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Progressive Senior Living Leaders Conduct Strategic Planning: 4 Principles to Success

By Tim Cain, VP/Director of Operations Management at Life Care Services


Having a plan for the future. It’s a mantra in senior living. The question is, how well and regularly do community leaders, boards of directors and ownership groups conduct strategic planning? Here are 4 principles to success that all progressive senior living leaders follow when positioning a community for future success.

What to Plan For and Why

At Life Care Services, An LCS® Company, we’re seeing a number of factors causing community leadership to focus more on strategic planning. Among those:

  • New competition coming to town
  • Regulatory and compliance changes
  • Health care reform and decreasing reimbursement
  • Shorter lengths of stay with higher acuity
  • A healthier, yet still volatile, economy
  • Staffing challenges and shortages
  • Aging communities and renovation needs
  • Rapidly changing technology
  • Changing consumer habits and demographics

This infographic from LeadingAge ranks top concerns of not-for-profit aging services providers. Responding to these changes means your community’s strategic plan should be updated, modified, or at least revisited every 3 to 5 years. The challenging reality is that many not-for-profit Life Plan Communities don’t even have a current strategic plan in place.

Getting Started: 4 Principles to Success

The most successful community leaders, senior living boards and ownership groups properly balance attention on the past, present and future. It’s important to analyze and build on past performance, and of course maintain focus on day-to-day operations, satisfaction and net operating income. But if you get too caught up in the present and don’t plan ahead, the chances of you falling behind in your marketplace increase significantly.

  1. Define your mission and your vision.

Everything you do should be leading toward this. What is your cause; your purpose? What do you believe in? Many communities are working from mission statements developed 10 to 15 years ago. How old is your community’s mission and vision statements? Is it time to modify?

  1. Address the Why.

Why does your community exist? Why do we get out of bed in the morning? This Ted Talk explores how many companies may have a good handle on positioning what they provide and the benefits it offers, but the most inspirational is to address the why. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

At Life Care Services, the LCS Envision™ strategic planning process starts with a retreat and a renewed focus on the mission to affirm it’s accurate, inspirational and represents why your community exists. The process involves more than just community leaders and boards or ownership. It’s crucial to involve stakeholders’ input and perspectives. You want strategic planning to be an educational, inclusive process to identify the steps necessary to fulfill your mission and the vision of where you see your community going. Learn more here.

  1. Assess the research and start planning.

It’s necessary to complete an analysis on industry trends, market-specific trends and a self-assessment. Keep in mind, strategic plans also need steps to drive accountability and deliver results. Here are key components you should follow to develop a real and actionable strategic plan:

  • Market analysis
  • SWOT analysis
  • Strategic objectives
  • Action items
  • Timeline
  • Methods to measure success

Continued success at a community greatly improves if there is a well-thought-out plan that is developed with various stakeholders – one that defines needs and identifies and addresses the real priorities.lcs-24298-4-1_tweet-quote

  1. Communicate your plan to key stakeholders.

Strategic plans shouldn’t be just in a document that’s tucked away. Communicating your plan lends credence to all stakeholders’ voices being heard and builds support. This will lead to more satisfied residents, board members and staff, and improved financial results for the community.

Review some of our case studies and white papers about communities we’ve worked with.

Interested in partnering with us on your next project? Our team brings over 40 years of expertise in everything we do and has managed some of the most innovative communities in the country. Learn more about our leadership here.


About Tim Cain:

Tim began his career with Life Care Services in 1988. He served nearly two decades as executive director at senior living communities in multiple Midwestern states, and later as a regional operations director. Tim was elevated to vice president and director of operations management in 2013, and now works out of the San Diego office. He provides operations oversight for communities in the western United States and leads the LCS Envision strategic planning team. Tim has a master’s degree in health care administration from St. Louis University and is a licensed nursing home administrator.