Page last updated at 22:17 GMT, Wednesday, 29 June 2005 23:17 UK

What it pays to be a business SWOT

Magnifying glass
Putting your firm under the SWOT magnifying glass may work wonders
If you think your business could be doing better, why not try a SWOT analysis?

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.

By putting your firm under the magnifying glass in such a fashion, you may find the way to grow your company or increase your earnings.

Nick Lal, London, England
Hi, I need some help please.

For the last 15 years I have been running the family business.

In that time we haven't expanded with more staff or more customers.

I don't know if it is me, or if the business is not in the right location, or whether we don't use our brains enough.

I really need some help - I have the passion, the desire, the fight, but not the knowhow. Help!

Liz Barclay, presenter of Radio Four's You and Yours programme
You must be doing something right or you wouldn't still be in business!

Think carefully about why you want the business to grow and how big you want it to get.

Many businesses tick along very nicely and then concerted efforts to make them grow result in their demise.

Try a SWOT analysis.

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats.

What are the strengths of the business - you, your staff, your products or services? What do you do really well?

Ask your customers what keeps them coming back.

That will help you to identify the weaknesses too.

Customers may like your products and services but feel your premises aren't convenient or don't have enough parking.

They may only come to you because you're in a convenient location, but they buy more elsewhere where they get better products or a bigger choice, or where they deliver or the staff are friendlier.

You may think you know what your customers want, but they may think you're old fashioned.

What opportunities are there you haven't tapped into?

Maybe you could offer new products or services before your competitors?

Check out the competition. Could they attract your customers away?

Are there threats from new businesses in your area?

Talk to staff, family, friends, customers and any one else involved in the business. Their views are very important.

Plan carefully how to capitalise on your strengths, reduce the weaknesses, make the most of the opportunities and minimise the threats.

If you need help, talk to your local Business Link advisers and ask about any courses they run in your area. A link to the Business Link website is on the right, or alternatively ring 088456 009 006.

To ask Liz Barclay a small business question use the email form below.

Alternatively, you can email another member of our small business and entrepreneurship panel of experts by clicking on one of the links on the right.

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