Some Questions to Ask During a SWOT Analysis

September 21st, 2010 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

 Some Questions to Ask During a SWOT Analysisphoto © 2008 jean-louis Zimmermann | more info (via: Wylio)
The recent post SWOT Analysis:  A Powerful and Underutilized Tool was very popular and generated some terrific comments.  This post is a follow-up with a list of questions to ask during your SWOT Analysis.

SWOT is an acronym for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.  The goal is to examine internal (Strengths & Weaknesses) and external (Opportunities and Threats) elements of a business.  If there are multiple product lines or lines of business the SWOT Analysis can be defined more or less narrowly as necessary.

Many thanks to my friends at Bloggers Helping Bloggers and especially to Bruce Serven who suggested many of these questions

STRENGTHS:

1) What are your assets?
2) Which asset is strongest?
3) What differentiates you from your competitors?
4) Do you have immensely talented people on your staff?
5) Is your business debt free or have a better debt structure than your competitors?
6) Do you have a broad customer base?
7) What unique resources do you have?
8 Do you have a sustainable competitive advantage?
9) Do you have specific sales or marketing expertise?

WEAKNESSES:

1) What areas do you need to improve on?
2) What necessary expertise/manpower do you currently lack?
3) In what areas do your competitors have an edge?
4) Are you relying on one customer too much?
5) Do you have adequate cash flow to sustain you?
6) Do you have adequate profit levels?
7) Do you have a well of new ideas?
8 Are you over leveraged (too much debt)?

OPPORTUNITIES:

1) What external changes present interesting opportunities?
2) What trends might impact your industry?
3) Is there talent located elsewhere that you might be able to acquire?
4) Is a competitor failing to adequately service the market?
5) Is there an unmet need/want that you can fulfill?
6) Are there trends emerging that you can profitably service?
7) If you package your product differently, can you extract a higher premium for it?
8 Can you take advantage of the historically low interest rates to refinance your debt?

THREATS:

1) Is there a better equipped (funding, talent, mobility, etc) competitor in your market?
2) Is there an entity who may not be a competitor today which could possibly become one tomorrow?
3) Are your key staff satisfied in their work? Could they be poached by a competitor?
4) Is your intellectual property properly secured (trademarks, copyrights, firewalls, data security plans, etc) against theft & loss (both from internal & external sources)?
5) Do you have to rely on third parties for critical steps in your development process that could possibly derail your delivery schedule?
7) What if your supplier runs out of product and you experience an extended stockout or shortage?
8 What if there is a natural disaster?
9) What if your customers go bankrupt?
10) What if your website is hacked?
11) What if you are sued?

The Takeaway

Ask the tough questions during a SWOT Analysis to best understand the nature of the environment your business or product line faces. Then, take action on your findings.

Those are the ideas.  What do you have to add?  Please comment below.

1.  What other questions would you add to the list?
2.  Do you find SWOT Analysis to work best with a set of questions or with a free flowing conversation?
3.  Will you change your approach  now that you have seen a list of questions to use during your next SWOT?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting my LinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo.com.

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35 comments

  1. Great post. I think SWOT analysis needs to be applied varyingly depending on the industry in which you are, but as an overall tool for industry analysis for businesses, its very useful.

  2. Adatguru says:

    This is the post which really help us making good and valuable SWOT analysis. Thank you!

  3. Lidia says:

    Thanks for the info. Found it helpful. Am changing careers and all this is very new to me. I am writing an assignment (that refers to SWOT) & need advice..can I ask for your assistance? Advice?
    Thanks
    Lidia

  4. mercy says:

    The information’s are provided very useful and are very interesting.

  5. Shyam says:

    Hey its a great help for me Thank You. Currently we are working on the SWOT for our Business Intelligence Product. What Sort of Questions can we ask For a Product SWOT??

  6. Umair says:

    Many thanks for ur kind information sharing here for the help of growing people in the management field.

