Social Service Agency Redefines Business ModelMost organizations jump at symptoms and situations and really don’t go deep enough to reach the source of the problem.
Strategic planning needs to have specific goals. It is a time-consuming process that involves multiple levels of employees, external entities, research and data collection and analysis. The pre-stage to strategic planning is to frame the problem(s) you are trying to solve.
Framing the problem requires an open mind and intentional deliberations. Most organizations jump at symptoms and situations and really don’t go deep enough to reach the source of the problem.
When this client came to us they had been in business for over 30 years. They were a nonprofit organization, offering services to individuals with disabilities. They were good at what they did, and their balance sheet was strong. For all practical purposes, they were doing well.
But the problem was that there were many other similar organizations that were also excelling in their industry. The market was saturated with competitors depending on limited allotments of state funding, but the pool of funding was not growing. Everyone was scrambling to maximize their share of that money, creating a fierce competition. Some of their competitors went the route of acquisitions and mergers, increasing their market share and reducing their overheads. Some mergers went well, but many didn’t. Our client wanted to know if there was another way to position themselves in the marketplace by creating a unique competitive advantage.
Therefore, the goal of the facilitation was to create a unique competitive advantage in the marketplace, while reducing dependence on state funding. We had our work cut out for us because their current business model (which was fee for service) gave them little wiggle room to experiment.
The goal of our strategic planning was to help the client create streams of unrestricted, unattached income that they could reinvest into the organization by hiring people of caliber, by engaging in research and development, and by implementing new technology so as to position themselves as a “Disruptive Force” in their industry.
We facilitated visits to other unique programs in other parts of the country. None of these programs directly applied to the audience they served, but each of those programs had a unique component that could be applied to our client’s program. During the strategic planning session the CEO presented his observations and learning. There were fierce healthy debates and brainstorming. By combining various key attributes from many of these programs, a conceptual idea was born that could be applied to the population they served making it a program.
Turning the concept into a viable business model had its own challenges. The client started small by testing their idea with few focused groups to confirm that the idea worked, collected data, and improved on the original idea until it evolved into a self-sustaining business in itself.
When we started working with this client, they were one of many small local agencies serving a very saturated market. Today, eight years from the original start of the process, this client has taken their idea nationwide, has a national presence and has grown substantially while reducing their dependence on state funding.