We’re coming to the last month of the year and approaching the year end frighteningly quickly.

As care providers, April – being the new financial tax year – is really the start of the year, especially financially, with increases in the national living wage and the signing of new contracts with councils and CCGs.

But psychologically, most of us naturally feel that, as we move into December, we are approaching the end of the annual cycle and will soon be starting of a new one in the New Year.

This is probably the most important time of the year because it is when you need to plan for next year. What you plan now will have an enormous impact on how well next year goes.

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.

When the New Year comes you want to fire off the starting blocks as quickly as you can and in the right direction. To do that you need to have your strategy mapped out by the end of this year.

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

Make the big decision that next year is going to be your best year yet. Resolve that you’re going to eliminate the big problems that held your care business back this year. Decide that your care business is going to work better, achieve more and no longer create the stress and worry it has in the past.

Decide that you’re going to put your business on a path that achieves all these things and becomes bigger, better or whatever it is you decide you want it to be.

Once you have resolved to do this you should start to feel excited about next year – feel a new sense of drive and the determination that you are going to do this and make your business better than it’s ever been.

Only when your mindset is right; only when you resolve that next year will not be the awful year this year has been because of covid but instead will be the year you made everything change for the better, 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.

Essentially, you need to do 4 things; you need to:

      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.

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