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Basic Business Cents: Several areas require research to develop 'solid plan'

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news Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Many strategic planning processes use as a basis an exploration of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

As important as these subjects are, they are still only four of the 21 areas that must be researched to develop a solid plan that will be achieved. This article will share some questions to be addressed in these four important areas.

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Strengths are defined as the organization's competencies, capabilities and any other resources it can leverage to fulfill the needs of customers. It is a list of advantages the organization has over its competitors; resources it has to fulfill the needs of customers or to contribute to society; unique characteristics that appeal to customers; and perceived benefits of this organization to customers.

Questions to investigate and understand why are:

What do you do best?

What are perhaps some untapped resources?

What do customers think you are best at?

What part of your operation would your competitors most like to emulate?

What part of your organization do you most fear to lose?

Where can you be most successful? (area, industry, application, etc.)

Do the customers really care about each of your strengths?

Weaknesses are defined as vulnerable characteristics that the competition might exploit and reasons, real or perceived, for customers not to avail themselves of your organiza- tion's products or services.

Two questions to research, analyze, and understand why are:

What are your organization's most critical vulnerabilities in the eyes of your customers?

What are your organization's most critical vulnerabilities in the eyes of your competitors?

Opportunities are defined as significant areas for your organization to exploit its strengths and opportunities through new markets and product or service offerings.

Research on the major opportunities for the organization in the next three to five years should be conducted and presented with the rationale that the opportunities are real, you can be successful, and the results will justify the effort. Questions to be considered in this area are:

Where are the unmet needs?

Where are the growth areas in the market?

What are the significant market needs?

What positive impact could the economy have?

Where are you technically superior?

Threats are defined as areas of vulnerability in the marketplace, encompassing the economy and environment trends, legislation, competitive actions, possible market obsolescence or change.

The theme of this research and presentation is on the major threats that face your organization in the next three to five years.

Questions to investigate and understand why are:

In what areas of markets and products are you in the declining phase?

What negative impact could the economy have?

What negative impact could the government have?

What environment factors could have a negative impact?

What customer factors/changes could have a negative impact?

Where are you technically inferior?

What are your limitations? Why?

Research and discussion of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will reveal areas to be shored up or strengthened and other areas to be exploited in your planning activity.

By knowing yourselves and of what you are capable, you are in a better position to move forward.

Louis Schultz, managing director of Process Management LLC, has assisted organizations worldwide with performance improvement. He currently assists area business owners as a SCORE counselor. E-mail him with questions or comments at lou@processmanagement.com.

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