Conduct an Objective Situation Analysis
Originally published: 05.01.16 by Mike Agugliaro
Things seemed simpler when it was just you, driving in your truck to a customer's house to work on their HVAC unit. You could figure out the problem, apply your tools to fix it and move on. Today, the problems you face are dramatically more complex & you try to grow your business but it seems to require some secret code to decipher the "black magic" of business growth.
Sometimes you invest in a business decision and it's a homerun. Other times, it's a painful strikeout. Chances are, many of the bigger decisions you make probably feel more like a gamble than a clear strategy for rowth.
If you want to grow your business, but are reluctant to throw good money after bad, then here's one of the most important tools you can put into your marketing toolbox.
The Situation Analysis
The Situation Analysis is a tool to help you make better business decisions for strategy, branding, marketing, hiring and many other aspects of your business. It might seem like it was invented by an Ivy League MBA in an academic ivory tower, and perhaps even the term "business strategy" increases your blood pressure & you'd much rather have your hands dirty in the inner-workings of an HVAC unit than to navigate these complicated theoretical tools.
Here's the good news: the Situation Analysis in business strategy is not actually that different than the work you did at a customer's house just a few years earlier.
Think back to those hands-on days. You were called to a house to help a homeowner with a problem. You arrived, greeted the customer and then what happened?
They showed you to the trouble area & the non-working furnace or the leaky air conditioning unit. And what did you do? You conducted your own "situation analysis." You opened the unit and peered inside; you disassembled the unit to trace the origin of the problem; you used your senses to help track down the problem; you tested some theories.
You identified the situation and how it got to be like that, and then you made a recommendation.
What you did for your customer back then is exactly what you do in a Situation Analysis for your business today.
While some home service business owners make wild guesses with their business, you can apply the exact same skills you used as a home service professional in your business today.
The Situation Analysis helps to take the guesswork out of your business and puts you back in control, turning once-mysterious questions about marketing, branding, hiring (or other choices) into clear paths to growth.
The skills you use for your Situation Analysis are exactly the same skills you applied in a customer's house:
Step 1. Identify the situation you want to review. Is it a marketing decision you have to make? Are you thinking about expanding your team and wondering how many people you need to hire? Is there a new market you're thinking about entering? Are you thinking about expanding your trade lines?
Step 2. Gather the facts. Gather all the data you need. Use observation, company reports and spreadsheets and the advice of industry experts as your research. The emphasis here is on data, not emotion. The more facts you have, the better.
Step 3. Use tools to diagnose. There are several tools you can use to help you dig into the data and make sense of it. Here are 3 tools to help you. (It's not complicated to use these tools, just sort your data into the categories outlined in each of these tools.
Using the McKinsey 7S Framework, list your business' Strategy, Structure, Systems, Shared Values, Skills, Style (i.e. behavior patterns) and Staff. This will gather much of your observations and data together and help you see where your business excels and where it's lacking.
Using the PEST Analysis, list Political, Economic, Social and Technological changes that are occurring in your market and consider how those will impact the situation you're analyzing. These four factors will focus your attention on shifting trends and help you anticipate where the market might be headed.
Using the SWOT Analysis, list the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats you face in your business right now and examine where you can go. Consider having your leadership team list their ideas about your company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to get multiple perspectives.
These three tools are widely used by businesses of all sizes and they're effective to help you gain clarity into your business' current situation. Think of them like the schematic drawings of an HVACR system you may have once worked on, revealing the "inner workings" of a system that wouldn't be apparent to the naked eye.
Gather as much information as you can and do your best to sort it into the categories outlined in these three tools. You'll end up with some overlap and some gaps. Just like with those mechanical systems, nothing is 100 percent efficient, but these tools will give you clarity, allowing you to move forward.
Step 4. Begin building a path forward. You'll discover the inner workings of your business and gain clarity about where you are, how you got there and what forces are shaping the future. This information will help you as you decide how to move forward in your business, no matter what situation you're facing.
Remember, just like the work you did in your customer's home, this isn't a one-time-fix process; you'll continually return to run through the steps as the situation evolves.
Your work as a business owner is now about making decisions and those decisions are based off of a clear insight into your business' current situation.
Mike Agugliaro, is founder of CEO Warrior, a business consulting and mentoring firm, providing tested and proven methods to defeat the roadblocks that prevent small to mid-sized businesses from achieving their ultimate success. He has played a key role in building Gold Medal Services' success, as co-owner of the company. Visit ceowarrior.com for additional information.