Business Plan Basics SWOT (Part I) – Your Strengths & Weaknesses

A basic part creating your business and marketing plan is conducting what is called a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.  SWOT analysis is a staple in most business programs but I bet you didn’t hear much about it in art school.  The first part of conducting a SWOT analysis is doing an inventory of you or your firm’s business strengths and weaknesses.  Your strengths are areas which you can capitalize on, they help identify your competitive advantages and provide ideas on how to market your brand.  Weaknesses are areas on which you need to improve and they may be a hindrance to your success and growth – either fix your weaknesses or figure out some way to get around them.  You need to know your strengths and weaknesses in order to develop effective strategies for your business.

How to analyze your strengths and weaknesses

There is really no mystery here, just be honest and try to identify the areas where you are doing a good job and those that need improvement.  Start by taking a piece of paper and draw a vertical line so you have two columns – one labeled Strengths and the other labeled Weaknesses, you can take it even further by adding a third column labeled Neither or Neutral.   Get input from others including yourself – these might be employees, friends, other creatives, customers and anyone else you can think of who is familiar with your business.  You will probably get some responses that you don’t like or are not particularly favorable – think of these as opportunities to improve and grow your business and brand.

Areas to look at 

Start by keeping your analysis of strengths and weaknesses free form.  Simply ask the question “What the strengths of my creative business?” and then “What are the weaknesses of my creative business?”.  Here are some areas that you should be sure to include.  If you think of others – go for it!

  • Your Products and Services
    • Quality and uniqueness
    • Pricing and terms
    • Availability
    • Distribution channels where you sell your products/services
  • Your Brand and Marketing
    • Brand awareness and development
    • Advertising
    • Public Relations
    • Social Media
    • Sales force and sales effort
    • Web presence
    • Networking
  • Your Internal Systems
    • Accounting and record keeping
    • Keeping track of costs
    • Financial statements
    • Forecasting your cash flow
    • Human resources and personnel
  • Compliance and Legal, Risk
    • Compliance with governmental regulations
    • Compliance with governmental taxes
    • Coverage of risk through insurance
    • Contracts with your customers.
    • Protecting your intellectual property through tradename, trademarks, patents and copyrights.
  • Organizational
    • Proper form of organization for your enterprise
    • Organization chart
    • Responsibilities for people in your organization
    • Legal documents required for your form of organization
  • Facilities – your studio, workshop, gallery, storefront… 
    • Physical location
    • Size and type of facility
    • Suitability to reach your customers
    • Ability to allow for future growth
    • Costs of keeping and maintaining
  • Production and Operations
    • Methods and technologies used
    • Tools and machinery used
    • Availability and quality of supplies
    • Quality control
    • Efficiency

Ok, I have given you a few areas to look at when analyzing your strengths and weaknesses, there a certainly more areas you should be exploring.  If you have any questions or some other things that should be on the list I invite you to post them in the comments.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto