A few days ago, on one of our Incubator calls, I taught the group the value and methodology of doing a SWOT analysis for your work on a regular basis. For those of you not fluent in traditional marketing jargon, SWOT = Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. The first two are the things within your control. The second two are things outside your control. Seems simple and painless enough, right? But it really isn’t. Not if you’re doing it right, at least. Understanding your position and taking stock of your resources with a detached honesty is nowhere near simple (and definitely not painless).
Usually, most people struggle with at least one of the categories. Most often in more established businesses (and startups alike), it’s hard to think about the things you can’t directly affect as opportunities or threats. As entrepreneurs (and westerners), we like to think we can affect change in any situation if we just try hard enough. But with people pursuing their life’s work – the really deep important stuff that feels like it’s the very energy that emanates from our most tender places, the harder part is the first two.
Looking closely at what’s available to you and what isn’t can be humbling – upsetting – overwhelming. But it can also be liberating, beautiful, and enlightening. But no matter what, when it REALLY matters, it can be excruciatingly difficult to see and understand both what you have available to you and how to use it. Likewise, facing what your genuine weaknesses are can be destabilizing at a cellular level.
For bigger businesses, the lists include things like political climate, cashflow, management experience, etc… They tend to have a cold detachment. It is just business, after all.
But for solopreneurs, I hear weaknesses listed like: “I’m not very tech savvy.” “I don’t have much money.” “My kid is home with me all day and I can never get enough done.” “I just don’t ever seem to have time for social media…is it really that important?”
Solopreneurs have ‘me’ problems. ‘Me’ weaknesses. And when you’re starting something, you tend to ONLY see those. It’s not business. It’s me.
So how do you pull back? How do you take a helicopter view of where you are so you know what’s actually in your toolkit for the journey ahead (and what’s not)?
First, toss your assumptions and literally all the things you think are weaknesses. This is not about limiting beliefs or the laws of attraction. This is about shifting how you think so you can get out of your own way. It’s simply a necessary step to get wherever you’re going.
So think about this for a second: You have a computer, a cell phone, and probably a tablet. All of which are more powerful than the processor in the space shuttle. You have YouTube and Google to teach you literally anything you don’t understand. That’s like having the Library of Alexandria in your pocket at all times. Those are strengths, not weaknesses. And they are almost always overlooked.
One of the most productive things you can do for yourself and your business is to look HARD at anything and everything you have and think of creative ways to use each thing.
Recognize that a supportive family is a HUGE asset.
Notice that having room on a credit card is a big strength.
Acknowledge that your intelligence, resilience, and humility are rare and valuable.
Once you understand how strong you already are, then you can think about the ways in which you aren’t.
And once you understand what you’re made of, and recognize that you are indeed resourceful enough to face anything the world wants to throw at you, you can start to look at the external forces that will open doors AND slam a few in your face.
And you’ll be able to face both.