It is often said that a ship without a destination is adrift at sea. Likewise, setting a clear strategic direction is vital for any GP (or Dental) practice operating in today’s primary care sector. However, business planning need not be an arduous process or one that should be left up to a single individual.
Business planning is a hallmark of a successful practice as it brings together and motivates the entire team to focus and achieve the objectives of the practice as well as helps steer the organisation through a stormy business climate.
There are a few simple steps in the business planning process that, if managed correctly, can bring lasting benefits to the practice, as well as enhancing the service to patients.
The first step is to tear up the current business plan and start from scratch. Operating in the primary care sector is like navigating shifting sandbanks. Starting afresh with an up-to-date perspective of the sector will only enrich the planning process and aid in the development of clear and current business objectives.
The second step is to decide who will be involved in the process. One option would be for the practice manager and partners to get round the table to develop the strategy, then invite comments/feedback from the wider team on the draft document. Or perhaps encompass the wider team engagement from the start, for example asking a practice nurse, receptionist or administrator to join in the business planning process.
The third step is to assess and evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of the practice; essentially what is known as a SWOT analysis.
Identifying internal strengths and weaknesses is extremely important as it recognises and celebrates its strong points. Therefore, the question you want to focus on is “How can the practice capitalise on these strengths?” But don’t forget to highlight areas of improvement. Often weaknesses can be turned into strengths after a little care and attention, all to the benefit of the practice.
Recognising external opportunities will help identify how the practice can grow as a business and increase opportunities to improve patient services, as well as identifying threats so that these can be minimised.
The fourth step in the process is to ensure that the coffee pot is switched on and a fresh round of pastries and fruit is brought in to ensure that the brain is refreshed and ready to continue the process. Get people out of the room and moving around and also open a window or two to let some fresh air in. Fresh minds produce fresh ideas.
The fifth step is to start and analyse the SWOT analysis. Try to get people thinking about practical ways in which they can enhance the strengths, minimise any weaknesses, maximise all opportunities and dilute the threats. This step takes time, as getting people to agree on practical measures can be difficult.
Encourage everyone to come up with ideas and solutions no matter how they first sound or are presented. Sometimes when “moon-shots” are discussed thoroughly by the entire team, eventually they don’t seem too ridiculous an idea. It is essential that everybody agrees on the objectives so that the entire practice, can work towards the common destination.
The sixth step is to gather feedback from practice staff or perhaps the wider team to see if the objectives of the business plan are fit for purpose or if there has been something which has been overlooked in the business planning process.
When presenting the plan to staff/wider team, it should be in a way whereby it encourages feedback and engagement so it brings the team together and everyone feels like they have contributed to the process, rather than a decision set in stone with a token reach around.
Once all the feedback has been gathered and the draft document updated, it is worthwhile presenting this again to the entire team to ensure everyone is aware of and understands the objectives and forward direction of the practice.
Of course, the amount of work involved in drawing up a detailed business plan can seem daunting, like a voyage into the unknown. BW Medical Accountants can help your practice plan for the future. Our experts have unparalleled skills and experience working in your sector and can offer practical support and guidance to ensure that your practice is firmly anchored and future proof.