Information for planning and analysis during a turnaround needs to be derived from both the internal and external environments. The internal environment addresses the management of the marketing, finance, and operations functions of the company. Business management controls these functions. This is primary information that should be at the fingertips of the executive team.
Sources of Internal Information
Internal information is gathered from employees, vendors, creditors, and the customers. This information generates a picture of the business, which can be compared to recognized performance standards. Marketing information requires research into demographics, psychographics, and analytics. Financial information comes from the accounting system and is augmented by other types of management information and reporting. Operations information is derived from supervisors, vendors, and subcontractors and compared against benchmarks. Benchmarking indicates relative performance; actual performance against internal standards is also necessary.
The external environment consists of economic, competitive, technological, cultural/social, legal/political, and geographic influences. Management cannot control this external environment is secondary by nature. It is essential, however, that the management team analyze this information and plan in light of predicted changes.
Strengths, Weaknesses and Opportunities
Determining a company’s strengths, weaknesses and opportunities is essential to successful implementation of the turnaround plan. Though some can freely discuss their personal and business strengths, most lack the objectivity to understand their weaknesses–and determine how to minimize those weaknesses and maximize strengths.
Many entrepreneurs have stumbled upon an opportunity and made some money. However, those who desire long term success use management information systems in the process of reorganizing their companies. Moreover, the best executive teams create a setting that enables goals and objectives to become a reality. Plans are modified through flexible strategic planning.
Business strengths are those innate qualities that produce a competitive advantage and hold value for the end users of the product. In the case of home building, for instance, the “bells and whistles” that attract prospective buyers may be as simple as quality landscaping or as complex as multi-member molding. Some clothing designers offer an edgy look or unique fabrics; others go for utility like pockets. The object is to determine a specialty or basis for market niche, brand identification, and reputation. It is often helpful to solicit the advice of experts to identify market wants and how to fulfill them.
Despite the ingrained resistance to admitting shortcomings, those with declining businesses must be willing to discuss their personal and business weaknesses freely. The team can only restructure the business by implementing solutions to problems caused by these weaknesses. For example, outside salesmen and the marketing team are in an ideal position to obtain data about the market and the position of the company’s products in that market.
Meaningful information can be learned from these professionals if the team is patient enough to listen and hear a bit of criticism. By taking the input to heart and allowing the feedback to challenge established business practices, the team members profit from it. The purpose of this exercise is not to dampen enthusiasm for the product but rather to point out areas that need improvement.
Understanding the local market is essential. Opportunities, particularly those for market penetration, should begin to arise out of a deep knowledge of the market. Buyer profiles by demographic and psychographic patterns can be prepared to assess the features and qualities buyers want. Such profiles can be developed with professional assistance at a minimal cost using secondary data.
As trends in preferences for various geographic and cultural markets emerge, executive teams can predict how they can service customers by price range, features, and channel. Promoting products that meet identified needs is half the solution; the other half is to transition to offering more of what is in demand and eliminating what is not.