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Conduct a SWOT Analysis

By Debbie Gregory.

Gather Your Team

Gather a group of people from all areas of the company to perform the SWOT to ensure different perspectives. The sales team will have a different outlook than the marketing team or the engineering team. You can even pull in people from outside of the company to provide input as a customer or vendor. A SWOT analysis is very similar to a brainstorming meeting so the more creative and fun, the better the ideas you will receive from everyone involved.

You can begin by selecting one of the four sections and having everyone jot ideas down on post-it notes, then stick them to a large piece of paper on the wall. Organize them and then rank them by having the team vote on the ideas presented. You can stick colored dots to the post-its or place tally mark them. This way you can get a clear picture of what the company needs to focus on and how they should be prioritized. This should be done for each part of the SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.

After you have completed this part it is a good idea to discuss and debate each point further to make sure you have a clear path forward.

Questions To Help:

Strengths:  Internal factors that are in our control and are positive.

  • What are our assets (people, education, reputation, skills, etc)?
  • What are our physical assets (customers, location, equipment, patents, cash flow, etc)?
  • What do we provide that our competition does not?
  • What do our customers love about us?

Weaknesses:  Internal factors that need improvement.

  • What do our customers complain about our products or services?
  • Are we missing any key personnel?
  • Are we missing any key equipment that would make our company more attractive to customers?
  • Is there something we should be doing that we are not?

OpportunitiesExternal factors we have some control over.

  • What do our customers think of us? What is our reputation?
  • Are there any events we should be attending?
  • Is our market growing?
  • Are there any changes in regulations that might help us better serve our customers?

Threats:  External factors we have no control over.

  • Is our market shrinking?
  • Are our offerings outdated?
  • Is our market being flooded with new competition?
  • Are the costs of running the business going up?

 Next Steps

Once you have completed your SWOT analysis you are ready to put your strategy to work. Analyze your Strengths and make a plan to ensure you can take advantage of your Opportunities; as well as look at how your Strengths can overcome your Threats. Look at your Weaknesses and lay out a plan to work those out or minimize their impact on your business.

With an action list in hand, grab a calendar and place goals on it. What do you want to accomplish in a given week, month, quarter, and/or year? Make sure that your goals are clearly laid out, with specific deadlines, and make sure that they are reasonable and achievable. It is best to regularly check and make sure you are on track.

Your SWOT analysis will provide you a clear picture of your current abilities, the areas where you need to work on things, threats facing you in the market, and ways to take advantage of potential avenues for sales or increased revenue.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

What is SWOT Analysis? Who needs it and how to do it

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SWOT Analysis

By Debbie Gregory.

What is a SWOT Analysis?

Who needs it and how to do it – Part 1

 

SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. A SWOT analysis is a simple but powerful tool to help your business succeed, develop your business strategy, and pinpoint what you need to prioritize in order for your business to grow.

Strengths & Weaknesses refer to the internal challenges and opportunities your business faces. These are things that you have the most control over and can easily change – like patents your company may need or already has, employees you hire, the management team, etc.

Opportunities & Threats refer to external challenges that are not within your control and may not be easily changed. The general rule here is that you can find and take advantage of opportunities while trying to protect against threats but you cannot change their existence or occurrence. These include prices of materials, shopping trends, competitors, etc.

Regardless of the size of your company, from the largest multibillion dollar corporation to the small mom and pop shop down the street, you can benefit from a SWOT analysis. For the best results, you will want to gather a group from all areas of the company to perform the SWOT to ensure different perspectives. The sales team will have a different outlook than the marketing team or the engineering team. You can even pull in people from outside of the company to give input as a customer or vendor.

Once you have your SWOT team assembled you will then organize your top Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats into an organized list on a simple 2-by-2 grid as seen in the table below:

SWOT ANALYSIS
S -Strength #1 W -Weakness #1
-Strength #2 -Weakness #2
-Strength #3 -Weakness #3
O -Opportunity #1 T -Threat #1
-Opportunity #2 -Threat #2
-Opportunity #3 -Threat #3

 

A SWOT analysis will force you to look at your business in different ways and from new directions. It will give you a clear picture of your current abilities, where you need to work on things, threats facing you in the market, and ways to take advantage of potential avenues for sales or increased revenue.

We encourage you to also read Part 2  that will provide more detail on how to gather your team, pose some sample questions to ask, and give a few pointers on where to go with the information after performing the analysis. Stay tuned!

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

Top 10 Cities to Start a Business

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By Debbie Gregory.

Where is the best place to start your business? Below we have listed the top ten cities and chosen them based on seven key indicators that include:   rate of entrepreneurship; wage growth; job creation; population growth; net business creation; high-growth company density; early-stage funding deals:  The cities in descending order are:

10 – Portland, Oregon – Portland is experiencing a construction boom. The two sectors that are projected to grow the most over the next decade are health care and computer and electronics manufacturing. Currently, the startup areas that are booming include tech companies, early-stage food companies, and apparel companies.

9 – Orlando,Florida –  Orlando has become a high-technology hub with more than 200 aerospace and aviation companies in the city. Additionally, its modeling and simulation industry, that designs programs used for both military training and to power rides at the nearby theme parks, provides more than $4 billion in annual contracts.