  7. swot says:

    SWOT is a very good and relatively simple framework. It certainly makes you feels about who you are as a company and where to go. Here is a good image of the swot analysis that nicely summarizes it all: http://ygraph.com/chart/1404

  8. Shahzad Qamar says:

    Interesting and Useful information. What more questions are possible for a political Party’s SWOT? Please Guide

  9. Mike says:

    Some interesting questions to include
    have you considered using:
    PEST or PESTLE for Opportunities & Threats
    and
    PRIMO-F for Strengths & Weaknesses

    I Find these are powerful frameworks that help to ensure a level of balance

    Mike
    http://rapidbi.com/created/swotanalysis/

    • Rob Berman says:

      Mike:

      Thanks for stopping by. I sure would like to learn more about your ideas you stated above. I am always looking for new ideas for posts on SWOT since they are so popular. Would you be interested in writing one?

      Thanks,

      Rob

      • Hi Rob, sorry just noticed the message – for some reason I missed the alert!
        happy to write something for you. ping me an email if you have any preferences of direction
        Mike

  10. Jay says:

    After we use the SWOT, what is the next step? How to become a planning or strategy?

  11. Ariel says:

    I guess I have a question about SWOT, I am in the process of expanding our youth program for a small nonprofit that wants to expand services and apply for new grants for the program, which also possibly means developing new services for youth in our area. If I use the SWOT model and we just have a general goal of improving the lives of the youth in our community is our SWOT session going to be useless? I would like to see what our community members and other agencies or stakeholds would like to see in the way of services before we decide to expand services and apply for grants. I really don’t want to be duplicating services or offering services that other agencies are offering for youth and families. Does that make sense? I just wonder if before we have a big SWOT meeting with all the agencies and stakeholders in the community if we should focus our goal(s) more?

    • Rob Berman says:

      Ariel:

      I am on the Board of two non-profits. One works with Youth. You ask some really good questions. It would be easier to have a conversation. I will separately e-mail you to discuss.

      Rob

  12. Thanks so much for posting the SWOT analysis questions Rob – I’m going to go through them with my Art Director. I’ve never done a SWOT analysis on my business and am looking forward to it.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catharine:

      You are welcome. There are a total of three posts on SWOT that might help you. Please drop me a line if I can answer any questions or help you in the exercise.

      Rob

  13. laura hunter says:

    What a great list of questions! Always thought that type of analysis was suited to a bigger company but these questions can also apply equally well to a sole proprietorship. Came up with some interesting perspectives on my own business as I read through the list. Thanks!

    • Rob Berman says:

      Laura:

      It would be great if you would share a perspective or two with all of us. Thanks for reading. Please take a look at the earlier post on what is a SWOT Analysis. It is a hyperlink in this post of can be found on my home page.

      Rob

  14. I think using these questions is a great way to get a SWOT analysis started. Once you start asking the questions in each area the group may brainstorm and come up with some great opportunities and threats that are unique to the group.

  15. Agree with Jeannette’s comment. Should you be in this business is definitely a key question.

    And it’s essential to be honest to yourself/your company when answering the questions.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Catarina:

      It is a good question with multiple parts depending on your size of business. Solopreneur version a division of a company versus a who multi-divisional company.

      Rob

  16. I guess another way of asking “What if there is a natural disaster?” would be “Do you have a disaster recovery plan?”.

  17. It’s always best to have a list of questions when making a SWOT analysis. Maybe the over-riding questions is: “Should I be in this business?”

    • Rob Berman says:

      Jeannette:

      I think your overriding question is a good one. Sometimes people do not know. The SWOT helps them figure it out. That was the case with one client a few years ago. She knew a whole lot more after we completed the SWOT.

      Rob

  18. Very interesting stuff here.

  19. Rob Berman says:

    Thanks for using my post as a reference for your class assignment. I would like to hear from you about how the class assignments worked out.

    Rob

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