How to detect weaknesses in the business?
As entrepreneurs, we much prefer to focus on the positive. And we marketers also say you need to repeat to your market how good, great and wonderful your company is. The weaknesses in the business are never in the spotlight. Perhaps many of us are also subconsciously afraid to look for (and especially find) points of improvement. We do not look for these areas until everything is going according to plan. And if trouble does arise, we want to solve everything at once with a quick, panicky reaction. And that is far from perfect. Let’s look at how to turn a disadvantage into an advantage.
Very often we think that if a company is well known and respected, everything is fine. This is far from true, even if everything seems to be working perfectly from the outside. Everyone has difficulties and weaknesses, even if they won’t admit it. To change, to build a better business, you need a plan. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t dwell on it too much. Today’s topic is weaknesses in the business. On that topic, I have to say a big thank you to the Association of Hungarian Entrepreneurs in Slovakia (Szlovákiai Magyar Vállalkozók Szövetsége), as we talked about this at the last Entrepreneurs’ Breakfast in Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely). In other words, the topic is how to be (sometimes painfully) honest with yourself. Because that’s the secret. If I don’t want to accept a statistic, I can explain it. We didn’t reach the goal, but we could have, we almost did, if I look at it a little differently we did. We did our best, but there was an external circumstance that made us fail, so it was actually a success. These and similar excuses are made in every business. Yours or mine.
When was the last time you did a SWOT analysis? Hopefully no more than four months ago. When I learned about it at university, I thought it made almost no sense. But that may be because exactly the point was not explained. As an entrepreneur, you have to operate in an environment where circumstances are constantly changing. There are constantly risk factors that you have to balance and grow between. SWOT analysis can be a tool to do this, if used properly. It shows you what the strengths and weaknesses in the business, what opportunities and threats you may face. It can help you see where your path is leading you and where you need to take a cold shower. When I work with someone as a mentor, we always use this analysis. But 2 or 3 points in a section is not enough. It can only give you superficial answers. The more you ask, the more accurate your answers will be. And by no means accept general truths, as they may not work in your case. Take, for example, the entrepreneur who wants to hire new staff. For him, high unemployment is not a threat, but an opportunity!
Are weaknesses in the business a brake?
I’ve written before about how the Danes raise happy children. They have a completely different approach to ours. We can also look at different models for weaknesses. Some entrepreneurs see weaknesses as compulsory homework. In the school system, we are taught that we have to get at least a medium in everything. In their case, weaknesses in the business are giant exclamation points and red-flashing, screaming sirens. Problems that need to be fixed immediately. Their focus is on bringing existing weaknesses up to mediocre or average. It’s like the school kid (let’s call him Andris) who has no interest in biology whatsoever, yet they torture him for 3 hours a day so he’s no longer light years behind the best, just a huge distance behind. Eventually, Andris becomes a marketer and never again meets a cloistered breeder or a pair-fingered ungulate.
Machete and machete in the jungle
In the other case, the entrepreneur can create no-go zones. What’s not worth doing, we don’t do. There may be financial, skill or whatever the reason. If you are better off closing on a Saturday than doing an activity, don’t do it! He puts the weaknesses in the business in storage, he doesn’t even go near them. He focuses his energies more on developing average qualities into good ones, or good ones into excellent ones! With this attitude, you can stand out from the competition, but you have to learn to say no. It doesn’t make you less likeable, and in fact, it makes the customer more satisfied, but you are making something wrong. Sticking to the school example, our student (Andris) is preparing a presentation for one of his classes to improve his presentation skills. Eventually, Andris becomes a marketer and benefits greatly from having learnt from the faces of bored classmates what and how to talk about during a presentation. It’s a different story from the last one, isn’t it? But “only” the focus has changed
I admitted it to myself and then what?
Perhaps the hardest part is being honest with ourselves. We often feel that our business is different, and different for us. What is difficult for others is not so significant for us. It can be a good way to try to approach it a little differently. If it didn’t affect you emotionally, would you still say that? If a friend asked you, would you not point out to them the weaknesses in your business? However, this is only half the journey. After identifying the problems, what you do about them is just as important. Could your company (strictly not us) be spending more each month in one area yet it isn’t? Could have a better motivation system, yet it doesn’t change? Do you see the strategy your competitors are using to take customers away from you, yet you don’t react? It all depends on the entrepreneur. The system and analysis can only help. So the key is to be honest with yourself, do the analysis and then implement the strategy based on that analysis.
What I have described is all well and good. You might even be enthusiastic about it now. But it’s like the gym and the beginning of the year. You’ve got the momentum now, but what happens after that? Weaknesses in the business are constantly being reproduced, so it’s not enough to remove them once. You need to make it part of your regular business management routine to address them. Yes, this is yet another task that demands a share of your time and energy. Many people will laugh at you for analyzing and strategizing. These are the familiar ones who blindly run into the events you have written in the dangers section. But if you identify the threat, you can prepare for it. And if your reaction is right, you can turn it into an opportunity. Decide at which time of the year you will analyse, plan and implement new things. I know, it’s not easy. It’s not convenient. You may even encounter resistance from your colleagues. Still, if you want to improve the situation, you have to act. And as the old adage goes, great things happen outside your comfort zone. Even for entrepreneurs.