You know, sometimes you just shouldn’t eat that extra piece of cake: it can ruin a good thing!

Similarly, you sometimes need to reject an offer or opportunity that comes across your desk. It might not be in the best interests of your organisation.

We sometimes miss the fact that it's not necessarily the best thing for us to have everything that we can get our hands on. If a business opportunity doesn’t resonate with the strategic direction or ethics of a business, it can actually be counterproductive, sometimes to the point of destroying a business or at least negatively impacting on their reputation.

A beautifully decorated cake in blue, white and pink, with text: Don't ruin a good thing with too much!

At the other end of the spectrum, however, organisations may need to consider their vulnerability to market changes and industry reforms and may be required to consider diversification opportunities to support sustainability. If an organisation doesn’t pivot their business at crucial times, they can find themselves high and dry without purpose or income. Managing any business, including aged care, can be a fine balancing act that management really needs to keep their eye on.

All major decisions made by management need to carefully consider how the market, broader trends and opportunities can impact on the organisation, as hurried business decisions and poor planning can lead to employee and client dissatisfaction, as well as financial losses.

It’s a good idea to carefully scrutinise all opportunities. Sometimes an opportunity can be too good to be true. Many organisations now require their managers to develop a business case to ascertain whether or not the opportunity is a good fit for the business.

What should you consider when developing a business case?

Well, these are some of the things that I would be taking into account when considering whether to apply for a grant or take up a new opportunity.

Does the opportunity reflect the organisation’s core business and strategic plans?

  • Sometimes a great sounding grant application or opportunity might come across our desk, but is it the right fit for the organisation? For example, if the organisation or business’ core focus is on aged care, then a grant opportunity to run a youth program may not be a good fit, especially if it takes the focus off core business.

How does the opportunity benefit the objectives of the organisation?

  • Perhaps the opportunity fits within the core business objective of the organisation, however it might actually detract from current projects.

What is the expected timeframe of the project?

  • Is it a short-term project or is it an opportunity with recurrent funding. Many organisations have found themselves left high and dry, needing to retrench staff and being left with empty buildings after funding has ceased. If a project only has limited timeframe funding you’ll need to consider what happens at the end of the funding cycle; do you seek additional funding or wind up a potentially successful project?

Are there any co-contribution or in-kind contribution requirements attached to the funding?

  • Sometimes an organisation is required to contribute a similar amount of money or some sort of ‘in-kind’ contribution. Do you have these contributions and are you willing to commit them to this project? If you need to contribute towards the project then you’ll also need to think about whether there is going to be a good return on your investment. If not, you might be better off saving those funds for a better opportunity.

Are there any dependencies within the project?

  • For example, you might currently operate a transport service and a day activity centre aimed at supporting low care clients. If the opportunity requires access to a registered nurse on the staff this could mean hiring a more expensive staff member who may not be fully utilised.

And that leads on to staff requirements. What staffing does the opportunity require?

  • Do you have sufficient staff to take on the project or will you need to recruit staff with the right skill sets? If you are operating in a very remote location and will rely on sourcing someone from outside the community, where will you house them?

What is the current capacity within your organisation, both staff knowledge, skills and time, as well as other resourcing requirements?

  • If you need to find an additional building to operate the project, what is this going to cost and is there somewhere suitable?

What are the expected costs of running the project?

  • Some opportunities come with only a small amount of funding available. You’ll need to consider whether the grant funding is likely to be sufficient to cover all costs of running it effectively.

What are the reporting requirements?

  • Years ago, I was managing a number of programs for a regional Council. Our Sports and Recreation funding was minimal and required the Sports and Recreation Coordinator to seek additional grants to fund the program. Unfortunately, these were usually small grants of less than $5,000, but the time it took to manage the project and complete the reporting requirements was out of proportion. I’m all for accountability, but if the reporting requirements are significant, then make sure the funding matches.

Along with the need to determine the project’s viability against the general operations of the organisation, you’ll also want to consider whether it is in alignment with your organisation’s environmental sustainability policy.

And you should also consider any other risks that the project may bring with it.

A well-run project can significantly impact the reputation of the organisation, however, the flip side of that is that a project that is not well run or is insufficiently funded and essentially ‘set up to fail’ can negatively impact your organisation’s reputation. So consider this possibility when applying or when you have been invited to tender for something. Sometimes it’s just better to walk away.

Should you Diversify?

But I don’t want to put you off applying for additional funding or expansion opportunities. As we’ve seen time and time again, organisations that are reliant on one income stream become vulnerable to program changes.

I think we saw that over the past 12 months, when organisations needed to pivot or look for alternative income streams because COVID travel restrictions and lockdowns cut off their usual income.

When looking for diversification opportunities you should consider:

What could you do that builds on, or is complimentary to, your current programs and competencies?

  • If you are an aged care organisation that is funded under the Commonwealth Home Support Program it makes sense to consider applying to deliver Home Care Packages or services under the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Yes, these are both different programs, with different reporting requirements and cost, however, they are still within the scope of your current service delivery, are community care focused and would take less time and energy to commence than, say, moving into youth services.

Sometimes you need to take a look at where the organisation has demonstrated capacity or expertise in the past, often you can build on this. One of the encouraging stories over 2020 was Stage Kings, a business that, among other things, designs and fabricates stage sets for productions. As you likely know, there were very few gigs on in 2020 and the team at Stage Kings found themselves out of work. To help save jobs, the business pivoted to creating plywood, flat packed desks – after all, the demand for home desks skyrocketed with the work from home mandate! By thinking on their feet, pivoting, using existing skills, knowledge and equipment, the business was able to stay afloat, create a new business stream and raise funds for out of work artists who would normally be hiring them.

In the example above, Stage Kings were able to use under-utilised resources. That’s something that you should consider when looking for new opportunities: what or who is currently under-utilised and is there something out there that fits with your organisation’s strategic direction and could help bring in that additional income stream that will support the sustainability of your organisation?

For those organisations that have a subscription to the CDCS Resource Hub, you’ll find two new policies have been added: one covering organisational sustainability and the other environmental sustainability. You’ll also find a template that will assist you in developing a business case (under the Management Planning Tools section) for any of those opportunities that come across your desk.

If you can think of someone else who might benefit from this article, send them a link. We’d appreciate it! And if you’re looking for more helpful resources, why not check out our Total Quality Package resource hub? We have culturally appropriate, tailored resources that are designed to make your job simpler and help you provide quality care to your clients. Click here to find out more.

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