Quality of Care Ltd

How to Set and Achieve Your Goals – Part 1

We’re in that period of New Year resolutions and planning the year ahead. Setting goals is a crucial step towards achieving success.

How you set a goal will impact the probability of successfully achieving it. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of establishing one priority, breaking down longer goals into manageable milestones, and the significance of specificity, measurability and time in goal setting.

 

Priority Not Priorities

One of the key elements in effective goal setting is prioritisation. but there can be only one priority.

You may well identify multiple goals to improve your care business this year – more profitable, lower staff turnover, higher occupancy. While it’s tempting to pursue multiple goals simultaneously, spreading yourself too thin can lead to burnout and diminished results. Identify the most critical goal that aligns with your overarching objectives and concentrate your efforts on it.

There can be only one priority.

Having one clear priority allows you to focus your energy and resources, increasing the likelihood of success.

To choose your one big priority, write down all the goals you want to achieve this year for your care business and circle the most important, the one that will have the biggest positive impact on your care organisation. That’s the one to go with.

Of course, don’t forsake other important goals – just identify the one priority goal that must be achieved come what may.

For example, for a care home owner or manager maintaining a high occupancy level and reducing staff turnover and reliance on agency are absolutely valid goals. But if that care home is struggling financially because their fees are too low then receiving the fees, they need to be financially healthy would be my number one priority.

If your care business isn’t as financially robust as it needs to be then straight away, I would say make receiving the care fees you need your top priority because all you would like to do will depend on you being able to afford to. And down the line the very survival of the business is dependent on its financial viability.

 

Is it Challenging?

Research has shown that if a goal is too easy, it’s more likely that you won’t achieve it because it doesn’t arouse the brain enough.

It needs to be challenging enough that you think you won’t achieve it but not too much to be deemed impossible. The challenge needs to make you uncomfortable. It needs to result in likely failures, anxiety and frustration along the way.

That way it will trigger neural activity – neuroplasticity – in your brain which will create new neural connections that will result in improvements that will stay with you when presented with future challenges.

It’s the same process as learning a new skill. We struggled to drive when we first sat behind the wheel and now it’s second nature.

If learning to play the guitar you won’t improve unless you try techniques and styles that challenge you. I wasted about five years just learning songs that sounded good but weren’t overly challenging. In the last year or so I have focused on learning new techniques and songs that would take me weeks to learn instead of a few hours. Because of this I am a much better player, which helps me to learn new techniques and difficult songs much quicker and which has improved my confidence and the way I play.

Going back to the goal of receiving the right fees for all your clients.

Is it a challenging goal? Well considering your non-private customers – your local councils and ICBs – will do their utmost to pay the fee they want to pay rather than the fee you need, who are often very late payers and who have less money with more heading towards bankruptcy, I would say, yes this does constitute a challenging goal.

But is it impossible? No. If it were then all care providers would be struggling and going under, but they aren’t. And you don’t need to be a big corporate care provider who make enough revenue to manage on low profit margins. Our sister company’s two nursing homes for example, set and receive the right fees for all their clients and only around 3% are private.

 

Be Specific

Goals must be measurable with regards to what success looks like and how long they should take to achieve. They therefore need to be specific with quantifiable actions.

A new year goal to be fitter this year or lose weight or play the guitar better isn’t a specific enough goal and is very likely to fail as most new year resolutions do in the first six weeks.

A goal to be fitter by going to the gym Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday for an hour which will comprise at least 50 minutes hard work, 70% weight training and 30% cardio training is far more likely to be achieved. How will you measure success? The end measurable outcome could be a weight target, a fitness test or before and after images showing your physical improvement.

Back to the vital care specific goal of receiving the fees you need to deliver great care and return a healthy profit…your goal could be to receive the right fees for all your clients within six months.

And to be more specific, each fee needs to return a profit margin of between 25% and 30%. You have also decided that you will be prepared to serve notice if necessary if a council refuses to increase a fee. (You may well want to include the sub-goal to get the outstanding fees that the council or ICB may owe on you and set time limits.)

Remember, goals need to be challenging – don’t reduce your aim or vision just because you think it may be out of reach – you may not succeed in receiving the right fees for all your clients in the six months because your council is playing hard ball or dragging their feet to attend a client review meeting.

But if by that time 50% or 75% of your clients are on the right fees and the remainder still on-going, that’s still a massive achievement and going to make your care business far more financially stable.

This is where strategies and goals need to be flexible and adaptable and your strategy plan reviewed and amended as necessary.

 

Break Down the Goal in Actions and Time

Long-term goals, can span a year or even three to five years and can be overwhelming if not broken down into manageable pieces.

For example, you might have a major goal to open a new care home in a year’s time. If you think through the steps needed to achieve that goal or strategic destination, you see clear milestones/goals that need to be achieved along the way.

A goal, and the milestones along the way, needs to be broken down into measurable ‘how’ steps. How will you go about setting and receiving the right fees for your clients and how will you measure that success?

Those ‘how’ steps or objectives will then need to be converted into actual actions or tactics that you and your team need to take to achieve them.