8 – Denver, Colorado – Denver is growing due to technology such as A.I. and machine learning, followed by block-chain and cryptocurrency,

7 – San Diego, California – San Diego is the place for startups focused on life sciences, aerospace and biotech.

6 -San Jose, California – San Jose is home to three of the world’s most valuable companies–Apple, Google, and Facebook but there is a critical shortage of office space.  Housing is challenging with San Jose having some of the highest housing costs in the nation.

5 – San Francisco, California – Just north of San Jose, San Francisco is the birthplace of some of the most successful startups, including Uber, Airbnb, and Slack. San Francisco also has astronomical commercial rents and housing costs even higher than San Jose.

4 – Nashville, Tennessee  – Nashville has more than just a thriving music economy; the city’s biggest industry is health care. There are also more than 20 college and university campuses and is home to more megachurches than anywhere else in the country.

3 – Raleigh, North Carolina – Raleigh has been transformed into a software hub. The Research Triangle of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill boasts the fourth most educated population in the country, and forty-seven percent of the local talent pool holds a bachelor’s degree or higher

2 – Salt Lake City, Utah – Salt Lake has more than great snow. Tech giants such as Adobe, Electronic Arts, and Oracle all have offices there. The city is also one of the most affordable tech-centric places to live making it very desirable.

1 – Austin, TexasAustin has an extremely reasonable cost of living, loads of sunshine, well-educated people, and a fun streak.  Texas also does not have any state income tax making it highly desirable. Tech giants including Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Dropbox have all established large presences in Austin. Apple has announced it will be investing $1 billion to build a new campus that can eventually hold 15,000 new employees. There are also thriving startup scenes in food and drink, computer hardware, enterprise software, and consumer tech.

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

Payroll Tips for Veteran Owned Businesses

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By Debbie Gregory. 

If you’re hiring your first employee, congratulations! It’s important to start off on the right foot as an employer by making sure you follow all of the legal rules that now apply to you.

First of all, make sure you obtain your employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS. Next, go to the Department of Labor’s website for a list of state unemployment insurance tax agencies. Make sure you have workers’ compensation insurance. Keep in mind that being an employer carries a number of new obligations and one of them is payroll taxes. There are some misconceptions about these taxes which are clarified as follows:

You may think that all tax-free fringe benefits are exempt from taxes, but the reality is that tax-free benefits for your employees such as 401 (k) contributions, company-provided cars, adoption assistance and dependent care assistance are subject to some employer paid taxes including FICA and FUTA taxes.

You may also be tempted to transition employees into independent contractors in order to save money, but the reality is that the IRS and other government agencies have strict guidelines that must be adhered to. By definition if you control when, where, and how work gets done, you’re likely dealing with an employee. An independent contractor is usually free from the control and direction of the hirer, works outside of the usual course of the hiring entity’s business, and performs the same type of work for others.

Don’t think that outsourcing to a payroll service provider relieves you of the liability for computing payroll taxes, withholding them from employees’ paychecks, remitting payroll taxes to the government, and filing employment tax returns. The ultimate responsibility is yours, so choose wisely. With this said, it is generally a good idea to use a reputable payroll service and well worth the cost.

You must deposit federal income taxes withheld including both the employer and employee share of FICA with the U.S. Treasury using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Also, deposits are required for FUTA tax for the quarter within which the tax due is more than $500. If you are working with a reputable payroll service, they will handle this for you. Below is a list of some of the biggest payroll companies to consider:

· ADP

· Paychex

· Deluxe

· Intuit Quickbooks Payroll

· Gusto

· Square

· Paycor

· Zenebits

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

Conferences and Networking

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By Debbie Gregory.

Conferences offer you to connect your veteran small business with a variety of connections.  Some of the connections may include potential joint venture partner, potential clients, collaborators and supporters. Attending conferences can be an excellent way to learn new skills and support your professional development, but it’s not as easy as just showing up! There’s preparation and strategy involved in obtaining the most out from these events.

The main reason to attend a conference is to build meaningful relationships with key contacts. Attending a conference can provide you the time to have multiple meaningful interactions with each of those contacts. Time is at a premium, so use it wisely.

Our next tip is for you to map out your meetings. Try to schedule meetings in a logical geographical sequence so that you don’t waste time zig-zagging around the conference venue. Whenever possible, try to arrange a smaller, more intimate get-together over coffee or a meal with a few key contacts.

It is also important to define your goals in advance. What do you hope to get out of the conference? Are you looking for new relationships? Re-connecting with other contacts? Securing customers? A clear vision will serve you well.

Plan to attend the speeches or breakout sessions that are most likely to attract your target audience. Develop questions you have for this target audience or for experts who may be speaking, and practice asking them.  Also be prepared and have your collateral and business cards available to provide your important contacts.

We also advise that you make social media work for you. Search out conference attendees, speakers and sponsors using event hashtags beforehand.  Perhaps connect with them on Linked In too.

It is important to think in terms of the long game. You want to begin building a relationship. If you have not already connected in advance with key contacts, then try to connect with them on LinkedIn within 24-hours of meeting them. It is also a good idea to follow up with an email if you have their business card and contact information

Be friendly! Smile! Ask questions and learn.

Don’t just be a taker. Although most booths give out treats out to attendees, attendees can also bring some small treats/gifts placing your business identity front and center.

And no matter what, bring plenty of business cards!

Veteran and Military Business Owners Association, VAMBOA,

 

 

 

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