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Where have you been? And where are you going?

It’s nearly February. Which may be obvious. But here’s something that might not be. Did you know that nearly 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February? That’s according to U.S. News & World Report. If you’re in that 80%, you could say you’re in good company to feel bad. Perhaps you set unrealistic goals. Perhaps life got in the way. Perhaps you decided you’ve tried at this goal and failed before; this time will be no different. Or perhaps, you just got so darn busy, you forgot.

But here’s something else you know (you might just need a little reminding) – there is nothing inherently magical about January 1. Yes, it marks the start of a new year. And sometimes even a new decade, or century. Yet when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, you aren’t suddenly bestowed with newfound superpowers to help you tackle your to-do list. When you flip to that fresh calendar page, you don’t get a starter pack of motivation and caffeine (though we all should get that, is there a subscription service for that?). Which means that if you’ve already made and broken a resolution, there’s still hope.

And there are tools.

It’s hard to know what goals to set when you don’t know where you’ve been. Day in and day out, I hear from business owners who wear many, many hats. They tell me they’re so busy running a business, they don’t have time to take stock of the victories, the failures, and the opportunities for the future. Yet, those same business owners want to grow their victories, reduce failures, and be ready for new opportunities. So, and this is truly important, I urge them to step away from running the business for just a few moments and make time to evaluate growing their business into the future.

To structure and make the most of that “stepping away” time, I offer the SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats. It’s important to fill out each category for your business because they all impact your bottom life.

So, pull up a comfy chair, grab your favorite pen and a few pieces of paper (or your laptop, if you’re hip like that), we’re going to SWOT it out.

Let’s get to evaluating:

STRENGTHS Your strengths are an integral part of your business. With this first step, think about what makes your business “tick.” What do you do well; better than anyone else? What values drive your business?

WEAKNESSES This one is tough, but it’s important to be honest. What are some features of your business that you can improve upon or avoid? What and where are your limitations? Is it your personnel, your product, your region, your perspective?

OPPORTUNITIES These are openings or chances for positive change or growth. New territories, new products, new ways to sell existing products to a different market, etc. etc. Recognizing opportunities in advance can help your business to grow and take a lead over your competition. There is no opportunity too small.

THREATS Like the villain in a movie, nobody really likes a threat. It’s important to recognize what can negatively affect your business from the outside. Is it competition? A business that can revolutionize your offering making your business obsolete or less attractive? If you can successfully anticipate potential threats, you can build contingencies to counteract them before you and your business fall victim.

Once you’ve filled in each category, you may be tempted to tackle each “weakness”, vanquish each “threat”, run after every opportunity and grow your strong biz muscles even stronger. Easy does it.

This excitement is great, but you need a plan. As the old proverb (or fortune cookie?) says: “An idea without a plan is just a dream.”

Prune and prioritize your SWOT ideas so you can focus time and money on the most significant factors. Remember, you don’t have to make all these changes alone or at once. Automate what you can (it’ll save so much time). Delegate what you hate doing, or you’re awful at. And eliminate the waste (trust me, you have some).

By creating a plan like this, you’re establishing an actionable strategy for 2020, and it’s never too late to do that. Refer to your SWOT plan frequently (after all, you carved time out of your busy schedule to create it) and make it a recurring part of your planning and growth.

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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