2021 Senior Living Trends Survey: Focus on Strategic Planning

  • Industry trends
  • 10/13/2021

Key insights

  • CLA surveyed senior living providers across the United States to understand critical trends.
  • Although respondents were limited to life plan communities, the trends tend to be universal and applicable to a broader arena of senior living providers.
  • A focus on strategic planning with an eye toward the trends identified can help you build a stronger future.

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After working with and surveying many senior living providers, one observation rose to the top: strategic planning, now more than ever, is key to future success.

6 things you may not know about strategic planning

Many providers prepare business plans, not strategic plans

Business plans play the priority role for managing operations in rapidly changing environments, or when dealing with a crisis. But when your business plan IS your strategic plan, you have a board-level risk. A business plan is not a strategic plan.

  • A business plan covers the “who” and “what” of the business.
  • A strategic plan provides the “how,” “when,” and, often, the “why.”

Evaluate your own plans and determine whether the time is right to step out of business planning and elevate to strategic planning. Strategic planning to a large extent asks organizations the big questions and focuses on the long-term. For example, asking what needs to be done to increase nursing census feels like a business plan question; asking if we should eliminate nursing all together feels like a strategic planning question.

The secret sauce of strategic planning is … the vision quest

Board members are often volunteers, have limited time, and may lack deep insight into operations. Therefore, they often rely heavily on management teams for the backbone of a strategic plan, and, as a result, many strategic planning experiences land closer to short-term business planning. Employing visioning exercises changes the conversation and can help transform an organization. An effective visioning session frees up the power of dreams and focuses participants on the long-term, painting a different picture of where the organization will be in 10 – 15 years.

For example, one board may say “In 10 – 15 years, we will have state of the art facilities with a full continuum of care.” Another board may say “In 10 – 15 years, we will operate two additional locations, manage other communities, and have a robust network of services helping those who choose to live at home.” That is the beauty — each organization may consider different outcomes based on their unique mission statements. Board retreats focused on trends (our senior living trends research for example) and fun visioning exercises can do wonders for your strategic planning efforts.

Financial planning provides the scaffolding for strategic planning

After living vicariously through our clients and helping organizations develop and implement strategic plans, we recognize that the best intentions in the world don’t move you from A to Z. To accelerate change and execution of strategic plans, pair your strategic plan with a companion financial plan.

Don’t be afraid of a companion financial plan that may cause pain if you need to improve margins, may require you to incur growth to increase your economic strength, or may require outside help to execute. This honest assessment of your capabilities can help you identify the resources needed to implement your strategic plan. Ultimately, a companion financial plan can open your eyes wide and provide a monetary road map to achieving your strategic plan.

Demographics are destiny

You don’t channel a tsunami to a different path or even gently let it guide you. You surf it all the way to where it takes you, get behind it and follow, or you get out of the way. The sheer number of individuals aging over the next 20 years creates tremendous opportunity, competition, and innovation.

This is a great time to tackle the question of organizational readiness and desire to prepare for these changes. Do we grow? If so, how? Where? What is our appetite for growth? Is our board ready to lead through periods of growth? Are we entrepreneurial enough? Many questions that tackle organizational issues can be addressed in strategic planning, then coupled with market analysis to help you understand market dynamics and develop strategies to move ahead.

More data is … more data (seek out the insights)

It is important to tackle data. It is even more important to convert that data into usable insights. With the reduced costs of technology and access to new sources of data, there may very well be opportunities to think of “data” as a new currency which you have but may have not figured out how to spend.

In its rawest form, data is of little value. It is only when it is aggregated, compared, and interpreted that it becomes an effective tool to understand the internal and external factors that drive business performance, reduce risk, and establish a competitive advantage. Leverage your data to create actionable insights and enhance performance – if you have not started your journey to an information-based enterprise, now is the time to start!

Master planning is strategic planning — but often without the strategy

For many providers, change involves capital expenditures costing millions of dollars employing assets with 30 year lives. For those situations, a major campus repositioning might as well be a strategic plan … without the strategy.

Instead, think of master planning as chess, where a move today precludes many moves in the future. The risk of the wrong move is greatly amplified over time. Do your strategic plan first, then set the team loose on a master plan for your site(s).

How we can help

Our senior living team can help you create exciting, yet achievable plans for the future. We offer a broad perspective by considering the strategic, market, financial, operational, and clinical needs of senior living providers including single-site facilities, multi-site systems, community service providers, and other continuing care and long-term care organizations. Tap our team to help you:

  • Create a strategic plan
  • Facilitate board visioning retreats
  • Use financial modeling tools to show possible impacts of your decisions or to create a long-term financial roadmap for your organization.
  • Conduct market analysis
  • Aide in the acceleration and transformation of data to insights
  • Work closely with architects, developers, and others to facilitate your master planning

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