When companies embark on development of a business strategy and plan many use a tool such as a SWOT or, more recently, a SOAR to help them vet options and to chart a course of action. In years past I favored a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), but recently I have trended toward a SOAR (Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, Results) as it fits better into a future focus and results oriented exercise for an executive search process.
I have found that using the SOAR analysis as part of an executive search process enables business owners to develop a profile of the company that identifies the challenges a new executive will need to address, while also assisting the owners with clarifying how the elements of the SOAR can blend together into a meaningful business strategy and plan that can guide both the company and the executive. When combined with other elements of an executive search company profile such as the Organizational Health Checkup, owners can develop a comprehensive picture of their company as part of the company’s business profile.
When I ask owners to list their company’s strengths, they can readily list these. Agreement is usually reached on why these are strengths. Often it helps to review each company function, such as marketing, sales, operations, management, and finance, as well as discussing its people, processes, and systems, customers, vendors, distribution channels, etc. to make sure everything about the company is discussed.
Similar to the process used to identifying strengths, the process for identifying opportunities asks owners to discuss what opportunities the company has for change, what the company needs to do to take advantage of these opportunities, why these opportunities are important, how the company can benefit from these opportunities, and when the company will be ready to act on these opportunities. This part of the discussion may or may not yield quick agreement so often other tools are used to help them rank and prioritize these opportunities.
Once business owners have discussed the company’s strengths and opportunities, they are now ready to discuss the aspirations they have for their business. This exercise gives them the opportunity to express what the company should aspire to, why, and for what purpose; and helps to identify further the company vision and mission, while further outlining what these aspirations can mean to their company as whole and to its internal and external customers – its employees, customers, vendors, and business partners, while further elaborating on how they think the new executive will be able to embrace these aspirations.
Last but certainly I not least, I work with owners to discuss what results they seek in their business with the new executive. This discussion becomes very specific, and I find owners are quickly able to define what results, why, and when they want them achieved. I bit more difficult is asking owners how they think these results should be achieved, but if we focus on how the new executive can help them achieve these results, it becomes easier to evaluate and rank the outcomes. I find this part of the discussion most gratifying to the owners, as it provides them a sense of closure to the SOAR process and gives them hope that these results will be achieved with their new executive.
Using a SOAR tool as part of an executive search helps me to achieve a more comprehensive and strategic look at a company and provides a better sense of what type of executive can help the company and its owners to achieve their strategic objectives. Providing structure to the business profile discussion using the SOAR tool further enables owners and other key members of the executive team to participate more productively in providing valuable input to me as I develop the business profile and candidate profile.