Guest post by Cathy Love from Nacre Consulting
If you’ve ever felt a little stuck when searching for new pathways for your private practice, a SWOT analysis is probably the help you’ve been looking for. Many allied health business owners find themselves questioning their progress, unsure of their future direction and what to do next to move the business forward. Perhaps you’ve got some new competitors on the scene, or you want to begin a new project, or are considering another clinic – how can you determine exactly what your business needs to do?
A SWOT analysis is truly one of the most useful tools for taking your health practice to a whole new level.
It’s more than just a surface examination of your business. SWOT goes much deeper than that, it analyses your business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats and how these components relate to each other, which ultimately informs your decisions and action plan.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities & Threats
The tried and trusted SWOT structure gives you a fresh and more objective perspective on a situation of any size and complexity that you otherwise may not have been able to see before. After the analysis is done your business priorities and action plans have greater purpose and focus. You know where to start and what direction to take.
Take a look at this wonderful quote from Michelle Obama:
“Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim. I see it instead as forward motion, a means of evolving, a way to reach continuously toward a better self. The journey doesn’t end.”
She’s reinforcing the idea that life is all about constant movement and progress, and it is rarely stagnant. Ultimately, this is a philosophy you can apply to your allied health business too.
Performing a SWOT review is all about recognising where you can improve and moving forward with a strong plan to enhance your overall business.
How Does a SWOT Analysis Work?
For a startup company, this analysis will essentially launch you into a flying start. It helps you locate your goals and sets you on the right path to begin achieving them.
An existing business can use this assessment to evaluate its current position, no matter if you’re thriving or in need of some guidance. You can identify whether things are moving in the right direction, and it assists with planning new projects, like a new marketing tactic, for example. You should consider conducting this type of review at least twice a year, as global trends can change rapidly.
Start with a specific goal
A strong SWOT analysis starts with a laser-focused question. Do you want to offer a new service? Are you looking to change clinic location? Do you need to rebrand?
When you’ve got a particular goal in mind, a SWOT analysis will be the crucial first step when it comes to beginning the strategic planning process. You get the chance to put your practice under a magnifying glass to notice the areas where you’re winning and the areas that need a little more love and attention.
Strengths & Weaknesses
These aspects encompass any internal parts of your organisation that you have control over to an extent. While it isn’t absolutely necessary to categorise factors as internal or external, it is valuable for understanding the amount of control you have for managing a particular issue or window of opportunity.
- Things that your business does well.
- In-house resources like a strong leadership team.
- Your competitive advantages.
- Access to material assets like practice management software.
- Areas in need of improvement.
- A vague USP (Unique Selling Point).
- Reasons why you might lose to your competitors.
- A lack of resources.
Opportunities & Threats
Now we’re looking at the external factors that you don’t have as much immediate control over. These can include competitors, changing trends, costs, and so on.
- New technologies you can take advantage of (e.g. online booking).
- An increase in demand for your services.
- Fewer competitors in a certain area.
- Emerging trends relating to your organisation.
- An expanding competition.
- A decline in the economy.
- Market trends that are at risk.
- Negative perspectives from clients.
While brainstorming your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and potential Threats, you can let everything out – don’t hold back and don’t be afraid to acknowledge any areas that need improvement within your business. But there are some steps to take once you’ve completed the initial brainstorm.
During the analysis, try to get a mix of perspectives from those around you. Involve people from different sectors of your health practice to give you a unique vision that isn’t limited to one viewpoint. Even clients can give you useful ideas and input.
Where Do You Go From Here?
Once you’ve got everything written down in its own section, it’s time to bring back your focus to the specific goal or big question you identified from the beginning.
Trust yourself to leave aside any unnecessary elements that don’t relate to your questions or goals.
This will help you identify your priorities to then create the strategy you need for moving forward. At this point, you may notice that each SWOT factor is beginning to intertwine.
You could begin to ask questions like:
- How will we leverage our Strengths to us take advantage of our Opportunities?
- What Threats can arise from our Weaknesses and how can we prevent them?
- How can we minimise our Weaknesses to overcome these Threats?
Remember to be realistic with your starting objective and as specific as possible with your question. Approach the whole SWOT analysis with positivity and determination and a splash of creativity, you may well be surprised where the process takes you. Be honest but don’t be scared to get vulnerable or to recognise any flaws. If you can’t admit your imperfections, then how can you ever expect to know where to improve?
Specify the most important business activities that now sit at the top of your list. Then you can establish the best strategies for addressing these tasks, leading to overall improvements and the capacity to change and grow.
“Mistakes are the growing pains of wisdom.”William George Jordan
While performing SWOT analysis, embrace the structured business thinking process. Expect new ideas and options to emerge that contribute to a clear action plan.
Practice makes perfect.
Empowering your allied health business starts with understanding and evaluating exactly what it needs. Look at a SWOT analysis as a business wake-up call, a new objective perspective on a challenge or opportunity that disrupts your repetitive mindset.
Even though it’s just one type of strategic planning tool for growing your allied health business, think of it as the perfect tried and trusted starting point. It won’t provide direct solutions for each issue, but it will significantly help with organising your priorities to make the next best move.
To carry out your own SWOT analysis click here.