Do You Know How To SWOT

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Do you know how to SWOT? No, that isn’t a spelling error and we are not talking about swatting flies or a tennis ball, although both are fitting for this time of year. SWOT is a business analytical technique used by businesses of all sizes and types and conducted in various formats to identity Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. It is a way for a business, or farm, to identify things both internally (strengths and weaknesses) and externally (opportunities and threats) that have, can have or will have an impact on the business or farm.

The analysis can be done as informally or formally as one prefers – from creating a visual matrix to bullet points on a yellow pad – but should be done with the input of everyone involved in the business or farm. Even outside input can be helpful as the outside perspective can identify issues, good and bad, not readily seen on the inside.

Let’s take a deeper look at how the analysis works by examining each term and their application.

Strengths – These are the things that work well on your farm. What do you do best? What are things that differentiate you from other farms – technology, type of cattle or crop grown? What do the customers like best about your farm – lower birth-weight bulls, environmental consciousness, farm to table?

Weaknesses – These are the things at don’t work for your farm and can provide a starting point for improvement. What are you doing that can be done better? Why is an idea not working? What can we do to improve (i.e., furthering education, cutting costs, implementing new technologies)? 

Opportunities – This comes after you have identified your strengths and weaknesses. What are the goals you need to achieve based on that analysis and how are you going to get there? What does the farm down the road offer that you don’t that you can use? Are you missing out on any opportunities that can further your business plan or increase the bottom line?

Threats – Unlike weaknesses that are within your control, threats are problems that are outside of a farm’s control. What changes are happening in the agricultural industry? Can you adapt to accommodate to those, such as the consumer demand for transparency in the food chain? Is there a new competitor in town? How will that affect you? What about weather?

This is just barely scratching the surface on what a SWOT analysis can look like for a farm. Each farm is unique and faces different challenges with its own set of tools. What can set you apart is knowing what those are and how best to use them to the farm’s advantage.

As the industry evolves with new technologies being embraced and new opportunities and threats being presented, it is prudent of all of us currently in the industry to consistently appraise our operations. Only by knowing our strengths and weaknesses will we be able to grow and to continue on in the great tradition of the American Farm.

Jessica Allan is a Credit Analyst II at Guaranty Bank in Carthage, Mo., A resident of Jasper County, she is also involved in raising cattle on her family’s farm in Newton County and is an active alum of the Crowder College Aggie Club. She may be reached at [email protected].

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