2023 is approaching fast and if you want it to be better than this year then you can either hope it will be, in which case it’ll likely be worse, or you can, plan for it to be better.

Of course, your ‘year’ probably follows the financial year because of who your customers are and things like the increases in the National Living Wage and the signing of new contracts with councils and ICBs.

But psychologically, the calendar year feels more like the annual cycle where we reflect on what’s happened and prepare for a new year ahead.

The mistake most business owners make is to focus only on the approaching finish line and wait until the New year before deciding – and hopefully planning – the year ahead.

This results in lost time at the start of the year and hence often a rushed strategic planning process resulting in an inferior strategy plan.

Instead, start your strategic planning now and have your strategy mapped out before you start the new year. This will have an enormous impact on how well next year goes.

All too often, next year arrives and business owners simply carry on where they left off. The big problem with that is that the experience you had this year will at best repeat itself next year.

The challenges, the problems, the things that didn’t work out will still exist and, without a huge dollop of luck, the desire for a better year will simply not transform into reality.

So how do you prepare for next year? The first step to getting next year right is to start with your mindset.

Make the big decision that 2023 is going to be a better year than 2022. With the huge rises in costs and the legacy of the pandemic, including issues with recruitment, setting a plan to make next year better than this is going to be a big enough challenge and a great goal to achieve.

Only when your mindset is right; only when you decide that next year will not be the awful year this year has been can you then make it happen.

Only then can you think about what you need to do to make this happen.

That is your starting point.

Next you set aside time.

This will not happen if you think you’ll get round to it when you have some free time.

You don’t have any free time and so if you don’t set aside time for how you will make next year better then something else will grab that time and before you know it time has run out and the year end is upon you.

So how much time should you set aside? Well, that depends on the current size and state of your business. The smaller your business the less complex the plan you need to create and the stronger your business the fewer challenges you’ll have faced that you need to overcome.

Having made the decision to do this and set aside the time in your diary to actually do this, the next step is to reflect on the year that has almost passed.

What were your biggest challenges? Clearly rising costs will be up there and possibly recruitment. Maybe occupancy if you run a care home, which could be linked to recruitment or linked to fees that commissioners want to pay that are too low.

Identify the top three or five issues that stopped you achieving your goals this year or that had the biggest impact of your organisation and resolve that you will do all you can to eliminate these problems.

You may have one large challenge that if resolved will have domino effect and resolve other issues.

For example, for the vast majority of care providers I would argue your biggest challenge is financial viability or more specifically, receiving the right fees.

Resolve that and issues like recruitment may well be resolved because you can pay competitively. Sort this out and, if you also have an occupancy level issue because you didn’t have enough staff, well that is resolved too.

Decide that you’re going to address your biggest problem (fees?) and you can then plan how you will address the other challenges (like recruitment and occupancy and maybe training) because you can afford to.

Now you can create a strategy plan that gets your organisation to where you want it to be.

Essentially, you need to do the following 4 things:

       1.   Identify where you want your care business to be at the end of next year or whenever you aim to reach your next strategic destination.

       2.   Assess where your business is now.

       3.   Figure out how you will best get from where you are now to where you want to be and make sure that you’ve planned how to overcome the  obstacles ahead.

       4.   Identify the key metrics that you need to measure to ensure you know you’re on course.

For a small to medium care business the first step may take a couple of hours. Step 2 may take a working day. Step 3 may take 2 to 3 working days and step 4 half a day.

So, you may be looking at around a week’s worth of time and focussed effort.

A larger business will of course take longer.

Estimate how long you’ll need to create your strategy plan for the year ahead (and add another day or two to be on the safe side) and set aside this time in your diary.

Get your diary or calendar – do this now before you tackle the next thing on your list – and allocate the time needed to plan for next year. How much time you need will depend on what plans you already have in place, how well your care business is running, the quality of the plan you want to create and the size of your business.

It’s so important that you get this preparation right – it really will make all the difference to not just the kind of year you’ll have but it will help lay the foundation to make each year better and better.

Having a strategy is absolutely key to success and a fundamental building block for your business foundation. Read more about the Strategy Building Block here.

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