An overall aim for your practice can help every member of staff ensure that their efforts are taking the business in the right direction. A mission statement for the business about what you want to offer and how it is different to competing businesses can be a foundation for your practice. Do you want to offer specialist services, ensure happy customers, and have a profitable business? These are aims that will resonate with most practice owners and managers, but they are broad and non-specific, which can make them seem hard to achieve. Make it easier by pinning down key terms – which specialist services, who are your customers, how much profit, for example. As you do this, you move from aims to developing specific goals and targets.

On the practice floor, the difference between an aim, an objective, a goal or a target can seem unclear and irrelevant. Clarify the difference and you’ll find it much easier to see how they are relevant and to motivate staff too. The aim is the general purpose that you want the practice to achieve. The objectives allow you to break down the aim into specific ends, which in turn can become easy-to-communicate targets, which may be numerical and/or measurable. You can then devise a plan that will allow you meet your targets and reach your objectives, and outline the day-to-day activity teams need to do to put this in place.

As an example, your aim might be to increase your practice profitability. The objective for could be to see an uplift of 10% on each month’s income compared to the previous year. You could then break this down and give dispensing staff specific daily, weekly or monthly sales targets. A second objective within this aim could be to reduce running costs by a certain percentage. Alternatively, an aim of ‘more satisfied customers’ might need you to take action and implement a customer satisfaction survey. You could then find the baseline of satisfaction and have a goal to increase this.

An objective should always be a measurable step that will make progress towards your overall aim. You will probably need a handful of objective, some short-term, some medium-term and some longer-term. It can help if they are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Not everything can be achieved in one year: you might have a five-year plan for a practice refit, for example. Ensure that you have a number of goals to achieve in one, three and five years. Consider what number of goals is realistic. Will staff remember 17 practice targets to achieve, or seven, or will they focus best working on one or two goals relevant to their role? Ensure that each member of staff is clear about their part in achieving goals and targets. Team members will be keen to see the business grow and succeed, but if you can devise an incentive to reach the goals, so much the better. The more specific the target to each member of staff, the easier it is to incentivise them as they will feel that they have a degree of control over their input and results. This means ensuring that objectives are divided into those relevant to dispensing staff, reception staff, clinical staff, sales staff, lab staff, etc.

Once you have set objectives, consider how you will evaluate your achievements. Don’t just consider whether actions have been carried out each day: ask yourself whether they have achieved the necessary results. This can affect how you set your targets.  If you are trying to keep down overheads, for example, think about who has control over each cost area. Do you have targets for lab staff with regard to wastage, or switching off power when equipment is not in use? The more specific your goals, the easier they are to evaluate. You may need to create customer satisfaction surveys for all or a percentage of your customers, and this process can help you break down the stages in visiting your practice, from booking the appointment, having the eye examination to the dispense, fitting and after care.

For financial goals, it can help to have clear, simple spread sheets that sum up headline achievements in terms of income and profit, which you can translate to goals on the staff room wall for everyone to see. It is then easy to write up the day or week’s income so people can see how close you are to target. Think about how you can celebrate at the end of the week when you meet or exceed your target.

Whatever aims and objectives are right for your practice, take some time to consider what your business can achieve. Break this down into clear goals, make them relevant to staff, communicate the goals and evaluate them, and you’ll see your business grow.

SWOT and PEST analysis for your business

Doing a SWOT or PEST analysis can help you understand what’s great about your business and the areas that you need to work on. Work out the Strengths and Weaknesses of your business, the Opportunities for your business and the potential Threats. This will help you assess how your business is placed compared to competitors.

You can also carry out a PEST analysis, looking at external factors: the Political, Economic, Social, and Technological environment and how it will affect your business. It is worth getting to grips with thinking about this sort of analysis as it will help you show potential funders that you have thought about all sorts of issues which may affect your business.

You can also add Legal and Environmental factors to your analysis if relevant.

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