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Developing a solid business plan is a critical step for Community Rehabilitation
Programs (CRPs) who want to expand their agency’s competitive, integrated
employment outcomes. A business plan is not just a program plan and must
focus on a number of key areas. This includes the agency’s mission
and intended program outcomes, the realignment of staff and funding, diversification
of funding, marketing and linkages to employers, and collaboration and
This fact sheet describes strategies that CRPs can use to develop a business
plan for organizational change and is based on the experiences of Tri
County TEC in Stuart, Florida. Tri County TEC is a member of the CRP Leadership
Network that was formed by the Training and Technical Assistance for Providers
project (T-TAP). The CRP Leadership network is providing training and
technical assistance to other programs nationally who want to expand their
agency’s competitive, integrated employment options.
Question: What are the specific components
of a business plan?
Answer: The development of a business plan
should begin by determining if the intended business is necessary. This
can be done through research of community need, competition, and expertise.
When planning for organizational change related to community-based employment
outcomes, an agency must research the types of employment available
in the community. Find out who is already contacting businesses and
their success rate. Then, look at the organization’s reputation
in the community, staff expertise, and resources available for increasing
integrated competitive employment outcomes.
While there are hundreds of formats for business plans that can be
found on the Internet, at the library, or through small business agencies,
there are a number of core components that should be considered. Components
include identifying the business and then setting goals, responsibilities,
and the desired outcomes. The business plan also needs to define the
targeted customer group for the organization. At Tri County TEC, the
desired business was to expand the agency’s focus on organizational
change and community-based employment. The targeted customer group included
people with disabilities, their families, funding sources, and the business
community as their customers.
Planning and discussions with funders, community leaders, business
owners and donors must be a part of the business plan and the financial
planning process. Funding has become very complex during the past few
years. Develop a business plan that includes staffing costs, other expenses,
expected revenue, a break-even analysis and future expectations. Be
creative, look to new avenues of funding and take this part of planning
very seriously. Planning at this stage will determine an agency’s
ultimate success, and stakeholders at all levels must be involved.
Question: What is the first step in developing
a business plan for organizational change?
Answer: The business planning actually begins
with a demonstrated commitment by the organization to move its focus
to community-based employment at a defined outcome level. Focus first
on mission and intended outcomes. With business planning, start with
the outcome and then work backwards on how to get there. There are many
different models of business plans. It is better to start with a simpler
business plan. Again, start with defining the intended outcome, not
the processes. Attention to the steps necessary to accomplish planned
outcomes comes next.
Clearly define the outcomes expected. For instance, specify the number
of people who will find jobs of their choice and keep those jobs through
ongoing efforts. Look at how many people a year and what strategies
are needed to make sure those outcomes happen. Try to set a goal that
is not too small but not so large that it cannot be accomplished.
Question: Who are the critical staff and
other stakeholders that should be involved in the development of a business
Answer: Deciding who is included in the
development of the business plan and the resulting planning process
depends somewhat on the culture of the organization. However for a successful
outcome, all who will be involved in the implementation of the plan
should be involved in its development. The planning process at Tri-County
TEC called for management to set goals for outcomes that were shared
and developed with the rest of the staff, consumers, funding representatives
and board representatives. A plan was developed, financial implications
included, and then recommendations were made to the Board of Directors
for approval and implementation. Implementation strategies should be
developed with reports back to the board and funders on an ongoing basis.
Question: How can staff become involved in
the organizational change process?
Question: Once the organizational direction
is in place, what are the next steps in the development of the business
Answer: In order to accomplish organizational
change, staff need to own the process. An example of staff ownership
can be drawn from the experiences of Tri County TEC. In moving from
sheltered work to an organizational focus on community integrated employment,
staff had to understand that individuals with disabilities have the
same right and responsibility to work in the community as people who
do not have disabilities. Tri County TEC used a value clarification
process to help staff understand their own beliefs. This system started
very broadly and ended up with the staff members having to commit to
their place in the organizational changes process.
Staff members were asked to identify the consumers who could work
in competitive employment. They were directed to ignore barriers to
employment such as parental concerns, behavioral issues, transportation,
and so forth. They were asked to look at each individual and determine
if he or she could work. Management anticipated that staff would say
25% of the organization’s 175 clientele would be eligible for
competitive employment. When staff returned with their estimate, they
said that 95% of the individuals served were ready for employment! Trusting
staff and allowing them to be a major part of the process is one of
the keys to success. The Board of Directors then redefined the organization’s
mission with input from staff.
