under-cutting your costs or networking better than you. I am sure the video industry thought they had it made, and they survived the threat of the DVD. Will the current leaders survive Netflix? A threat can be slow and take time to develop or it can happen overnight and you find yourself obsolete.
The wall and ceiling industry is not booming, and you probably have a little free time until things heat up again. When it does, will you be prepared to take full advantage or will you wing it as it comes at you? Grab a pad and pen and start the New Year with a SWOT.
Magazine NewsWalls & Ceilings’ Production Manager Lyn Sopala, who has been with the magazine for 10 years, has moved to a position with sister publications Security and SDM magazines. For 10 years, Sopala served W&C and its advertisers with strong commitment and a good attitude to boot. We thank her and wish her the best.
Her replacement is Lynette Barwin, who comes to us from BNP Media’s accounting department. We welcome her to the fold and look forward to working with her, as well.
This year will see many new changes for your company. As always, we encourage you to share this information with us. Please get in touch with Editor John Wyatt at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us what’s new with you.