SWOT Unravelled – Discovering Your SWOT Strengths & Weaknesses

The SWOT analysis technique is used to summarize your strategic analysis which includes both your internal and external analysis. This summary is categorised into four categories. These four categories are Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

Today, we will clarify for you the strength category and also provide you with a list of common strengths that you may find in your business.

The golden rule of Strengths: Strengths are characteristics about your businesses, they can only be identified in your internal analysis, as your internal analysis is the only type of strategic analysis that evaluates your business characteristics.

Now, let’s define strengths and take a look at the typical business characteristics that are commonly classified as strengths.

Strength Defined: Strengths are core capabilities of your business. They are areas where your business has an advantage over your competitor(s) that is valued by your customers.

In other words strengths are characteristics of your business that pass the better than your competitors test.

Recap Key Point: You will only find strengths when completing your internal analysis, A strength must be characteristics of your business.

Understanding Strengths

When completing your internal analysis you will find that your strengths will generally fit into two categories, tangible and intangible strengths. Let’s look at them both

  1. Tangible Strengths: A Tangible strength is a characteristic of your business that can be precisely identified, measured or realized.
  2. Intangible Strengths: An intangible strength is a characteristic of your business that can not be physically touched or physically measured

Now, we will look at examples of common tangible and intangible strengths that maybe found in your business.

Examples of Tangible Strengths

Your tangible strengths will tend to include characteristics about your business such as

  • Your physical assets including plant, equipment buildings and infrastructure
  • Long term rental agreements in good locations
  • Unique or market leading products
  • Access to sufficient financial resources to fund any strategic changes that you would like to make
  • Cost advantages over your competitors (This relates to your ability to provide the goods or service at a lower cost than your competitors. It has no reference to the sale price)
  • Volume, high volume can be a strength
  • Ability to scale volume up or down with relative ease

Examples of intangible Strengths

Your tangible strengths will tend to include characteristics about your business such as

  • The strength of your brand(s) such as having strong easily recognizable brands
  • Your market reputation, including a market perception that you are a market leader or an expert in your filed
  • The strength of your relationship with key customers, a strong relationship represents goodwill and is often seen as a strength
  • The strength of your relationship with your suppliers, again strong relationship can be seen as a strength
  • The nature of the relationship that you have with your employees
  • Any unique alliances that you may have with another businesses that compliments your businesses products or services in a way that is valued by your customers
  • The ownership of patents or proprietary technology can be a strength
  • A proven advertising process that works well
  • Having more industry experience in a field that requires some technical experience, including the skill of your managers, your collective industry experience and your profile in industry associations.

Where people often go wrong?

The first area where it is common to see strengths recorded incorrectly is in the language used to describe them. It is an easy mistake to write Macro Environmental observation up as strengths rather than opportunities, however this tendency should be avoided. For example “One of our strengths is a strong economy” this really is an opportunity and can be reworded as follows “The economic outlook supports growth”


A SWOT analysis is normally completed by the leaders in your business. In completing their analysis they are likely to position their leadership capabilities in with the other strengths. It is, of course, unrealistic for all leadership in all businesses to be able to pass the better than our competitors test. When faced with this self assessment it is best to look for indicators such as higher engagement scores, lower turnover, and higher customer satisfaction to validate where you place leadership in your businesses SWOT.

SWOT Strengths Summary

Your SWOT Analysis summarises the three strategic environments that your business operates in, they are your Macro Environment, your Industry Environment and your Internal Environment. You will only identify strengths during your internal environment analysis, this is because your internal analysis is the only area where you will identify characteristics of your business that pass the better than your competitor test. Strengths can also fit into two categorise they can be tangible such as plant and equipment or intangible such as patents.

Now you will have a sound understanding of strengths and how to identify them in your business.

