In part one of this two-part blog series, we discussed the basics of performing a SWOT analysis at your dental practice to aid in developing a plan that leverages both reactive and proactive business strategies. Stated simply, a SWOT analysis looks at four key areas of your business: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Read more about how to perform a SWOT analysis in our previous post.
In part two of this series, we’ll examine how a SWOT analysis might look through the lens of COVID-19 as a practical application, how to apply the learnings of your SWOT analysis and how a TOWS matrix can help you further connect the dots.
Look at your SWOT through the lens of COVID-19. For instance, what did your practice do well when the pandemic hit? What do you wish you’d done better? Also take a look at your team’s soft skills, such as empathy. Is this the time to have them do additional training?
What can you do now to prepare for another health crisis? Do you have the right technology in place?
What did other practices do that you may want to emulate?
Now think about what threats COVID-19 posed to the business environment. What would you do differently in a similar scenario? What didn’t you need, and vice versa?
Using your SWOT
Now that you’ve compiled all this information, what do you do with it? Every practice’s breakdown will look different, but your business plan should maximize what’s working well and what’s possible for the future and also actively mitigate the impact of external forces.
Use the threats you identified to develop or refine your continuity plan. If you have an old plan, it might not capture a process for dealing with a pandemic. Crisis planning can be uncomfortable, but having a plan can be invaluable when an actual crisis happens.
Your SWOT analysis shouldn’t be a one-and-done exercise. The business environment is constantly changing, and you may have personnel and other changes that impact the content in your boxes. Do your first SWOT analysis to get a baseline, making subsequent analyses easier.
Help your business thrive
Regardless of your individual findings, the overall benefits of a SWOT analysis include additional transparency in your practice and the market, valuable conversations and opportunities to refine what makes your practice unique. It can be one of the most important things you do to help your business thrive.
From SWOT to TOWS
If you’re already familiar with SWOT analysis or find the concept fairly straightforward, more advanced and synergistic ways to look at this information and increase its value exist. For example, a TOWS (the inverse acronym of SWOT) matrix will help you connect the dots between the boxes.
To conduct a TOWS, complete your SWOT analysis and then select any of the two boxes to see how one category can support another. For instance:
- Strengths and Opportunities: Look at both of the left-hand categories. How can you take advantage of the opportunities available by using the strengths of your people and practice? For example, maybe a clinician in your practice enjoys and excels at clinical research – that’s a great strength. Meanwhile, an opportunity in your list is an upcoming conference. Could your clinician speak at the conference, or at least attend the event to start making connections to be able to speak in the future? Alternatively, could research that the clinician is doing be turned into an article or video that also promotes the practice?
- Strengths and Threats: Identifying your threats is a key step, but the real value is in knowing how you can use your strengths to address them. For instance, you may have found that your files were hard to access during the height of the pandemic when your team was unexpectedly off-site. However, during your SWOT exercise, you learned that some of your staff members are technology whizzes. Leverage those skills and have them back up your files or use their expertise to evaluate vendors who can provide that service.
- Weaknesses and Opportunities: In your SWOT, you may have identified skills that your team is missing, but perhaps you also listed that you anticipate expanding and making some new hires soon. When it’s time to bring on new staff members, you’ll have a better sense of what key skills those employees should have. If the expansion is too far off, consider training existing staff.
- Weaknesses and Threats: This one can be an uncomfortable exercise. However, if your practice is in financial trouble, looking at these challenges objectively can help you have a more productive conversation.
Hopefully now you have a good understanding of how to perform a SWOT analysis and how to apply the findings to create a business strategy for your dental practice. While this is a great exercise for gaining insights that may otherwise go unnoticed within your practice, remember to also reach out to a mentor or another colleague to see if they’ve done a SWOT analysis and if they’d be willing to help in the process.
Farran H. The SWOT analysis. Dentaltown. February 2013.
Forsyth J. The importance of SWOT analysis in dental practices. DentistryIQ. January 27, 2015.
Peters B. Why complete a SWOT analysis for my dental practice? Oral Health Group. June 30, 2021.
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This article was first published in the Fall 2021 issue of Advantage magazine. Read the original article here.