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What Fiorina and Trump can learn from SWOT

Rob Enderle | Aug. 31, 2015
A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis can help your company face its greatest challenges and achieve success. Columnist Rob Enderle demonstrates how to use the SWOT framework by applying it to the two Republican presidential candidates.

The upcoming presidential election is particularly fascinating to me because I’ve covered one of the folks running, Carly Fiorina. I even predicted she would fail in her attempt to move into public office due to some correctible shortcomings. These shortcomings largely resulted in her failure at one of the largest tech companies in the world, HP.  

Donald Trump isn’t in tech and I haven’t followed him as extensively. His use of social media has been brilliantly inspired, with some exceptions, but those exceptions point to why he too could fail in his political bid. Interestingly, the two folks’ strengths and weaknesses actually dovetail rather nicely and, if they’d listen to each other, together they could make an unstoppable team. But neither would accept being No. 2 so this will simply be a missed opportunity assuring both fail.

A SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis can show you where you need to focus (what is broken and not) and provide a more sure way to eventual success. Rather than products, let’s use the two Republican candidates I find most interesting, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump, as an example of how to use SWOT.

Fiorina SWOT

Strengths: Fiorina is strong strategically and can see where an effort needs to go long term. She is very strong as a public speaker, in Steve Jobs’ class, and is one of the strongest debaters, if not the strongest currently running for office. She worked her way up from secretary and has a good grasp of organizational politics.  

Weaknesses: She doesn’t take direction well from superiors, which was a big issue with the HP board. She is a credit hog taking from others and rarely if ever sharing it. She even removed the HP founders’ pictures and replaced them with her own pictures, which turned much of the rank and file of HP against her. This could make it impossible to build needed consensus for her indicatives and retain top staff. Her tenure at HP is perceived broadly as a failure even though it arguably was more successful than the majority of her successors suggesting the problem was more the board than the CEO.

Opportunities: She is the only female candidate without political baggage and she is a strong believer in woman’s rights, suggesting she could bridge the Republican Party towards women. She has the ability to dominate a debate and as a woman can more easily physically represent a platform of change during a time when the U.S. electorate desperately wants that change.

Threats: She isn’t good interpersonally and was soundly beaten in her negotiation with Steve Jobs on the iPod.   Disloyalty by her staff is also an issue — the betrayal by her then CMO is thought to have been the final straw that got her fired from HP after she eliminated other supporters. So Fiorina’s greatest threat is likely being blindsided by a trusted supporter who wasn’t properly nurtured along with her unwillingness to do something critical to her success she doesn’t want to do.    


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