Life at a small startup is oftentimes exciting. The ability to manage every step of a process – ideation, design, content, and outreach – is really rewarding when you see results that immediately help your company’s growth. However, with such awesome opportunity and responsibility, challenges will often arise from time to time. Moreover, as a fresh-out-of-college, first-real-job worker at a small startup, there are no traditional training protocols, such as “onboarding” or “training seminars,” that smooth your transition into the increasingly cutthroat, cluttered startup world. Therefore, online business planning guides are truly godsends.
With the proliferation of business blogs and niche websites that produce great e-books, white papers, and editorials concerning highly practical business planning exercises, it only requires, in my experience, a simple Google search to find multiple great resources for the unbeatable price of zero dollars. Nonetheless, when you are on the clock at a startup, and since it is a startup that means 24/7, 365, there are always opportunity costs. So, sifting through a fifty-page white paper is not exactly the most practical or reasonable use of time. I recently ran into this exact cost-benefit dilemma while having to devise a SWOT Analysis for work.
A SWOT Analysis is a fairly routine planning method for organizations and businesses. SWOT is an acronym that stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.Although, a SWOT Analysis is a common method of planning, I really did not know what it was, so, per usual, I did a cursory Google search of the term. While, I did find some useful guides, they were all either too long, too short, not very user-friendly, or not updated to fit our current economic times. After my initial frustration, I realized, “wait a second, I work for a startup that specializes in helping out businesses, so why don’t I use my work resources to not only help myself out, but also just anybody that needs to conduct a SWOT Analysis.” With my boss’ permission, I brought in one of my college mentors, Justin Gomer, a Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley, and we sketched out plans for creating An Essential Guide to SWOT Analysis.
In an ironic fashion, we kind of did a SWOT Analysis of the existing landscape of SWOT Analysis resources to decide what to include and build upon in our Guide. The following is an approximation of our SWOT exercise while developing our Essential Guide to SWOT Analysis:
We realized a definite strength of the existing SWOT Analysis resources on the web was the collection of individual SWOT Analyses of various companies. We had read analyses of Uber, DreamWorks, and even the University of Kentucky Basketball Team, so we knew, in any essential guide, we had to give reference to these great samples, in addition to creating our own sample SWOT Analysis.
As aforementioned, in all the existing guides to SWOT Analysis, there were glaring weaknesses, principally the layout and specificity of the content. Moreover, most guides were just a mishmash of bullet points defining the four major characteristics of a SWOT Analysis, a rudimentary Matrix table exemplifying the look of a SWOT Analysis, and examples of generic, non-existent companies. Therefore, in our Guide, we made it a mission to not only formulate detailed content, complete with a thorough breakdown of each component of a SWOT Analysis and a real business example for each component, but also a pleasant looking design, featuring two online fillable templates.
The central opportunity that we perceived when creating our Guide was that no one had put all the pieces together. Furthermore, as I have previously explained, while there were promising bits and pieces of existing SWOT Analysis resources, no one had put together a comprehensive guide; a guide that could suffice as the only reading material that one would need to learn all about a SWOT Analysis, and also to conduct one. By blending together a coherent design, detailed content, SWOT templates, and modern-day SWOT samples, we knew we had the opportunity to create the end-all, be-all SWOT Analysis resource.
The threats were very similar to any sort of long-form content – how do you get people to read and share it? We hoped by including something for everybody in the guide – templates for the practical thinker, SWOT samples for the news aficionado, and a multi-layered design for the visual learner – that anyone who glanced over our guide would find something intriguing and useful to fit their needs and tastes.
With all that said, here is our finished product, entitled swot analysis guide. I hope it can benefit you in your personal career and business!
I am a Content Associate for FormSwift, a SaaS startup that helps businesses, organizations, and individuals spend less time and money on paperwork with easy-to-use, professional legal and personal documents. I started working at FormSwift at the end of the Summer 2014, a couple months after I graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with the Departmental Citation in American Studies and a Minor in Public Policy. While at UC Berkeley, I worked for two years as a research apprentice for Professor David L. Kirp of the Goldman School of Public Policy. My research focused on higher education, with a specific focus on the California State University system. In the future I hope to contribute more accessible material to entrepreneurs and young businesses in the area of strategic planning.