Sound Business Decision-Making Strategies for Power Sweeping Companies

Whether you feel it is time to “take stock” in your sweeping company, seeing where you came from, where you are now, and where you would like to be in five years, or are thinking of expanding your sweeping services to include large-scale industrial sites like airports, refineries, shipping docks, or wondering the best way to diversify your business in general, it is crucial to have a methodologically sound decision-making tool to help guide your thought processes, because making the wrong decisions are just not an option. The best business advice we at North American Sweeper Magazine would recommend as a sound, true and tested decision-making tool is to learn about SWOT Analysis and learn how to implement it as a decision-making tool in your business decision making processes.

Introduction
SWOT analysis is a well-respected, well-utilized methodology for strategic management, strategic planning, and competitive marketing decision-making. It was developed at Stanford U. in the 1960s from data culled from an extensive survey of the strengths and weaknesses of numerous Fortune 500 Companies. It has been used by top management experts world-wide. S.W.O.T. the acronym stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, and it is a way of clearly documenting your business strengths as well as weaknesses, including potentially winning opportunities but also threats to the stability of your company and your diversification scheme. SWOT is the decision-making tool that will help you achieve your goals.
Before making important business decisions, it is crucial to develop an honest and levelheaded analysis of your sweeper company in terms of the business strengths that you have taken care to develop, and the opportunities that you have learned to capitalize on as they arise. Equally important is a realistic recognition and analysis of the weaknesses and threats that your business may face in the industrial power sweeping industry that could have a negative impact on your business. A thorough analysis of your company’s weaknesses, the industry you are in and any possible threats to company stability and growth it may pose, as well as the competitive landscape you find yourself in, is the first step to opposing them with a robust and creative set of strengths and opportunities. Knowledge is power, and knowing what the positives and negatives of your company are puts you in a more powerful position for appropriate knowledgeable action. Whatever courses of action you decide to follow, the four-quadrant SWOT analysis thoroughly explained below prompts you to move in a balanced way throughout your business structure and strategy when making serious business decisions. Performing a SWOT analysis will tell you what your company excels in, what improvements need to be made, where growth is possible and what preemptive measures need to be taken in order to protect cash flow, profit generation as well as company value.

SWOT Analysis’s Eight-Step Procedure
Following this 8-Step Procedure will assure you that you are on the right decision-making track.

Step One. Have a clear goal or objective in mind. In other words, you need to ask yourself why you are using the method in the first place; for example are you planning to decide whether you should expand and start offering new services, or whether you think a strategic investment in the latest technology, say a cutting-edge Laser Asphalt Repair Truck, for example, would help your business, or are you using the SWOT methodology in order initiate a targeted marketing and advertising strategy to generate new prospects and leads, and expand your client base?

Step Two. If you are deciding to expand into say industrial sweeping, educate yourself about the present state of industrial sweeping in your region. In other words research well all aspects of your local industry and the market you hope to enter.

Step Three. Create a comprehensive but honest list of your company’s strengths. One way to determine your strengths is by clarifying and quantifying what your internal assets are. These are the things your company is already doing well and that are unique when compared to your competitors’ internal assets. Here you would identify the components that are providing value, quality goods and services and overall excellence. Your strengths could include low operating overhead, firm fiscal management, low staff turnover, high return on investment (ROI), or you have established a solid core customer base from which you can expand in say concentric circles around your “anchor” clients, etc. The whole time you are listing your strengths you should be asking yourself these kinds of questions: What do we do well (in sales, marketing, operations, management)? What are our assets? What are our core competencies? Where are we already successful at making money?

Step Four. Next, again list a thorough but honest and real appraisal of what you think your company’s weaknesses are, especially what you see as critical for transforming them into strengths. Whatever or wherever your company is not doing well that it should be doing is a weakness. These are areas where you need to focus time, energy, or perhaps even capital to attend to and fix. Remember, however, that weaknesses can be controlled and so they can be turned into strengths. At this stage you should identify the internal components that are not providing significant added value or are in need of improvement. For example, extensive research shows that one of the biggest weaknesses of a small to medium business (SMB) is not having great bookkeeping, accounting, or tax requirements, and cash flow analysis. Knowing in detail where all of your receivables and payables are, as well as how the way you structured your business affects your tax obligations. SMB owners need to focus all of their attention on day-to-day operations and business planning. Sound standard accounting practices may fall to the wayside. In such cases, it may be worth it to invest in financial consulting and outsource “the books.” All along, you and your management team should be thinking of providing answers to such questions as: What looks a bit rusty inside our company? What do we need to do more and better of (customer service, marketing, accounting, and planning)? Where do we lack resources (e.g. the latest power sweeping technologies)? Why does our marketing strategy not seem to work for us as planned? Where are we losing money, and why?

Step Five. Brain storm and think of any untapped opportunities that are out there but you have not adequately capitalized on, or knew how to capitalize on. Opportunities are any conditions external to your company that provide the potential to improve your competitive position relative to that of your competitors. Look at them as goals to achieve and targets to exploit in the future. Even though opportunities are not something you can control, you can nevertheless take full advantage of them if you take the time to identify all possible opportunities and know what they are. Here you need to identify the external components that provide a chance for your company to grow in some capacity or gain a competitive edge. The external components could be environmental factors reflective of the business marketplace. Ask yourself the following questions: What is an untapped “golden cow” in our local industry? What new needs of customers could we meet? What are the emerging political and social opportunities such as rules, policies, regulations, and risks associated with our local industry that we can get a one-step on and avoid any unwanted payouts? What are the technological breakthroughs that we could take advantage of to give us the edge over our competition? What niches have our competitors missed that we can exploit and therefore establish a unique niche or service offered that the local competition does not offer or does not offer well?

Step Six. Look closely at your industry and how it is practiced in your area or your state and identify all possible threats to your success. Threats are conditions external to your firm that have the potential to harm your business and that you have no control over. Nevertheless, identifying these barriers to success makes you more equipped to deal with and overcome them. Here you need to document the external components that could create any threat to the health of your business, or where you have lost some competitive edge. Ask yourself these kinds of questions: Where are the red alerts in our local business environment? What are the negative economic trends? What are the negative political and social trends? Where are competitors about to bite us? Where are we vulnerable? Is it our dumping policies and procedures? Do we know and follow all of the EPA and Clean Water Act (CWA) policies and procedures?
Step Seven. Once completed, you will have generated four separate lists. An extensive list for each of the four factors: your Successes, your Weaknesses your Opportunities, and any Threats that exist or could become a reality. Write them all out and display them side-by-side to give yourself an overall picture of how your business is running, what is doing fine, and what issues need to be immediately addressed. Then rank and prioritize the issues that you feel need the most work, mostly from your weaknesses, threats, but also your potential opportunities.

Step Eight. From your SWOT analysis devise a comprehensive strategy to address all of the issues identified, keeping in mind questions such as: How can we use our strengths to take advantage of the opportunities identified? How can we use these strengths to overcome the threats identified? What do we need to do to overcome the identified weaknesses in order to take advantage of the opportunities? How will we minimize our weaknesses to overcome the identified threats?
Figure I, the SWOT four-quadrant matrix, can be used as an outline. You can create as many pages of the outline you think are necessary for your SWOT analysis.

Story by Mark Joseph Manion

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