Several people I know are committed to making streaming online games a full-time profession, and I want to help them out by lending the benefit of my experiences planning, founding, and running my own business. I may not be an MBA but I have written a few prep documents in my time and wanted to put that knowledge to use. A SWOT analysis is an important tool in determining not only the viability of an endeavor—for truly this introspective process can apply to all facets of life—but is also key in helping form plans to capitalize on or address the elements discovered therein.

In addition I’m including sections taken from the SWOT analysis I did as part of co-founding my company in 2009. It was very interesting going over the old document and seeing what ended up panning out and on what we were way off. I hope you find this template and examples useful and that the process helps with more aspects of life than just business!

The goal of this exercise is to identify what elements—internal and external—are both in your favor and working against you when it comes to your success and growth. The SWOT process can be used in almost aspect of life, but today we’re specifically addressing key milestones in business.

Almost all business plans include some manner of SWOT analysis when founders present their ideas to potential investors, banks, and even realtors. Success in the online world isn’t that different from markets of the past, and the making of SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound) is a logical next step once this document is finished.

For each of the four categories below, think of at least five examples and describe them in a sentence. When combined, this will form the core of your SWOT analysis, and inform your future plans. I am including sample writeups from the tech support business I founded and ran for six years before being acquired.

1. Strengths

These are elements, internal to yourselves, that work in your favor. Perhaps you possess a strong work-ethic, or have already secured large financial backers. Perhaps you have hired a renowned marketing firm, or bring a unique take to your market. Just wanting something to work isn’t enough—it’s important to identify what your core competencies are and how best to use them.

Our primary strength is our education and experience. With more than thirteen years working in-industry as remote and on-site service technicians, system and network administrators, and IT managers for Bay Area companies, [Company Name] has the intellectual capital to perform the work our clients require. Our experience spans Windows, Linux, and MacOS desktops and servers, and includes a broad range of industry-specific software.

2. Weaknesses

These are elements, internal to yourselves, that work against you. Perhaps one of your partners has strong time commitments to other projects, or you have no funding. Perhaps you don’t have a background in business management or marketing. Perhaps you can’t think of ways to make your business stand out. It is important to honestly identify your internal deficiencies so you may plan either to address them or work around them.

Though we are talented technicians, [Company Name]’s principals and engineers are not experienced salespeople. We are starting 2010 fresh, with few recurring client contracts, which leads to the greatest challenge to our success being the slow growth of our client base. Overall, [Company Name] will struggle to be a sales-oriented company, as it is not one.

3. Opportunities

These are elements, external to yourselves, that work in your favor. These often have to deal with the specific market you are breaking into, such as high demand for your particular services or existing relationships with established mentors who can assist you in the future. A successful sword-stroke isn’t reliant on strength alone; it takes capitalizing on the right opportunity to make it hit home. Similarly a successful plan must take advantage of every benefit the market provides.

The primary opportunity [Company Name] will capitalize on is the rising cost of in-house IT support. An average salary for an IT manager in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2010 is more than $110,000 while our team-based approach for a client of 45 employees, even accounting for emergencies, could be as low as $25,000.

4. Threats

These are elements, external to yourselves, that work against you. These often have to deal with the specific market you are breaking into, such a customer base with limited resources, market oversaturation, low barriers to entry (meaning there is a great deal of competition), or a high barrier to entry (meaning up-front costs are vast). For a plan to succeed it must address these market pressures.

The sole exterior threat facing [Company Name] is competition. There are many Bay Area-based IT consultation firms which provide many similar products and services. It is possible that our comprehensive solution will be too expensive for some clients or not specific enough for others. Additionally, [Company Name] cannot directly sell hardware or internet connectivity; we are an IT service solution, not a reseller of equipment.

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