For example, with regards to receiving the right fees, what ‘how’ steps – objectives to achieve the goal – would you need to take and when?

First you need to know your latest costs – your latest average monthly fixed and staff costs and your latest average hourly rates for your care and nurse (if you have nurses) teams. You also need to know your On-costs and Cover costs percentages so you can calculate true hourly rates not just the hourly rates you pay your staff. (These are real employer costs that can easily add 10% or more to your hourly rates and make a significant difference.)

Next you need to review your current fees against these up-to-date costs so you can see in reality how much profit you are making on each of your clients. I’ve carried this exercise out with providers to find their dismay that they’re actually making a loss on some and next to no profit on others.

I would do this exercise with costs that are going to come into force in April when the NLW rises from £10.42 to £11.44 because you won’t be able to do this exercise now, then repeat it after your staff costs increase by thousands of pounds a month.

Next you need to make sure you have detailed, accurate new care fees that you can fully justify. Then arrange client reviews so you can present these detailed fees.

How will you carry out those actions I just outlined? Who will carry them out? How long will this take?

With regards to time, splitting goals or projects into quarterly cycles feels natural. Achieving a goal in 3 months or having a 3-month milestone towards a bigger goal works well. Each quarter becomes a major checkpoint, allowing for adjustments and refinements to your strategy as needed.

For example, you could create a milestone that at the end of March you’ll have reviewed all your current client fees, have new detailed care fees worked out and have contacted those customers – LAs, ICBs – to arrange client reviews. (The next quarter would be focused on having those review meetings and negotiating for the fees you need so you are receiving them by the end of June.)

These 3 months then must be broken down into months (with smaller monthly reviews) and weeks.

Once broken down into measurable weekly actions and targets, you only need to make sure you’ve achieved what you set out to do for that week and that you have what you need in order to carry out the required actions the following week.

Going back to the receiving the right fees example…how long will the above actions take? How long to review your costs and current fees and so on?

This detailed approach transforms abstract goals into concrete, achievable tasks. By focusing on smaller, manageable steps, you build momentum and gain a sense of accomplishment, making the larger goal less daunting. Consistency in your weekly actions also fosters habit formation, which is a key component in sustainable success.

 

How Much Time Each Week Will the Tasks Take?

When you have an estimation of how long a task will take, how does that translate into number of hours each week and each day? There is no point in setting targets that aren’t achievable because there simply aren’t enough spare hours in the day.

If an estimated time for a task requires that you or another needs to spend 2 hours a day on that task but only an hour a day is realistic then that estimated time to completion needs to be doubled, which will then have a knock-on effect on the following tasks.

This is where your strategy needs to be flexible. You ideally want to achieve the milestone in 12 weeks but if you feel the time required each week is a challenge too far then don’t set yourself up for failure from day one and push the milestone out as far as needed.

Keep it challenging but not impossible.

What are the Risks and Threats to Success

Don’t assume that what you set out to achieve will go according to plan. You will encounter obstacles and hurdles. The more of these internal risks and external threats you can identify that may knock you off course, the better prepared you will be should one occur, and you may even find a way to eliminate the obstacle altogether.

For example, do you or relevant members of your team have the tools and knowledge required to set realistic average costs and accurately work out hourly rates with On-cost and Cover cost and use this information to set accurate, detailed, justifiable fees?

If you have delegated a task to another check that they know exactly what it is you need them to do along with the outcome expected and time frame and that they have the capability and resources to do it.

Give them the opportunity to highlight any concerns they may have such as a pending holiday or their ability to carry out the task. Ask directly and reassure that it’s better to say now, than find they haven’t completed the task satisfactorily in a month’s time.

Is getting a meeting with the council going to be a challenge that means you need to contact and arrange sooner in this process? Can you pre-empt and hence try to eliminate the barriers and objections you think they will put up?

Identifying potential risks and threats so you can mitigate, avoid, or eliminate them is crucial if you are to achieve your goal as planned.

Be SMART

What I’ve described above can be defined as a SMART goal.

It is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound (SMART) and provides a framework for crafting effective goals.

Specificity clarifies what needs to be accomplished, measurability ensures progress tracking, achievability balances challenge and feasibility, relevance aligns with what you want to achieve for your business and time-boundness adds urgency.

Applying these criteria ensures your goals are well-defined and strategic.

Conclusion

In the journey of goal setting, having one clear priority, breaking down longer goals into quarterly milestones, and incorporating the SMART criteria are essential strategies.

Combining these approaches with a realistic assessment of your time commitment creates a powerful framework for success.

The next big challenge is to make it happen – to execute the strategy and achieve the goal as planned. 80% of strategy plans fail at the execution phase.

In the next post I’ll talk through how to increase the probability of executing your plan successfully.

Throughout this post I’ve used the example of setting and receiving the fees you need to be financially healthy because, as I said earlier, if you are struggling financially, this is by far the most important goal you should focus your energy on achieving.

I outlined some steps to take. If you want to see these steps in more detail along with the methods needed and tools available that will help you, then download my free report, 5 Steps to Make Your Care Business Financially Secure.