Editor's Note

Sticking to Strategy

Accomplishing strategic goals can sometimes feel impossible. I have a couple solutions.

The easiest thing to do in life is come up with a plan. The hardest thing is to stick to it. That’s exactly why I loathe things like New Year’s resolutions. For starters, the timing is all off. By the time you announce a New Year’s resolution, you’re already behind the eight ball — you have only a vague intent to do something, and no time to get started. And actually following through on New Year’s resolutions? Well, I think we’ve all followed that pathway of good intentions until disappears in the brambles.

Frustratingly, the “New Year’s Resolution Effect” isn’t limited to our personal lives. The same dynamic impacts us on a professional level. I started thinking about that at the last Medtrade held Oct. 23-25 in Atlanta. The show offered a Mount Kilimanjaro of rock-solid professional education across a number of pressing industry topics, and served it up in a variety of formats. The show is easily one of the best values for industry education available to HME providers, but all that education can easily fall by the wayside.

Why? Because actual life intrudes. There’s a business truism that speaks to this: “we spend more time working in our businesses, rather than on them.” It is so true. Ask yourself, how often do you come back from a trade show with a dozen or so great ideas to help your business grow? Now, ask yourself how focused you are on implementing those ideas three months later? The answer for most owners and managers of HME businesses is that they likely aren’t all that focused on them.

It’s understandable Too many things intrude: an experienced employee resigns, you lose a key referral partner, a payer changes their funding policies, you get audited by Medicare — all the realities of running a provider business crop up and throw you off track.

What you need is a method for keeping yourself on track. I have some suggestions that might help.

Set SMART Goals

The first thing you need to do is set some goals. But what are the right ones? Nebulous desire to accomplish something doesn’t get you to the finish line. You need to break down your strategic objectives into individual milestones, and a good way to do that is with the SMART method of goal-setting, which was first described by George Doran in Management Review back in 1981. Doran’s tried-and-true technique requires that goals be:

  • Specific. Never work toward vague objectives. You should set quantifiable goals such as “I will expand my monthly revenues by 10 percent.”
  • Measurable. You must be able to track your progress toward a goal and measure how well you are doing using reliable performance indicators.
  • Activity-based. The goal will require steps to accomplish and you will need to map out these steps and accomplish them to work toward your goal. What will you need in terms of resources and help to accomplish them?
  • Realistic. Never be over eager or over optimistic in terms of what you want to accomplish. Set smaller, attainable goals rather than continually failing to tackle overly aggressive goals.
  • Time-bound. You must set hard deadlines for accomplishing your goals and hold yourself accountable if they are not achieved on schedule.

Setting the right kinds of goals is only half of the equation, however. Now you need a method of actually sticking with them.

Staying Accountable

The two best tools for that are regular reporting and review, but you need to have structure. Establish a procedure for reviewing performance regarding those goals on at least on a quarterly basis, and ideally a monthly basis. During these review sessions the team must ask hard questions and provide honest, objective answers. Are we on track, behind on our goals, or ahead of plan?

It’s critical for the team to use consistent, reliable data in assessing its performance for the past quarter in order to determine where it needs improvement and where it is excelling. Moreover, it is perfectly acceptable to recognize unplanned variables, such as market conditions, or internal company issues that are throwing you off-goal. The key is to start adjusting your plans for accomplishing your goals around those variables.

As long as you honestly assess accurate reporting data, you should start seeing trends that tell you where to tweak your gameplan for accomplishing your strategic goals. But the key is that you must stick to this reporting and review process. No matter what life throws at you, your reporting, review, reassessment and adjustment must always take priority. Easier said than done, but that dedication will make the difference.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazine. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

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