General practice tool kit

Becoming an owner of a general practice

Your business plan

Last revised: 24 Oct 2019

Why develop a business plan?

Creating a business plan is one of the most important steps towards owning a successful practice that not only thrives but helps you achieve your personal and professional goals.
If you are seeking a loan from a financial organisation or investor, they will want to see your business plan so they know you have completed the necessary financial analysis and long-term planning.

Your business plan needs to:

  • articulate your goals and vision for your business
  • analyse your business environment and market
  • identify potential risks and how to mitigate them
  • describe your current and planned financial position, along with your business structure and financial control
  • set out what you will be accountable for
  • describe how you will measure your business’s success
  • identify aspects of your business you want to give high priority to, so that you increase the likelihood of your business being successful.

The specific areas that your business plan needs to focus on are:

  • The finances: start-up costs, forecasted costs, profits and losses, cash flow and break-even point.
  • The operations: your premises, key personnel, services, insurance, risk management and legal considerations.
  • The market: your customers, competitors, and industry, so you can determine marketing and advertising.
  • The future: your vision, mission, goals and objectives.

There are several tools and resources you can use to develop a business plan. These include:

  • the Australian Government’s free comprehensive guide and template
  • external parties (individuals or organisations) that help businesses create business plans.

Using an external party might result in a more objective plan, because they will question your assumptions and ask for evidence to back up what you are claiming. However, select an organisation or person who understands the medical sector, and can provide advice that is specific to general practices.

What’s the difference between a goal and an objective?

  • Goal: The outcome you want to achieve
  • Objective: The actions taken to achieve the desired outcome.

Setting SMART goals and objectives

Most organisations set SMART goals and objectives that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-based

Examples

Non-SMART goal:  “To increase the number of flu shots given in our region.

SMART goal:  “To increase the number of our active patients who receive the flu shot by 25% by June 2021.”

Non-SMART goal:  “To have the best-trained admin staff of any practice.

SMART goal:  “To have each member of our admin staff complete at least two professional development programs each year.”

Online technologies (such as apps, pre-consult questionnaires, wearable devices, and decision support tools) are effective ways of helping patients manage their health, and are increasingly common in general practices.

So that your practice uses these and other emerging technologies effectively, include a section in your business plan that sets out:

  • which of these you intend to use, and how
  • how you will keep abreast of emerging technologies, and assess their usefulness for your practice and your patients.

 Useful resource

Recommending health apps

Even while you’re in the early days of setting up your business, you need to consider what you’d like to happen with the practice when you decide to reduce your commitment as an owner. For example, what will you do if/when you decide to retire, take extended leave, make changes to your lifestyle, or move?

Your business plan should therefore have a section on succession planning that addresses:

  • What will happen to your patients and their records? How will continuity of care be achieved?
  • What will happen to staff, including GPs, the practice manager, nurses, and administrative staff? To what extent will you consider their financial, professional and personal needs and goals?
  • Who will move into your role, and who will move into their role, and so on?
  • What will happen to the practice if you want to close the practice, or sell your share of the practice to someone else, or merge with another practice?
  • What will happen to the practice’s goals?
  • If the practice is not being closed, what needs to be done to protect the practice’s financial viability?

See also

Closing, relocating, merging and selling your practice for more information about changes to your practice’s situation. 

In addition to developing a business plan, you need to develop an action plan sets out how you are going to achieve your business objectives. For each objective, your action plan needs to explain the following.

  • What – the steps (or tasks) needed to achieve that objective.
  • Who – the responsible person for each task. Select someone with the knowledge, ability and availability to carry out the task, as well as the required level of interest or investment in the successful implementation. Explain how you will hold each person accountable for completing their nominated task.
  • When – a realistic start and end date for each task and the overall objective. For each timeframe, include a buffer to allow for shifting priorities and unforeseen delays.
  • How – the finance, people, space, and equipment that will be needed to achieve each task and the overall objective.
  • Evaluation – when and how you will receive feedback and ideas from each person responsible for a task, monitor progress, and measure whether you have achieved your objective (if you’ve written SMART objectives, it will be much easier to measure and evaluate your success).

Reviewing your business plan allows you to assess:

  • if you have achieved your goals
  • if unrealised goals are still realistic
  • if the plan needs to be changed and what effect these changes will have on other aspects of the plan, people’s time and responsibilities, the practice’s finances
  • if your resources and finances could be better used.

When to review your business plan

You need to review and update your business plan at least annually, and whenever your business or the operating environment changes.

This means you should review your business plan:

  • at pre-determined regular intervals (eg annually, twice a year)
  • when the business structure changes (eg someone buys into the business, your partner retires, you form a company)
  • when there are changes to the operating environment (eg a new competitor opens in the area)
  • when the economic environment changes (eg interest rates go up or down significantly)
  • when regulatory changes are likely to affect your business, positively or negatively (eg changes to MBS or the Practice Incentives Program).

Each time you review your business plan, identify:

  • specific areas for improvement
  • how you are going to communicate the changes to everyone so they understand the changes and the benefits of the changes.

RACGP standards

C3.1A Our practice plans and sets goals aimed at improving our services.
C3.1B Our practice evaluates its progress towards achieving its goals.

View the standards >

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