Business communication: writing a SWOT analysis
Business communication: writing a SWOT analysis

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Business communication: writing a SWOT analysis

7.2 Making concise notes

The following activity will involve making notes from longer sentences, so that complex ideas become more easily digestible as unnecessary details are removed.

Described image
Figure 8 The importance of making concise notes.

Activity 9

Having checked your answer to the previous activity, now transfer the strengths and weaknesses identified from the text into concise bullet points, using the following table. Use concise noun phrases (see the grammar note below) and formal language in your own words as far as possible. It may be possible to combine information from some of the sentences into a single bullet point. Some pieces of information are already concise, so require minimal or no changes. Use the completed examples to guide you and when you have finished, compare your answers with the answers provided.

Grammar note: Nouns and noun phrases

Many of the words that you select to make concise notes will be nouns. This is because nouns carry most of the meaning in a sentence. As nouns are words that name things, they tell you who or what the writer is talking about in a sentence, who performs the actions and who or what is affected by the actions. Some nouns are physical things, for example ‘bicycle’, ‘shop’, ‘director’. These are known as concrete nouns.

Some nouns are not physical things that you can see or touch; they are more like ideas or processes, for example ‘capacity’, ‘production’ or ‘competition’. These are known as abstract nouns. Abstract nouns are very common in academic business language as they are used to encapsulate key concepts and ideas. It is important to recognise them and to use them in your writing as they help you to be succinct and precise.

Often nouns are used with other words that add information to the noun, e.g. adjectives or other nouns. This grouping of words is called a noun group or noun phrase, for example ‘debt-free firm’s investment’, or, ‘manufacturing process’.

Strengths

Sentence in text Bullet point/noun phrase
1. Debt-free firm
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2. We have the best folding bike
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3. The bike’s design is still covered by copyright
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4. Our bikes have hardly changed in 20 years and we have been able to invest over time in the tooling. It’s a big upfront cost but it’s an investment we have already made
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5. Butler-Adams has further reduced costs by outsourcing non-core elements of the manufacture
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6. It is that engineering ethos that underpins Brompton. Butler-Adams said attention to detail – which started with the firm’s founder, inventor Andrew Ritchie, when he created the company 20 years ago – is Brompton’s main differentiator. They are built to last Engineering ethos and attention to detail
7. The Brompton is not a commodity product
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8. As only Brompton makes the spares, the firm continues to benefit from a revenue stream generated by the shops’ after sales and servicing Spares and aftercare revenue
9. Marketing so far has been by word of mouth: enthusiasts from its 150,000 worldwide users singing the praises of their Brompton
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10. Six-month waiting time is now down to three weeks
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Words: 0
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Weaknesses

Sentence in text Bullet points/noun phrase
1. The problem is a mix of capacity – emphasised by a six-month lead time – and sluggish production methods
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2. In the past we have not been able to make enough bikes to meet demand
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3. We have been losing market share … The market has been growing 20% to 25% a year and we haven’t been growing at the same rate Market growth 20–25% per year; losing market share
4. Patents Brompton had expired eight years ago
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5. Being based in a 22,000 sq ft site in London, it does not benefit from the low wage structure of Taiwan, where 80% of bikes are made
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6. Unwilling to relocate
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7. Our bikes have hardly changed in 20 years
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8. We had the chance to go into 15 new shops in the US but didn’t because we couldn't supply them
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Words: 0
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Answer

These tables show some possible ways of transferring the information on strengths and weaknesses to bullet points/noun phrases.

Strengths

Sentence in text Bullet point/noun phrase
1. Debt-free firm Debt-free firm (1)
2. We have the best folding bike Best quality folding bike (2)
3. The bike’s design is still covered by copyright Design covered by copyright (3)
4. Our bikes have hardly changed in 20 years and we have been able to invest over time in the tooling. It’s a big upfront cost but it’s an investment we have already made Investment in manufacturing already made (4)
5. Butler-Adams has further reduced costs by outsourcing non-core elements of the manufacture Reduced costs due to outsourcing non-core manufacturing (5)
6. It is that engineering ethos that underpins Brompton. Butler-Adams said attention to detail – which started with the firm’s founder, inventor Andrew Ritchie, when he created the company 20 years ago – is Brompton’s main differentiator. They are built to last Engineering ethos and attention to detail (6)
7. The Brompton is not a commodity product Niche product (7)
8. As only Brompton makes the spares, the firm continues to benefit from a revenue stream generated by the shops’ after sales and servicing Spares and aftercare revenue (8)
9. Marketing so far has been by word of mouth: enthusiasts from its 150,000 worldwide users singing the praises of their Brompton Effective word-of-mouth marketing (9)
10. Six-month waiting time is now down to three weeks Waiting list reduced (10)

Weaknesses

Sentence in Text Bullet points/noun phrases
1. The problem is a mix of capacity – emphasised by a six-month lead time – and sluggish production methods Slow, inefficient production methods (1)
2. In the past we have not been able to make enough bikes to meet demand Limited capacity to manufacture enough bikes to meet demand (1 and 2)
3. We have been losing market share. The market has been growing 20% to 25% a year and we haven’t been growing at the same rate Market growth 20–25% per year; losing market share (3)
4. Patents Brompton had expired eight years ago Patents expired (4)
5. Being based in a 22,000 sq ft site in London, it does not benefit from the low wage structure of Taiwan, where 80% of bikes are made Based in London, high running costs (5)
6. Unwilling to relocate Unwilling to relocate (6)
7. Our bikes have hardly changed in 20 years Lack of product development
8. We had the chance to go into 15 new shops in the US but didn’t because we couldn't supply them Growth constrained through its manufacturing capability (7)

Discussion

The words you used may not be exactly the same as the ones provided, but the aim was to keep the bullet points concise and formal, where possible using your own words and key concepts to group the information. Often this means creating a noun phrase which carries the main meaning. For example, ‘aftercare revenue’ is a noun phrase which represents ‘the firm continues to benefit from a revenue stream generated by the shops’ after sales and servicing’ in sentence 8 in the 'Strengths' table.

Sometimes being concise may involve using a word which means the opposite of one that was used in the original text. For example, when the original text said ‘not a commodity product’, the corresponding bullet point says ‘niche product’.

Sometimes when you make notes, you use words which are more formal than the one used in the original text, for example, the word ‘sluggish’ in sentence 1 of 'Weaknesses' is replaced by ‘slow, inefficient’. This is very important if you are making notes for a formal report.

If key concepts are used in the original text, these can be kept when transferring information to the SWOT table. For example, the words ‘design covered by copyright’, ‘production methods’, ‘market share’ and ‘engineering ethos’ remain unchanged.

Having now extracted all the SWOT points from the text, and having summarised these points using noun phrases, the strengths and weaknesses sections of your SWOT table will look something like this:

Strengths Weaknesses
  • Debt-free firm
  • Best quality folding bike
  • Design covered by copyright
  • Investment in manufacturing already made
  • Reduced costs due to outsourcing non-core manufacturing
  • Engineering ethos/attention to detail
  • Niche product
  • Spares and aftercare revenue.
  • Effective word-of-mouth marketing
  • Waiting list reduced
  • Slow inefficient production methods
  • Limited capacity to manufacture enough bikes to meet demand
  • Market growth 20–25% per year; losing share
  • Patents expired
  • Based in London, high running costs
  • unwilling to relocate
  • No development of product
  • Growth constrained through its manufacturing capability
LB170_1

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