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Call in the S.W.O.T. Team

Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats

By the title of this article, you would think we were making a new movie; one of those with plenty of action, and a hero that destroys the enemy. After all the bad guys have been captured or killed, our hero will walk off into the sunset - somewhat worn and beaten. But, still the winner in this exciting combat.

Stephen Segal or Arnold Schwarzenegger would most likely be the actors that would be selected to be the strong, combative hero type for our action movie.  For this will be a movie where we need someone with special talents, courage, drive, and with eyes in the back of their head, so to speak.

There is a scenario which commands an individual with similar abilities that is playing right now in many towns across our continent.  Shops in the auto restyling business are being challenged for every type of product line and service that they offer from a wide assortment of competitors - everything from someone selling the same products on the Internet to that guy who worked for you for the last six months and is now out on his own thinking he can do everything you can do.

But he is going to start out by charging a lot less. Not because he thinks you are overcharging people, but because he does not have a clue of how this industry works.

In addition to this challenge from the outside, many businesses face challenges that are occurring within the four walls of the shop and service bays. These are challenges of finding and keeping employees who are knowledgeable; challenges of staying one step ahead of the competition with regard to the products and services you offer.

Recently, we heard a speaker talk about the four challenges facing a business. He stated that challenges facing a business could be categorized in the same way we just described - internal and external.

The speaker explained that these two types of challenges, while there were some similarities, would require your shop to approach them with different techniques.

With the inside challenges of the business, a shop needs to know their strengths and their weaknesses.  And with the outside challenges, a shop needs to see the opportunities and threats.

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats - SWOT.  A shop needs to see itself as a SWOT team so that it has a better chance of having the need to read Auto Trim & Restyling News through the next 10 years.

Without a SWOT team, a plan and a vision, we all stand a good chance of being another shop that has closed, and becoming one less reader for this magazine.

Strengths and weaknesses. To develop your SWOT team, we would invite you to create a list of all the unique points and bonuses that a customer would find when he or she first pulled their car into your parking lot. The bigger your list, the better your chances of getting that customer to drive to your lot instead of the competition.

The downside to this activity is that you must be honest with yourself, and if you are unable to create a list of reasons to do business with your shop, then the customer will be equally at a loss to find a reason. This list should be the strengths that you can recite from memory and with strong conviction.

Looking for weaknesses directs us to several areas. How would you rate your employees? Do not compare your employees to your competition, but against what you would categorize as the ideal situation. What about your location? Your hours?

Your skills as the personnel manager? And your knowledge as the financial manager of your business? Each of these can be weaknesses that while your competition probably will not exploit them, their very existence can challenge the stability of your shop.

Speaking of the competition, take a look to the outside and we will see the opportunities and threats. For opportunities, we can create our list by taking the time to wander around the TCAA and SEMA shows. Look at some of the product lines, attend the seminars, and make a point to visit with as many shop owners as we possibly can. Ask them what new opportunities they have found, and implemented.

As you visit with them, and hear their stories you will be able to benefit so that you can eliminate the very mistakes they have already experienced and save your valuable time and money. This will make these new opportunities all the more profitable and quicker for you.

To examine the threats, try this exercise. Do that "soul searching" self examination; creating the list of things you should do, services and products you should add to your business. They may be some of the ones we have just listed, or ones you have thought about for a long time. Either way, these are the things you never get around to.

The concern we hope to arouse comes in these questions. What if you heard there was going to be a new competitor open in your town exactly one year from today? And what if they were going to offer all of those products and services on your weakness list? Would you hurry up and eliminate this "threat" list?  If you didn't would the opening of the competition be fatal to your business?

The speaker went on to say that every business needs to have a SWOT team. It may be a committee of one, but most often you will benefit from having the input of several of your employees. You may even want to invite your accountant, and a couple of your customers to help you in this ongoing project.

SWOT was an acronym created by the speaker to stand for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Create your SWOT team and the acronym could be your answer to the question of, "How is your shop doing?"

Super. We're On Top! 

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