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Home > How (and why) to run a SWOT Analysis on your Small Business

How (and why) to run a SWOT Analysis on your Small Business

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Published at 28 October 2023

Whether you are planning to launch a new small business of you are a seasoned, experienced professional looking to stay a step ahead of your competitors, understanding your position in the market is essential. There is a simple tool you can use to gain clarity here - the SWOT Analysis—a strategic tool that has stood the test of time, offering businesses, especially the smaller ones, a clear lens to view their internal and external environments.

SWOT, an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, offers a bird's-eye view of a business' current standing, allowing you to leverage your strengths, address your weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and be prepared for threats.

SWOT Analysis is not just about introspection; it's about adapting, evolving, and thriving in your market.

Decoding SWOT: The Four Pillars

Navigating the business world sometimes feels like it requires a compass, and SWOT Analysis provides just that. By breaking down a business's environment into four distinct pillars, it offers clarity and direction.


Strengths are the inherent qualities, assets, or advantages that sets your business apart. They are the (unique value propositions]( and selling points, the expertise, the resources, and the X factor that give your business its edge in the market. In the context of small businesses, strengths could range from a dedicated customer base to a unique product feature, or even a strategic location.

How to Identify the Strengths of a Small Business

Identifying strengths requires introspection and a keen understanding of the business landscape. Here are some steps to guide you:

Feedback Loop

Just because you think something, doesn't make it right. Engage with customers, employees, and stakeholders. Their feedback can offer insights into what the business does best.

Market Research

Understand what customers value in the market. If they choose your business over others, there's a strength right there.

Internal Assessment

Evaluate your resources, technologies, and processes. What do you have that competitors don't?

Real-life Examples of Small Business Strengths

Local Artisan Bakery: Their strength could be the use of traditional baking methods, organic ingredients, or even a secret family recipe that makes their bread stand out.

Independent Bookstore: In the age of digital reading, their curated collection, knowledgeable staff, and community events can be their strengths.

Tech Startup: Their innovative solution to a common problem, backed by a passionate team and proprietary technology, can be their driving strength.

Recognising strengths is empowering. It's about celebrating what a business does best and using it as a launchpad for future endeavours.


It's time to get brutally honest. Weaknesses are your vulnerabilities, limitations, or areas where your business might fall short compared to its competitors. They represent the challenges or gaps that can hinder growth or even pose threats if not addressed timely.

While it's natural for businesses, especially small ones, to focus on their strengths, acknowledging and understanding weaknesses is equally crucial. It's the first step towards improvement and fortifying the business against potential pitfalls.

Methods to Pinpoint Weaknesses and Areas of Improvement

Identifying weaknesses can be a humbling experience, but it's essential for growth. Here's how to go about it:

Honest Self-Evaluation: Take a step back and critically assess every aspect of the business. Are there areas where you lack expertise or resources? Where do you feel uncomfortable?

Customer Feedback: Negative reviews or feedback, while tough to digest, can be goldmines of information about where the business is lacking. Remember, though, if only one person makes a criticism, it can be simply down to personal taste, so park these for now. It's when trends appear that you need to take note.

Competitor Benchmarking: Analyse competitors' offerings. If they're outperforming in certain areas, it might highlight a potential weakness in your own operations.

Financial Analysis: Regularly review financial statements. Are there consistent financial drains or areas of inefficiency? Advice from a financial professional to help analyse your [financial statements](undefined here could prove to be a goldmine of good info.

Real-world Examples of Common Small Business Weaknesses:

Local Coffee Shop: While they might offer the best brew in town, limited seating capacity or lack of online presence can be significant weaknesses in attracting a broader customer base.

Boutique Design Agency: Their strength might be in delivering bespoke designs, but a slow turnaround time due to limited staff could be a potential weakness.

E-commerce Startup: While they might have a user-friendly platform, a limited payment gateway or delayed delivery system can deter customers.

Addressing weaknesses isn't just about damage control; it's an opportunity. Every identified weakness is a chance to innovate, adapt, and emerge stronger. In the world of business, it's not the strongest but the most adaptable that thrive. Recognising weaknesses ensures that adaptability.


Opportunities in the business context refer to external factors or situations that a company can exploit to its advantage. These are favourable conditions or trends in the external environment that, if seized upon, can propel a business forward.

Opportunities could arise from market trends, technological advancements, shifts in consumer behaviour, or even regulatory changes. For small businesses, recognising and capitalising on these opportunities can be the difference between stagnation and exponential growth.

Techniques to Spot Potential Opportunities in the Market:

Opportunities often come in disguise. Here's how to spot them:

Stay Updated with Market Trends: Regularly engage with industry news, reports, and studies. Being aware of the latest trends can help identify new market segments or consumer needs.

Engage with Customers: Direct feedback from customers can highlight unmet needs or desires, pointing towards potential opportunities.

Analyse Competitor Gaps: Look at what competitors are not offering. Is there a niche or a segment they're overlooking?

Attend Industry Conferences and Workshops: These events can provide insights into upcoming technological advancements or shifts in industry dynamics.

