A CEO’s Guide to Getting Board Buy-in on Your Business Strategy

Jan. 14, 2020

Are you effectively utilizing one of your organization’s most valuable assets? I’m not talking about your staff – although we all know their importance in the rural healthcare hierarchy. I’m talking about an often overlooked opportunity – and responsibility – to fully leverage the experience, insights and community connections of your board of directors (BOD).

Board members are highly skilled in many aspects of business, with insightful perspectives on the competitive environment and tremendous ideas you can put to immediate benefit. Not only can an inspired and informed board provide you with strategic support and vision, it can allow you the necessary autonomy to lead your organization.

In fact, a McKinsey survey indicated that two out of three board members would like to spend more time on strategy. Yet a related study showed that 44% of boards simply reviewed and approved management’s proposed business plans.

Granted, every board of directors is different. This includes the composition of your board, their level of experience, and whether you have a healthy agreement between governance and operations. Having said that, I offer the following guidelines for equipping your board to support your business plan.

  1. Involve your board in the marketing planning process - including your work and thoughts on service line prioritization. Review recommendations on priorities based on defined criteria such as revenue, reimbursement, downstream revenue, community goodwill, competitive advantage and contribution margin. Receive their feedback on your direction, but don't present specific marketing techniques or ask for their approval on messaging.

  2. Introduce them to successful techniques used by others, which may include unique alliances or partnerships. Even if your organization plans to remain independent, there are often creative ways to explore market share growth with other organizations such as joint ventures or other partnerships.

  3. Identify barriers and let them know what you're doing to solve them. Receive their input or suggestions on how to overcome these barriers. For example, insurance or provider issues.

  4. Educate board members on successful marketing trends. Share key articles on industry trends and successful efforts of similar organizations.

  5. Invite and encourage them to attend conferences, especially around topics that cover marketing or governance.

  6. Involve your board in marketing planning meetings and strategic planning sessions. Present potential ways to grow existing service lines and introduce new ones. Review recommendations on priorities based on criteria such as revenue, reimbursement, community goodwill, etc.

    • Our business partners have had great success using a four-stage planning process (which includes both a market and competitive analysis). Whatever approach you use to create your strategic plan, it’s imperative that your board be sufficiently involved to ensure their understanding and ownership of it, and to empower them to actively participate in growth.

    • Keep in mind, board members:

      • Are there to provide strategic oversight, not necessarily be the decision makers. Don’t get into the weeds on specific marketing techniques. You don’t need board approval when it comes to messaging.

      • Want to help the organization be successful. Give them the opportunity to provide input and feedback. Be open to learning from them through their questions before, during and after meetings.

  7. Share results with the board. It’s nearly impossible to be strategic in the absence of data – but also avoid “data dump.” Don’t get lost in day-to-day tactics that don’t tell the bigger story of growth. Instead, focus on specific results and feedback. Reminders:

    • Be transparent in terms of what went well, and what efforts fell short of your expectations. A few tips to keep in mind:

    • Every major marketing initiative should have had a measurable result, whether in terms of revenue, service line growth, increased volume ... These high-level results are what the board wants to know about. Focus on what you achieved and learned – not just what you did.

An empowered board is one of your facility’s greatest strengths. Get these dedicated community servants on board and you’ll strengthen trust and rapport essential for effective leadership.

Would you like to learn more?  Please send me a quick message with your interest and we’ll set up a time to chat. I can discuss how other organizations have accomplished these goals, and if you’d like, how to develop a results-driven marketing plan with board support for your rural health organization.

Email me at mikem@golegato.com, or call me directly at 920-544-8102, ext 101.  Let’s get it done.