When it comes to running your company, are you like other entrepreneurs who keep their head down and their nose to the grindstone working hour after hour, day after day "in" their business but not spending any time focusing "on" their business? It's very likely that you are. And even if you understand that spending time working on your business is a smart business practice, you may also be wondering just how you're going to find the time and where to begin.

One tried-and-true diagnostic tool, better known as "SWOTT," has helped many entrepreneurs work on their business. SWOTT is a tool that can be used before you launch a venture as well as throughout the life of your company. And while it may sound like you're trying to kill flies, I promise, it's better than that. To help you understand just how to SWOTT your business, let's go over the acronym.

The "S" stands for Strength
In assessing the strength of your business, it's important for all the key players to have a part in saying what they think your business's strengths are. These can range from an industry perspective to individual talents and even the diverse personalities in your company. Some questions to ask in order to assess your company's strengths are:

  • What are the advantages of being the type of business you are?
  • What does your organization do well?
  • What do other people see as your strengths?

The "W" stands for Weakness
This is sometimes hard to be honest about. However, the more real you can be in this section, the better the information you'll gain in order to improve things. Some questions to ask to get the ideas flowing are:

  • What could your business improve?
  • What do you wish you could do better?
  • What should you avoid?
  • What problems keep recurring?

The "O" stands for Opportunities
It's important to view opportunities as both internal and external. Consider individual career success as well as overall company success.

Some questions to consider are:

  • Where are the beneficial opportunities facing you?
  • What are the beneficial opportunities facing the organization?
  • What opportunities will put you ahead of your competition?
  • If you add or delete a process, what opportunities will arise from that change?

The "T" stands for Threats
This is the part where you could get caught off guard if you've been spending too much time working in your business and not on it. If you're working with other people on your staff, this is an important section for those with good visionary skills--or those in the "big picture" department--to add their input. A few good questions are:

  • What obstacles do you face?
  • Could any of your weaknesses seriously threaten your organization?
  • What are your competitors doing better than you?
  • What laws and legislation might impede your process?

The other "T" stands for Trends
The ideas that come out when discussing this topic should come from places like industry magazines, tradeshows, new products and the news. This topic is not as subjective as the other four topics; it should be based more on facts. To start the brainstorming, use questions like:

  • What are the current trends related to your field?
  • What are the current trends within your local, national and international field?
  • What was on the "hot" list last year?
  • Is consumer spending increasing or decreasing in your industry?

SWOTT is a wonderful tool to use not just on your own but with all your key people (co-owners, managers and employees) in a group setting, and it's most effective if you have an outside facilitator working with you. With a facilitator to help, you can free up your mind to be an active participant in the process and not be the one trying to keep the meeting running smoothly.

Because all the elements of SWOTT change over time, it's important to go through this exercise regularly. Remember, the successful entrepreneur spends time working "on" their business, not just "in" it.

Patty Vogan is the owner of Victory Coaching, an executive coaching company for business and personal success, and a chairman for the largest CEO organization in the world, TEC International. She has more than 15 years of experience in leadership management, team building, marketing and entrepreneurship, and is the author of two books. Her latest book,Waking Up in Tonga, will be available later this year.