Examples of Opportunities that Small Businesses have Capitalized On

Local Gym: With the rise of health consciousness, they introduced yoga and meditation classes, tapping into a growing demand and diversifying their offerings.

Independent Coffee Roaster: Spotting the trend of home brewing, they started selling DIY coffee roasting kits, opening a new revenue stream.

Fashion Boutique: Recognising the increasing demand for sustainable fashion, they introduced a line of eco-friendly clothing, catering to a growing segment of environmentally-conscious consumers.

Opportunities are like windows; they open, let the fresh air in, but can close if not accessed in time. For small businesses, every opportunity is a chance to innovate, expand, and reinforce their market position. The key lies in staying alert, agile, and ready to leap when the moment is right.


Threats are external challenges or obstacles that can negatively impact a business's growth or stability. These can arise from various sources, including economic downturns, technological disruptions, increased competition, or regulatory changes. While threats are typically beyond a business's direct control, understanding and preparing for them can make all the difference. For small businesses, which often operate with tighter margins and fewer resources, recognizing potential threats early on is crucial for survival and sustainability.

Strategies to Identify and Mitigate Potential Threats

Good planning and being proactive is the best defence against potential threats. Here's how businesses can stay ahead:

Regular Market Analysis: Keeping a pulse on the market can help identify emerging competitors or shifts in consumer preferences.

Risk Assessment: Conduct periodic risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities, be it in supply chains, operations, or financial dependencies.

Stay Updated with Regulatory Changes: Especially for businesses operating in highly regulated sectors, being aware of upcoming regulatory changes can prevent potential pitfalls.

Diversify: Whether it's diversifying suppliers, product lines, or revenue streams, having a diversified approach can cushion against specific threats.

Engage with Industry Associations: These bodies often provide early warnings about industry-specific challenges or threats.

Examples of Threats Faced by Small Businesses and How They Navigated Them

Local Bookstore: Faced with the threat of digital reading platforms, they diversified by introducing community events, workshops, and a café, transforming into a community hub rather than just a store.

Handmade Jewellery Brand: With the rise of cheap, mass-produced alternatives, they emphasized their unique designs, sustainable materials, and the story behind each piece, catering to a niche that values authenticity and sustainability.

Organic Farm: Threatened by larger agricultural conglomerates, they started subscription boxes and farm-to-table experiences, offering consumers a fresh and immersive experience.

Threats, while daunting, are also a testament to a business's resilience and adaptability. They push businesses to innovate, evolve, and find new avenues of growth. For small businesses, navigating these challenges with foresight and agility can turn potential threats into opportunities for reinvention and growth.

Expert Tips for Conducting a Great SWOT Analysis

Navigating the intricacies of a SWOT Analysis can be challenging, especially when you're deeply invested in your business. But, as with any strategic tool, the value derived from a SWOT Analysis is directly proportional to the effort and expertise put into it. Here are some expert tips to ensure your SWOT Analysis is not just another exercise, but a transformative experience for your business:

Importance of Being Objective and Unbiased

It's easy to view your business through rose-tinted glasses or be overly critical. However, for a SWOT Analysis to be effective, it's crucial to maintain objectivity. Celebrate your strengths, but also acknowledge areas that need improvement. Remember, the goal is to get a realistic snapshot of your business landscape.

The Role of External Feedback and Market Research

While internal insights are valuable, external perspectives can offer a fresh viewpoint. Engage with customers, suppliers, and even competitors. Conduct market research to understand industry trends and customer preferences. This external feedback can highlight unseen opportunities or threats.

Prioritizing Elements Within Each Quadrant for Actionable Insights

A SWOT Analysis can sometimes yield a long list of items in each quadrant. However, not all of them will have the same impact or urgency. Prioritize based on potential impact and feasibility. This ensures that your efforts are directed towards the most critical areas first.

Leveraging Strengths to Combat Threats and Weaknesses

Your strengths are your arsenal. Use them to counteract threats and address weaknesses. For instance, if one of your strengths is a loyal customer base, leverage it to introduce new products or enter new markets. If technological expertise is a strength, use it to innovate and stay ahead of competitors.


A SWOT Analysis is more than just a strategic exercise. It's a mirror reflecting your business's current state, potential, and challenges. But like any reflection, its clarity and accuracy depend on the quality of the lens. Approach it with an open mind, a thirst for knowledge, and a readiness to adapt. The insights you gain can be the catalyst for your next phase of business growth.

The importance of SWOT Analysis for small businesses cannot be overstated. It offers clarity, direction, and a roadmap to navigate the complexities of the market. But its true power lies in its ability to transform insights into actionable strategies, helping businesses leverage their strengths, address their weaknesses, capitalize on opportunities, and mitigate threats.

However, it's essential to remember that a SWOT Analysis is not a one-time exercise. As businesses grow, markets change, and new competitors emerge, the factors that once were strengths could become weaknesses, and threats could turn into opportunities. Hence, it's crucial for businesses to revisit and update their SWOT Analysis regularly, ensuring it remains a relevant and powerful tool in their strategic arsenal. 

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