Taking the first steps toward a 5-year plan

Wells Fargo Practice Finance

Each of us will be somewhere in 5 years, whether or not we plan for our future. But actually taking the steps to create a written plan--to think, dream, research, and document our goals--significantly increases the odds of ultimately controlling our path and reaching our preferred destination.

Let's face it, business planning isn't fun or easy. It can seem impossible to find the time to get started. The secret is to just start somewhere--and there are several good planning tools available to help you take that first step.

Jump in with a SWOT Analysis
The SWOT Analysis--which stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats--is a classic business planning tool for analyzing a given strategy to determine whether the direction you're considering is viable. The process requires a certain amount of insight and research into your goals and objectives.

A SWOT Analysis for the purchase of your own animal hospital might look like this:

  • Strengths (internal characteristics of the purchase that make it advantageous)
    • Specialty services offering
    • Upscale location
    • Moderate overhead
  • Weaknesses (internal factors that could render the purchase disadvantageous)
    • Inexperienced support staff
    • Location not visible from the street
    • Limited business hours
  • Opportunities (external conditions that you can exploit to your advantage)
    • Growing demand for high-tech veterinary treatments
  • Threats (external conditions that could create problems for your business)
    • Increasing cost of malpractice insurance

Be sure to list every characteristic and condition you can think of. In the end, if weaknesses and threats outweigh your strengths and opportunities, you may want to modify your plan to improve your chances of success.

Master the Pro-Con Ranking tool
The Pro-Con Ranking tool is useful for less complex strategies. What sets this tool apart from an ordinary pro-con list of features is the ranking element, which lets you rate how important to you each pro or con feature on your list truly is. This results in a more meaningful outcome.

Let's say you're trying to understand whether purchasing ultrasound technology is beneficial to your practice. You might use the Pro-Con Ranking tool as follows:

Training has a small negative ranking of -2 since it takes valuable time to train staff, but the practice has had few problems with training retention in the past. The expensive value is ranked as a high negative of -6. However, the opportunities to increase revenues and avoid referring procedures to others earn positive rankings of +8 and +5 respectively. All rankings are added together, in this case producing a final ranking of +5, a positive result, if not a resounding endorsement, indicating the purchase of this technology might be good for your practice. 

With a completed SWOT Analysis and Pro-Con Ranking, you are now on your way to developing a broader 5-year plan that takes into account your key growth milestones, cash flow expectations, and marketing needs.

In general, planners are twice as likely to achieve their goals as non-planners. To learn more about how to get your 5-year plan underway, call your Wells Fargo financing specialist at 866-4MY-PAWS (866-469-7297) or visit us at


All financing is subject to credit approval.

©2015 Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. All rights reserved. Wells Fargo Practice Finance is a division of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.

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