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Putting Your SWOT to Use and Knowing That It Was Successful

multiple hands on a table

Perform a good analysis and follow-up

By Phil Cadman, PT, DPT

Use the chart below for questions to help guide your conversation with your staff. These are not all-inclusive.

Great planning starts with understanding where your company is today. To help with that understanding, it can be helpful for you to perform a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis looking at broad megatrends first.

Strengths Weaknesses
What do we do well?
What do our customers say we do well?
Do we have strong brand awareness?
What skills do we have that our competitors don’t?
Are there advantages in technique or technology over our competitors?
What are staff qualities that separate you from others?
Do our profit margins compare to industry benchmarks?
Where can we improve?
What do our customers frequently complain about?
Are we lacking in staff, skills, or training?
Do we suffer from cash flow problems?
Is there something that our competitors do better than us?
Opportunities Threats
Do our competitors have any weaknesses that we could benefit from?
Are there underserved markets for specific areas?
Are there geographical expansion opportunities?
Any new technology or service lines that we could use to benefit us?
New Competitors or expansion in existing competitors?
Changing regulations/laws/payer rules?
Any negative reviews or media?
Could any indirect competitors become a direct competitor?


A megatrend is a pattern or trend emerging in a large-scale environment. Examples of megatrends that can impact your business could include aging baby boomers, how can we connect with and market to millennials, people showing a growing interest in being actively involved in their health, etc. SWOT analyses can also be used to explore new ventures, product offerings, new programs, acquisitions, or mergers. It can help a business to change course, plan out how to invest their money, understand their competition and to identify their mission.


Many of you are familiar with a SWOT analysis and some of you have even performed them yourselves. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats all set up in a matrix to help come up with a working list under each heading. You can use them for a full company overview and development of your annual strategic planning, or you can use them to see if a new program or offering you have been thinking about doing would likely be successful. You can effectively use the SWOT to figure out what your company is doing right and what needs to change in the organization.

A SWOT analysis is essentially a way to get the organization to focus on specific goals, projects, and objectives. It’s a way to develop an organized approach that can help to improve efficiency and productivity. The importance of a SWOT analysis is knowing the different parts of the SWOT and how to develop both goals and initiatives to accomplish those goals. It is not the completion of the SWOT that is difficult, but the follow through with using the information to improve on your strengths, improve in areas of weakness, and look at the external influences for opportunities or for determining potential threats that could negatively impact your business.


A two-by-two matrix is used to build a SWOT analysis, with horizontal pairings of internal and external factors along with vertical pairings of helpful and harmful factors in achieving a specific objective. Results of the analysis will help the organization determine whether certain objects, products, services, or goals fit the company’s strategy in the current market. The best strategic fits are when the internal environment (e.g., the strengths and weaknesses align with the external environment; e.g., opportunities and threats). Strengths are within the organization’s control and this category includes everything the business does right when trying to achieve a specific goal, initiative, project, or objective. Anything that gives the organization an advantage or that helps processes and projects run smoothly or helps the organization achieve business goals will fall into this category. Weaknesses are also within the organization’s control; however, it is important not to confuse weaknesses with opportunities. An example of mistaking weaknesses with opportunity would be that your company has poor communication, and you list in opportunity that you would like to improve communication. That is a good goal, but it is in the wrong place. It should be placed under the weaknesses heading and the terminology should be that the company lacks communication. The goal can be that you would like to improve communication with actionable steps to accomplish that goal.

multiple hands on a table

Once you’ve examined all four aspects of the SWOT, you will want to build on your strengths, boost your weaker areas, head off any threats, and exploit every opportunity. In fact, you will likely be faced with a long list of potential actions.

Before plowing ahead, be sure to develop your ideas further. Look for potential connections between the quadrants of your matrix. For example, could you take some of your strengths to open further opportunities? And would even more opportunities become available by eliminating some of your weaknesses.

Finally, it is time to prune and prioritize your ideas, so that you can focus your resources on the most significant and impactful ones. You should try and refine each point to make your comparisons clearer.


  1. Gather your team together-make sure that it is a comfortable environment that provides a good atmosphere for being creative.
  2. Set up your matrix on a whiteboard.
  3. Start with strengths and ask a list of questions to help guide your staff. Then follow suit with weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. (see table on previous page)
  4. Organize the information collected into a neat and legible document.
  5. Send out to the team with notes.
  6. Organize a follow-up meeting to come up with action items and deadlines.

So, you have your SWOT matrix. You have identified your internal strengths and weaknesses as well as external opportunities and threats. You’ve begun to see your company in a whole new way. So now what? First you should attempt to match your strengths with opportunities. Next, you should try to convert weaknesses into strengths.

You can use these questions to help guide you in the process of figuring out your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.:

For each factor of weakness or threats, try to find ways to eliminate or reduce it. For strengths and opportunities, you should find ways to enhance and use them.


After completing the matrix, take time to understand how the recorded information helps your analysis. Once the SWOT is completed, you should revisit the SWOT and the specific goals that you are working on to see your progress and make any adjustments to your strategy based on the review of those goals.

An example would be that having a highly educated and skilled staff that is capable of treating a wide variety of orthopedic and neurological cases. This pairs with an opportunity to team up with Doctorate in Physical Therapy programs to assist in providing a clinical education experience for them. This in turn allows you to have a pipeline of new therapists who will continue to come to your clinic and allow organic growth in your business. This in turn aligns with the greater company mission of providing high-quality individualized care that exceeds the expectations of your clients and physicians. In this example, you can see how your strengths can lead to opportunities and ultimately fulfill the mission of the company. 

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Phil Cadman, PT, DPT

Phil Cadman, PT, DPT, , is an APTA Private Practice member and owner of Premier Physical Therapy Services in Cincinnati, Ohio. He can be reached at pcadman@premierpts.com.

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