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Build a Strategic Practice Plan, Part 1: Your Vision

Every healthcare practice needs a strategic plan. In Part 1 of this series, we'll tell you the key components and how to start creating yours.

Team gathered around a table for a meeting

Most forward-thinking businesses have a strategic plan to help guide their decision-making and steer the course for future growth and a medical practice should be no exception. Even if you are so mired in patient care that you haven’t planned much for the future, it’s crucial to take time to think about your practice strategically and put together a plan that makes sense for your future.

If you’re not familiar with a strategic business plan, it’s a roadmap of where your practice is headed, and how and when you are going to get there.

The strategic plan is not a tactical plan to refer to daily, but a guiding document that reflects your practice’s values and direction. Think of it as a “reality check” to see if you are running your practice in line with the goals and principles you have previously defined.

Let’s say you didn’t have a strategic plan and instead of a medical practice, you owned a coffee and donut shop. Without a plan, your entire operation might seem fine on the outside, but it would not be as strong and unified as it could be with a plan.

Ask Yourself These Questions

Taking the coffee shop example, business questions would inevitably arise: Who will you hire — someone who specializes in making great coffee or baking great donuts? What advertising messages would you use to differentiate your business from competitors? What would your lighting, seating, and decor look like? These answers will all depend on how you want to present yourself and be perceived by your customers. Consider these alternatives: Do you position yourself as a comfy, homey mobile office — à la Starbucks — with free wi-fi that welcomes business people to sit and schmooze? As an in-and-out stop that gets working folks on their way in the morning in record time? Or maybe even as a kid-friendly spot for moms to meet up and enjoy a cup of coffee?

Pick a Clear Path

Without one clear direction reflected in every decision you make in running your business, customers and prospects might not clearly perceive your brand — that “je ne sais quoi” that defines you. You may dilute your brand by going in different directions or being reactive. Instead, decide where to focus your energies on a consistent basis to get the best results for your business both short- and long-term.

Your plan will inform all aspects of your practice, including how you and your staff treat patients, how long you spend with them, what type of nurses and other staff members you hire, and how to attract the ideal customers and employees. The plan will reflect your personal core values — the guiding principles that dictate your behavior and actions in running your business. Your core values are the underpinning for your strategic plan and essentially form the foundation for every decision you make in and about your practice.

Keep Everyone Involved

Establishing a strategic plan shouldn’t be a solo operation; your key staff members, investors, and any other important stakeholders in your business should be involved. If you operate a small practice, the planning team could conceivably involve everyone; with a larger practice, it will be your key employees and partners. All of the individuals involved should understand what they are doing and why, how they can contribute to the process, and how important the strategic plan is to your business.

When sitting down to create a business plan, you have the choice to conduct the strategic sessions yourself or to hire an outside facilitator. A facilitator can be useful in explaining the reason for and purpose of the plan to various stakeholders. They also act as an impartial party to lead the discussion, freeing you to participate in the discussion without having to lead it; create a more level playing field for all participants in terms of authority; and utilize their professional conflict training skills to handle disagreements or other tricky situations.

Analyze Your Practice

Once your group and facilitator are in place, an important first step will be evaluating your current business; this is where a variety of opinions and vantage points will be extremely useful and may lead to valuable discussion.

One common way to evaluate your practice is to conduct a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, through which you examine various aspects of your business to determine where you excel and lag behind. We will talk more about how to approach your SWOT analysis and incorporate the results into your strategic plan in the next blog post.

For now, try to commit yourself to moving forward with this important activity – even if it means a day or two away from your patients or your family. Start by scheduling an off-site meeting with the team that you’ve chosen to help craft your plan.

In the long run, having a detailed roadmap for running your business will give you the confidence and peace of mind that will more than compensate for the time that your team will invest in the planning process.

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