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Mon, June 17

Boost your business skills by using SWOT

Question: My business has been successful for quite some time, but lately I've been seeing a reduction in repeat business. Can SCORE give me some pointers for boosting my business?

Answer: Improving a small business requires knowledge and skills in many areas to achieve on-going success. Regardless of the number of years of experience in business, entrepreneurs need to periodically update their knowledge, skills and strategies. The concept is to transform your small business into a well organized, high-performance and profitable enterprise. To do this you should clearly define the vision for your business and strategies necessary to accomplish your goal.

Roger Lever in an article for suite101.com lists a six-step process to improve a small business:

1. Use SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to define the key strengths and weaknesses of your business and then to extend that by considering the market opportunities and threats.

2. SWOT analysis becomes the input to define the vision, competitive edge and strategy.

3. A balanced scorecard is used to create the strategic focus and operational control for the business by structuring the strategy into a comprehensive set of objectives, targets and measures. This will encompass financial, customer, internal, learning and development areas.

4. Business plans are created and systems are designed to perform all key business operations, to capture appropriate metrics and to meet the strategic objectives.

5. Roles and sourcing strategy are defined to operate the business systems.

6. The business plan is implemented and business is operated and managed using those business systems and, as needed, those systems are optimized or adapted to changing strategies.

Lever maintains, "This six-step process is continually being used to ensure that the business has the right strategies and maintains that strategic focus and control through implementation and execution."

The SBA Small Business Training Network/E-Business Institute, which registers nearly a million users at its website each year, is an excellent source for improving and honing your skills, policies and vision. The Small Business Training Network functions as a web-based conglomerate that links you to online courses, workshops, publications, learning tools, and information resources plus access to electronic counseling and other types of technical help. For details on the Small Business Training Network, go to www.sba.gov and click on Counseling &Training. Here you will find a welcome from Karen G. Mills, administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA site gives you access to an extensive library of articles, podcasts, and Web chats on many small business issues.

Free online courses are offered on about 75 topics in areas such as business startup, growing your business, home-based business and re-engineering your skills. Sample titles include "Growth Strategies," "Analyzing Profitability" and "Building Your Brand."

In an article for FORA.tv, Zain Iqbal in his article "Think Big: How to Improve Your Small Business Strategy" says, "How important are small businesses to the economy of the United States? Consider these figures from the U.S. Small Business Administration: Not only do they represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms, they employ half of all private sector employees, pay 44 percent of the total U.S. private payroll, and have generated 65 percent of new jobs within the past two decades."

So you don't have to sit by and watch your business flounder. There is help and advice available with the click of a mouse. Also, as SCORE is the nonprofit business support organization for the SBA, you can rest assured that your SCORE counselor has the resources from the SBA at his or her fingertips to help and guide you in your quest to boost your business.

Northern Arizona SCORE is recruiting volunteers with administration and computer skills. This chapter covers three counties and provides assistance to hundreds of Arizona small businesses. If you have skills and would be interested in helping grow Arizona businesses, call Joe Van Bourgondien at 778-7438, or email scoreoffice@scorenaz.org, Attn: Joe.

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