3-Step Analysis that Tests Your Small Business Strategy in the Post Pandemic Recovery

As your small business emerges from lockdown, it’s clear that the old strategies may not apply anymore in the post-pandemic recovery. Still, it doesn’t hurt to recount just what made your organization a success—a keen focus on industry trends, knowledge of scalable tech development, competitive advantages, or the blessing of foreshadowing market trends. As you step into a new market reality, there’s never been a better time for an analysis of your small business strategy.

The most effective way to approach post-pandemic strategy development as a team would be to set aside a few days in a conference room, but virtually with Zoom, Skype, or GoTo Meeting works just as well. It will be ‘all hands on deck’ as managers, supervisors or leads, human resources, marketing, operations, supply chain and finance should have a voice in the new post-pandemic strategy.

Of course, the pandemic requires quick and robust action amid a time of lean resources. Strategy development can take weeks or months with many contributors and a lot of effort. So we devised a shortcut to expedite your development of a new small business strategy post-pandemic.

While an internal facilitator might be too close to the subject matter, the option for external facilitators like Helen Pettyat the Lynch Law Firm, can keep meetings on track, challenge old ways of thinking, and bring new ideas and methods of brainstorming.  Essentially, LLF will ensure you are not just using the same old SWOT analysis and hoping success magically flows from the exercise.

Step 1: Ask Questions, Get Answers and Find Facts

In this first step, you’ll appoint a facilitator to keep track of notes either on a whiteboard or flip chart. As your team moves through the questions, it’s important that the answers be honest. Answers that are too elaborate or too repetitive can hinder the process and adversely affect the outcome. Of course, all questions can be tailored to your type of business, but the checklist below is a great starting point.

Questions

Tips and Advice

What are the competitive factors in our industry? How fast is the market growing? What’s driving our industry, and how can we meet customer needs through segmentation?

Be candid with assumptions. Use specific numbers. Avoid segmentation based on geography or product lines.

Who are your competitors and which one is has the largest growth? What are they doing differently? What does the overall competitive market look like presently? What are the threats to the market and your business?

Note the biggest competitors and the pain points they address with their products or services. Mention the unique value proposition (UVP) of each competitor’s product or service. Now substitute your product or service that solves these same pain points. Note the UVP of each one. List the pros and cons.

What technology trends affect our market? What specifications and requirements might be required in future development iterations of your product lines or service? What pending technology breakthroughs or disruptions may have an effect on the business?

External or internal technology consultants can help with future development and mitigate risk factors. Consider a quarterly assessment of your software and network systems, and if it can be done internally, dedicate a point person to follow-up with the best course of action. Also, consider a point person to follow trends in technology that affect your industry at a high level. For example, what applications can get your business to contactless online ordering to seamless and direct consumer delivery?

How do your competitors distinguish themselves in target segments? Do their actions support your own competitive advantage? Are these advantages sustainable and for how long?

It’s important to be clear as these outcomes form the foundation of your strategy.

Are growth targets excessively unrealistic, conservative or optimistic?

Temporary goals can budge management out of a rut, but goals need to be realistic for both management and their teams. Small incremental improvements are much more attainable and produce much less stress.

Are the right teams implementing and managing the ‘new’ plan? Do people need to be reallocated or replaced?

To meet the different strategic goals across teams or departments, consider where resources are best placed for the best outcomes.

It’s perfectly natural to disagree with one another as you move forward. The questions are meant to foster candid conversations, but never forget that consensus is the goal. At this step, everyone should agree to the analysis and conclusions since it’s crucial in defining Step 2.

 

Step 2: Lead a SWOT AnalysisSWOT analysis may be familiar to you. Its model provides competitive insight into potential issues while establishing the cornerstone of a business strategy. It also helps identify factors such as your company’s internal Strengths and Weaknesses as it compares with market Opportunities and with methods to mitigate external Threats. As you determine which factors within your organization are relevant, be sure your facilitator applies each factor to the correct quadrant.

Internal Strengths should focus on company assets, what the company does well and is unique to the organization, yet difficult for competitors to imitate. Factors that define Internal Weaknesses for a small business might include elements that affect customer satisfaction, tasks or projects that are difficult to complete, and assets it may lack. External Opportunities consist of events, factors or circumstances that are accessible, significant, and could be used as leverage. External Threats are factors that are both significant and ongoing.

Example SWOT Checklist

Internal Strengths

  • Any internal resources that offer value and a competitive advantage
  •  Sound reputation among competitors
  • Proprietary technology
  • Strong financial resources
  • Cost advantage
  • Market leader
  • Highly skilled marketing, management, and R/D teams

Internal Weaknesses

  • Limited access to skilled labor
  • Limited access to key technology
  • Lack of resources
  • Limited expertise
  • The poor physical location or obsolete facilities
  • Lack of clear management direction
  • Weak corporate image
  • Issues with strategy implementation

External Opportunities

  • Entry to growing markets
  • Expansion of products or services
  • Entry into new markets
  • Diversification into related products
  • Resolution of existing issues with products or services
  • Offer more value with existing products.

External Threats

  • Health/Pandemic
  • Product Recalls
  • Increased government regulation
  • Negative press
  • Cyclical economic downturns
  • Shifts in technology (obsolete products or services)
  • Foreign exchange rates
  • Slowed market growth
  • Climate change/weather
  • Globalization

 

Step3: Implement SWOTAs the discussion about key factors is considered, it’s important to prioritize each one under a SWOT heading. Not every factor a team member comes up with will be valued as an opportunity or seen as a serious threat by everyone.

It’s feasible that your small business may be in a good position with a match between each strength and weakness. If your weakness quadrant is strongly matched to the threat quadrant than your business strategy needs to change its initiatives to address those weaknesses.

Once the analysis is completed, create action items among team leads. Each action item should have a leader, resources, and a timeline. Each lead should be responsible for tabulating efforts, tracking milestones, and the progression of goals. Apply quality control measures that allow leaders to meet once a month for review.

Ultimately, the final review reveals your business position and can determine plans in the post-pandemic recovery.  At the very least, it can illuminate what your small business does well, address needs across departments, identify resource deficiencies, minimize risks, and take action when opportunities arise.


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