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How Can You Put Yourself Out of Business?

How Can You Put Yourself Out of Business?

December 20, 2012
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Here’s a new take on the traditional SWOT analysis: How can you put yourself out of business?

Pretend you’re your No. 1 competitor, paying particular attention to your weaknesses. Consider how a competitor could exploit that weakness for gain. This is the approach Lisa Bodell, author of Kill the Company, takes to encourage businesses to think differently about how they can innovate and make real change. Bodell is interviewed in this piece from Knowledge@Wharton, ‘Kill the Company’: Identify Your Weaknesses Before Your Competitors Do.

In a traditional SWOT, where companies look at their own strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, businesses tend to be biased toward their strengths.

And while the SWOT exercise certainly holds value, taking a fresh angle – or “out-of-company experience” – to the method allows businesses to examine weaknesses with an eye toward making them their strengths. In Bodell’s method: “You have three minutes,” she explains in the K@W interview. “How will you put yourself out of business? Especially with executives, it gets their war mentality on. They are given permission to really look at what’s wrong, and then ideally, find out where they are really weak. What can you do about it? Who can you partner with? Even better, how can you then turn that back onto your competitors?”

In The Little Black Book of Strategic Planning for Distributors, Brent Grover encourages distributors to use several sources to put together their lists of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Use personal interviews, survey results, supplier feedback and other diverse sources for a more objective look at what your business needs to work on and conversely, what it needs to do more of.

Grover also encourages distributors to view characteristics in several lights. For example, while a distributor’s strength may be having a major supplier, that may also be a weakness as it can result in buy-back dependency. That distributor also faces the threat of cancellation from that supplier or increased competition when that supplier appoints more distributors in the same market.

That said, there may be an opportunity to build out more relationships with suppliers to diversify the distributor’s exposure. “It’s sometimes hard to see that the same topic presents both a threat and an opportunity,” Grover writes.

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