If you ever took a business course in college, odds are pretty good that you had to perform a SWOTT analysis about a given company. You might be surprised to find that this tool isn’t just for boring term papers; in fact, a SWOTT analysis is a useful tool for any company that wants to know where it stands in the marketplace and where it can improve. When done properly, the SWOTT analysis gives a full profile of where a company stands today, and where it can go in the future.

Strengths are a great place to start any internal company analysis. After all, you’d much rather talk about how great your company is than how badly it’s performing. Your main strength is your competitive advantage; that is, the one thing you have to offer that your competition doesn’t. Start with your main competitive advantage, then go from there.

Questions to ask yourself:

· What do we do best?

· What do our customers think we do best?

· What are the things that we do well, but gloss over or take for granted?

After patting yourself on the back, it’s time to take a cold look in the mirror and figure out the things you don’t do quite as well. It’s important that you don’t take the easy way out with this part, since it may be the most important part of your analysis. The truth is, every business has weaknesses, but it’s only when they’re identified and properly analyzed that they get resolved.

Questions to ask yourself:

· What problems do we always seem to have?

· What can we do better?

· What do I always complain about when talking with outsiders?

· What do our customers perceive to be our weaknesses?

Now that you’ve looked inside your company, it’s time to take a look at the outside world. Opportunities are those things that exist, or even those that don’t, that your company doesn’t currently take advantage of. An opportunity can be anything – a money-saving measure, a socially conscious initiative or simply a way to retarget customers and get them to re-evaluate your company.

Questions to ask yourself:

· What external changes or advances can we use to move our company forward?

· Where do we want the company to be in five years?

· How can we get ahead of our competition?

The opposite of opportunities, threats are those things that aren’t hurting you now, but could damage your company in the future. Threats range from global concerns (struggling economy) to local (weather, traffic) and everything in between. Becoming aware of the threats around you is crucial to any company’s success; identifying threats before they strike can result in opportunities for the company to gain a further advantage in the market.

Questions to ask yourself:

· What are our competitors doing that we’re not?

· What obstacles stand in our way?

· Are we taking advantage of the technology available to us?

· What potential legal and social changes can hurt the company?

The newest addition to the SWOTT analysis involves trends. Just as social media can track what is currently “trending”, a good company tracks the surrounding world and acts accordingly. After all, if you don’t understand trends, then you don’t understand your customers – and that means you don’t know anything.

Questions to ask yourself:

· How do our customers want to receive updates about our company?

· Are customers buying more or less now than they were last year?

· How well are we tracking and analyzing prior data?

· Are there any recent changes to the landscape of our particular industry?

Doing a SWOTT analysis might be college-level coursework, but it’s certainly not easy. It requires a great deal of honesty and humility. However, the benefits by far outweigh any amount of humble pie you have to eat as you dig into your company’s core. The results you come up can drastically improve the prospects of your business, both short-term and long-term.