Understanding SWOT Weaknesses

A little about SWOT

SWOT…. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The SWOT analysis technique is typically used during strategic planning to provide a concise summary of a strategic analysis. Generally your strategic analysis will include an analysis of your three strategic environments, which are your

  • Internal Environment,
  • Industry Environment, and your
  • Macro Environment

In this article you will learn all about how to identify weaknesses and to help you to get started we have also provided you with a list of common weakness. We will also show you how to avoid the common mistakes that are often made when categorising weaknesses.

Now let’s start by defining the term weakness as it relates to your SWOT analysis.

Definition of a Weakness

Corporate Level Weakness Defined:A weakness is a core capability of your business where your competitor(s) have an advantage over your business, which your customers value i.e. you failed the better than your competitors test.

During your SWOT analysis you will consider a variety of weaknesses from within your business. It is important to note that these weaknesses will all be internal to your business and they are all found during your internal analysis.

The SWOT technique can also be used at divisional, departmental and team level. When completing a team level analysis, you should identify strengths and weaknesses from the eyes of your internal customers.

Understanding SWOT Weaknesses

Some Possible Weaknesses

There are two categories of weaknesses that you may identify in your business, both are equally valid and should have receive equal consideration, these two categories are

  1. Tangible Weaknesses, these describe characteristics of your business that can be precisely identified, measured or realized. (Normally you can touch them)
  2. Intangible Weaknesses, these describe characteristics of your business that can not be physically touched or physically measured (You can not touch them)

Now, that we have identified two categories of weaknesses let’s take a look at some common tangible and intangible weaknesses that maybe found in your business

Some possible tangible weaknesses that you may find in your business

  • Old or outdated plant and equipment. Old plant or equipment is generally supported by equipment reliability issues or a lack of general competitiveness.
  • Narrow product line
  • Insufficient financial resources to fund changes
  • High costs (Not high price, high costs specifically refers to the cost of brining your product or service to market)
  • Inferior technology or technology that does has not kept pace with customer or supplier preferred transaction methods.
  • Low volume or restricted in your ability to scale up

Some possible intangible weaknessesthat you may find in your business

  • Weak or unrecognizable brand
  • Weak or unrecognizable image
  • Poor relationships with your customers
  • Poor relationships with your suppliers
  • Poor relationships with your employees
  • Marketing failing to meet objectives
  • Manager inexperience
  • Low investment in research and development
  • Low industry knowledge
  • Low innovative skills

Where People often go wrong

The most frequent error we see in a SWOT analysis with the categorisation of environmental observations. This is particularly prevalent when identifying weaknesses.

It is common for weaknesses to be identified as an opportunity to resolve the weakness rather than as a weakness, and some times as a threat of the harm the weakness may cause.

For example

A weakness of poor relationship with your employee’s, could be written up as an opportunity to improve labour relations or as a threat of industrial action by militant employees. It is important to categorise it as a weakness. Why?

It is important to categorise your weaknesses correctly as later you will look to find opportunities that capitalise on your strengths as these are your greatest strategic opportunities and threats that are exacerbated by your weaknesses as these are your greatest strategic risks.

If you have worded a weakness as an opportunity there is a risk that you will not identify your strategic risks and appropriately prioritise action to mitigate these risks.

Another common issue with identifying a SWOT weakness is to allow personal preferences to come into play. For example, if you are a big fan of apple computers but the company who you work does not use them, it is not valid to claim the organisation has a weakness that they use inferior technology. It is only a weakness if the choice of technology platform is restricting your business from competing with your competitors.

And the final item is that managers are often reluctant to be open and honest about the weaknesses of the business that they are running. They see it as a failure on their part. It is best to encourage leaders to be open and transparent about the weaknesses in their business, only by be open can you ask for help.


By the virtue of its name the SWOT analysis technique is an analysis technique NOT a solution technique. It is hard to remain focused on analysis, but important to do so. A thorough analysis is the perfect foundation for making strategic decisions.

Once the SWOT analysis is complete the next stage of strategic planning is to develop alternative possible courses of action.

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