Gaining Perspective
By Mark Kalaygian



Mark Kalaygian



Objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear.

Much like the rearview mirror in a car, a business owner’s self-reflection can often provide the viewer with a picture that is, at best, skewed. Being too close to a situation that you are trying to analyze—whether it’s a personal dilemma or the ongoing health of your business—can make it very difficult to do so objectively. This is something that pet store owners and operators should keep in mind as they consider this month’s cover story about SWOT analysis.

As you will read in the story, a SWOT analysis is a formal process of evaluating the internal (strengths and weaknesses) and external (opportunities and threats) factors that will ultimately decide whether an enterprise succeeds or fails. It is a rather simple exercise that all pet specialty retailers can and should practice on their own businesses—and possibly on their competitors, as well.

However, to get the most out of this type of analysis, storeowners should not stop with introspection. Keeping in mind that having some distance from a situation can provide valuable objectivity, pet retailers should do their best to engage outsiders in the process. Vendors, other local pet professionals and even customers can all bring a unique perspective when they offer their SWOT analysis of your business. The key is in finding collaborators who will be honest in their assessments, as opposed to telling you what they think you want to hear.

It is also essential that pet retailers avoid reacting defensively when an outside participant does offer criticism of the business. This is an integral part of the analysis—after all, “weaknesses” make up part of the acronym—and should be embraced by the subject as an opportunity to improve their business.

Finally, retailers should remember that returning the favor to anyone who participates in their business’ SWOT analysis is simply good form. Just like outsiders can prove invaluable in providing an honest evaluation of your situation, you can provide similar perspective for them. This type of give and take will not only improve the effectiveness of the analysis, it will go a long way in strengthening the key relationships upon which your business depends.

At the end of the day, retailers should remember that making SWOT analysis a team sport is the key to success. Going the other way and eschewing the input of others to rely solely on your own perspective might mean that, just like that car in your rearview mirror, failure may be closer than it appears.