Using SWOT to Survive and Thrive

You’ve undoubtedly heard of SWOT analysis, and maybe even tried it before, but the trick to executing a successful SWOT is doing it in a way that actually helps move your business forward. In our article, Putting SWOT Analysis to Work for Your Business, we mentioned that it was a good idea to perform such an analysis when there are big changes happening within your organization or the marketplace.

SWOT is a multi-purpose tool and a fantastic exercise when your business is under stress. Now is an opportune time for business leaders to conduct a SWOT analysis as you approach your year-end strategic planning. This exercise will help you and your leadership team determine how to take advantage of any opportunities in the marketplace and mitigate the potential threats.

The applications of SWOT analysis extend beyond strategic planning. Besides helping you navigate a business or market crisis, it can also be a useful exercise for analyzing a potential target market, new product, or business initiative. Today we’re going to guide you through the process and provide you with free templates to get started.

What Is SWOT Analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis therefore examines positive and negative factors that currently exist in your business and can impact your objectives and results. Strengths and Weaknesses are internal factors; Opportunities and Threats are external.

What we like about SWOT is its analytical framework which can be deployed quickly to help guide company-wide decision-making and strategy. SWOT is not limited to an executive-level exercise, it’s a useful tool for any organizational team striving to improve their efforts in a certain area, or to tackle challenges in the business environment, such as those caused by a global pandemic.

Who Should Be on Your SWOT Team?

If leading an organization-wide SWOT analysis, the best people to involve in the process are those with a deep view into operations, products, sales, marketing, customer service, and finance. This may include executives, managers, and other key stakeholders. When you develop your SWOT action plans, be specific in assigning those executives, managers, or team members priority action items with key milestones, review dates, and completion dates.

SWOT analyses can be used within specific divisions, teams, or challenges such as handoff issues between sales and customer implementation support teams, or because a competitor is gaining new traction against your products. With specific operational or functional SWOT exercises your team may look different than if you were building a strategic planning SWOT team.

We recommend including representation from employees who are on the front line as they have insight that is different from the executives’ view. It’s a great morale boost for employees to experience cross-organizational teams brainstorming potential opportunities to solve business challenges and help fuel growth.


Need a template to guide your own company’s SWOT analysis process? Look no further! Download the Free SWOT Analysis Templates now.


Deep Dive with SWOT

Each of the four SWOT components requires you and your teams to dig deep, ask tough questions, and give truthful answers. Below are several basic questions for each section. You could use these to address issues at a broader organizational level. However, make sure to add questions that dig deeper into your business circumstances and the goal of your SWOT analysis.

Note that an answer might land in multiple areas in a SWOT. However, if too many items are showing up in multiple sections, you will need to get more clarity on those items.

Strengths (Internal Factors)

How can we capitalize on each of our strengths?


  • Areas where your company excels.
  • Qualities of products or services that give you a competitive edge.
  • People, teams, or training that put your business at and advantage.
  • Tangible assets such as proprietary technologies, intellectual capital, copyrights, etc.

Weaknesses (Internal Factors)

How can we eliminate or minimize each weakness?


  • Resource limitations, including workforce or training deficits.
  • Areas where your competition outperforms you, whether in sales, customer service, etc. or new competitors in your space.
  • Products or services with perceived issues (deserved or undeserved) in the marketplace or from your customers.

Opportunities (External Factors)

How can we take advantage of each opportunity?


  • Pivot in a new direction or with new/different services or how you deliver them. 
  • Open markets and territories you couldn't reach before and/or understand markets for your products or services.
  • Acquire or create a partnership with a competitor or complimentary firm that is struggling. 
  • A new customer need or problem that your product or service can solve. 
  • Adding new functionality to existing products.

Threats (External Factors)

How can we reduce or mitigate each threat?


  • A pandemic or other worldwide or country-wide challenges such as changing tariffs, or regulatory changes affecting your supply chain. 
  • Emerging competitors that have grown in capabilities, size, launched new products, etc. 
  • New technologies that threaten to make your offerings obsolete. 
  • Customer attitudes or preferences that are shifting away from your products or services. Changes in customer buying processes that have a direct or indirect effect on sales results. 

For additional details on how to run a SWOT analysis, read Putting SWOT Analysis to Work for Your Business and download our comprehensive templates.

Final Step—SWOT Action Plans

But wait, you’re not done yet! The most important part of the SWOT work is the action plan development that comes after all the questions have been answered and boxes filled in. Narrow each section of your SWOT grid to the 3-5 key items that will move your business in the right direction.

Using the SWOT templates, assign owners, team members, specific action items, deadlines, and budgets (if necessary) to each segment of the SWOT. Depending upon the severity of the situation, you may choose to hold SWOT updates either daily, every other day, or weekly. A cadence will be important to holding your teams accountable for progress against the SWOT action plans.

We believe SWOT is one of the most useful tools a business leader can have when approaching strategic planning. It’s a fast and proven way to gather your team, create alignment around priorities, and develop action plans that help you successfully move your business forward.

Upstart Group is providing our Comprehensive SWOT Analysis Worksheets at no charge to support business owners and leaders. 

We have also put together a free training video of how to get started with SWOT, check it out below!

Upstart Group has guided many leadership teams through successful SWOT exercises and SWOT action plan development. You can use our Comprehensive SWOT Analysis Worksheets to conduct your own SWOT, or our experienced executives can guide your team through a virtual SWOT process, freeing you up to fully participate rather than facilitate!

Contact Upstart Group today to schedule a virtual SWOT analysis for your business.