By Gerry Spitzner
There’s an old saying: If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Of course, a more optimistic version would be: If you make a good plan, you increase your chances of success!
That concept is important to keep in mind, especially if you’re making plans for the year ahead. For example, if you’re considering adding a new patient service, renovating your location or making operational improvements, this is the best time to start getting the information you need – even if you don’t intend to move on it until later in the year.
It’s never too early to start planning. If you begin getting some of the answers you need now, your business idea or efforts to reposition your business will be a lot less stressful and much more successful.
“If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.” ~ Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People
Before you start, remember this important insight to planning: just because you think or feel there is a need doesn’t necessarily mean there is a market. Creating a neat patient service idea, pushing it out the door and hoping it works is not a business strategy; you need a better compass than that.
Just because it’s a cool service idea doesn’t mean it can be a good business. What some people do is they’ll develop solutions that don’t necessarily have a market problem or in marketing terms, a pain point. And then they leap to the designing and the doing of the service and hope it works.
Far too many people run around spending time finding solutions to problems that don’t actually matter in the marketplace. So, avoid coming up with a solution looking for a problem.
It’s important to understand that strategy and planning are two different things. Strategy always guides planning. Not the other way around. Strategy is the compass. It’s the north star. So, don’t make the mistake of identifying a need without establishing a market first.
“Plans are worthless, but planning is everything” ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower, US President, 1948-1953
Remember this truism: no business plan ever survives contact with a customer. So, in that context, plans are worthless, but the planning part is everything.
Now, the important question follows: so, why do we plan in the first place? Strategic plans allow us to review where we are now, and to strategize about where we would like to be in the future. They help us to adopt a “how do we get from here to there” way of thinking.
The key is not to get stuck in planning, but rather to stay flexible with a business model that enables the way we think about it, what we do about it, and the resources we devote to it.
Do we plan because we want to know how the business idea will look? No. What we actually plan is the search for the right business model. The business model is how to deliver the service in a way that benefits and creates value for your customer, the impact it has on patients’ lives, the applied benefit.
Planning is important, but testing is essential
However, before you get going on developing the business model, a good place to start is with a basic business map. It’s a good place to begin before the more in-depth business model planning process, but still leaves you with a basic strategic plan to help direct your patient service and business.
Think of business mapping like creating a prototype of your patient service or business idea, something that captures the essence of what you intend to do but will also need to be refined. It is your tool of inquiry and will serve as a thinking aid for you to explore your new business idea for proof of concept.
Its focus is simply: how you create value. Designing a basic business map can sometimes be enough for you to decide if your business venture or patient service is worth pursuing. If the business doesn’t have a particularly strong economic model – it can take up a lot of resources like expensive labour to bring in revenue – or may be facing a lot of competition in the marketplace.
Begin with the end in mind
In every planning endeavour, beginning at the end means getting the key elements of the business model in front of customers and key stakeholders as quickly as possible and getting them involved.
Always begin with your ideal customer and trace backwards from them, identify the outcomes they need, want and desire, then create your patient service and the business model to deliver it.
If you get the customer involved in the development of your service, you’ll tend to have something that’s informed by customers’ needs and wants, and you’ll have something which will probably attract customers to pay you market rate.
Since every business and service offer a customer experience, they go through a journey. That path to purchase comprises a set of experiences. The more aware a pharmacy is of what customers need and want, the more likely it will be to create desire.
That journey is crucial to maximizing value from your customer’s perspective. Those experiences shape how customers will react as you deliver your marketing messages and offer additional services.
Gerry Spitzner is the founder and principal consultant of pharmacySOS.ca, a Vancouver-based business management consultancy providing strategic operations services focused on drug stores and pharmacies. For more information: http://pharmacysos.ca/