Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once noted: “There are two ways to extend a business. Take inventory of what you’re good at and extend out from your skills. Or determine what your customers need and work backward, even if it requires learning new skills”.

Currently classed as one of the most astute business minds in the world and now ranked as the wealthiest person, Bezos has built a formidable empire based on his own advice.

So, let’s take a lesson from the success of Amazon and delve into what Bezos means when it comes to growing your business in these two ways.

Strengths, Opportunities, Weaknesses, Threats

In many ways Bezos is talking about that good old tried and true formula of the business world where you look at your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT), and use them to leverage your business success and expand.

More specifically, it’s the areas of Strengths and Opportunities in the spotlight here, with strengths being the areas you are good at now that offer room for expansion, and opportunities being the sector where you can step up to meet a need in the market that few have yet taken the time to explore.

Strengths – What are you good at?

Whether it’s a product that no-one else provides or customer service that is second to none, every business will have a strength that sees them outshine their competition.

The art is to know it, understand why it resonates with your client and build upon it within your business. And that comes down to entrenching the strength within your operation through your policies, procedures, planning and future skill acquisition.

In other words, if customer service is the strength that sets you apart from your competition, document exactly how each step of the customer experience occurs and what the expectations are so you can grow your business while maintaining and enhancing this attribute.

This allows you to offer the customer service strength on a greater scale, with each member of your growing staff understanding what needs to occur, when.

Then look to the future, and the possible threats that may impact this market differentiator. Will technology allow others to increase their hold in this space? Can your competitor step up and do what you do?

You’re looking to find which skills, technology or knowledge you or your staff will need to stay ahead of the game.

Opportunities – What do your customers need?

There are gaps in every market and the best in business have an innate way of filling them long before the consumer realises it was something they even required.

Kindle is Amazon’s best example of this, while tech giant Apple has a lengthy list of these innovations – the iPad, the iPod, the iPhone etc.

This field is not limited to products either, there are services that customers also want but in many cases are yet to know they need. In Amazon’s case it was online retail with next day delivery.

So how do you know what your customer wants? Well you can ask them through feedback, surveys and interaction and you can intimately understand who they are and the “problems” they face each day by creating a detailed customer persona.

Then you seek to acquire the skills that allow you to meet this product or service need. These skills might require you to gain a greater knowledge, or tap the talents of those who already have it, but either way you are growing your business based on your customer’s requirements.

The Amazon effect

In many ways Amazon has come to be what it is by focusing on both sides of this equation.

Bezos is famous for anticipating his customer’s needs through products, innovation and services, but he has also sought to grow by being the very best at what he does.

As Business Insider recently explained, Bezos still checks every email from customers that is sent to him and follows it up by forwarding it with a question mark to the manager in charge of that department.

It’s part of his daily business procedure that allows service to be second to none.

If you’re looking to understand your business Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats or seeking to know your ideal customer and find the strategies that service them better, I am available to assist.

You can find out more about how we can work together to grow your business here.