Question: Is there assistance available to
help support the development of a business plan?
Answer: The next step is to align staffing
and funding with mission and intended outcomes. The business plan has
to be based on consumer choice. Once it is known how many people desire
community-based employment, a programmatic plan is needed that describes
how many employment specialists are needed and how to fund needed employment
supports, including ongoing supports.
Identifying fiscal strategies for success are critically important.
Look at what funding is available that supports community based employment
outcomes. This process might involve a degree of negotiation with funding
agencies. Funding should follow the individual and not be locked into
program models that do not support consumer directed employment outcomes.
Work with funding agencies to take the funding and turn it into resources
for the organizational change plan. Many states and funding agencies
are moving to a more flexible “money follows the person”
approach to support the most appropriate and preferred community settings
for individuals with disabilities, including self-directed employment
choices. Aligning funding with intended outcomes involves both negotiation
with existing funding agencies to potentially redirect traditional funding
arrangements and diversification of funding to bring in new resources.
Answer: There are a number of organizations
that can help with the development of a business plan. For example,
one helpful organization is SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated
to entrepreneurial education and the formation, growth and success of
small businesses nationwide. SCORE provides entrepreneurs with free,
confidential face-to-face and online business counseling. Experienced
business volunteers offer counseling and workshops at 389 chapter offices
In addition, local Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development Agencies,
and the Small Business Administration are potential sources for assistance
in developing a business plan. Twenty years ago, these organizations
did not fully understand the importance of community rehabilitation
programs in our communities. Today, with the focus on community-integrated
employment, the perceptions are different.
Tri County TEC has been working with SCORE, the Martin County Business
Development Board and the Stuart/Martin Chamber of Commerce in a number
of different ways with internal planning. For instance, staff from Tri
County TEC talk in terms of diversity, and how the agency can assist
business to meet their obligations. This includes offering them qualified
employees, creating diversity, and contributing to the overall economic
fabric of the community. The intent is to give the agency a “business
look” rather than a social service look.
Question: What are the keys to securing the
funding needed to support the services necessary for consumers to be successful
in competitive employment?
Answer: Funding is probably the most difficult
part of organizational change, and it has to be the major focus in balancing
with programmatic outcomes and integrity. In finding the balance for
successful funding, the business planning has to be based on movement
to community-based employment. It has to be consumer focused; outcome
driven; based on relationships with funders; and focused on developing
new funding sources and a diversified funding base. Continuing to focus
on traditional funding sources with the exact same approach taken in
the past will cause the change process to stall and eventually fail.
Diversification in funding is the key to success. Diversification of
funding involves developing new funding sources and new populations.
Tri County TEC was able to continue and move forward by identifying
new funding sources, sometimes serving new populations such as the Welfare
to Work initiative for TANF recipients. It is important to note that
a number of the individuals in the TANF Welfare to Work initiative are
individuals with disabilities. This actually assisted in helping cover
some of the agency’s overhead.
Develop positive relationships with funding source leaders and staff.
Economic cycles and changes in funding policies have created a sometimes
chaotic and uncertain relationship for community rehabilitation programs
with funding agencies. One of the major keys in working through this
period of uncertainty is the development of organizational credibility
and positive relationships with key partner agencies. Speak the language
of funding agencies and build credibility with them. Offer services
that funding sources are willing to purchase based on the consumer driven
approach that leads to competitive integrated employment.
Tri County TEC succeeded in expanding its service area from 3 to 11
counties, because funders recognized that the people finding jobs actually
keep their jobs and in many cases move on to other jobs. Most important,
the agency made sure that each person and each business had the support
needed for success. With these results, Tri County TEC builds credibility
by offering services that funding agencies are looking for and want
Question: How does an organization effectively
market its services to the community?
Answer: The Business Plan must clearly define
marketing strategies. Everyone in the organization must become a marketing
expert when attempting movement to a focus on community-based employment.
Each person has to know what the marketing strategies are, where the
organization is trying to go, and why it's the right thing to do. Marketing
is not an issue limited to just the board of directors or management
issue, to just direct service or support staff. It is an issue that
has to be looked at throughout the entire organization.
When developing a marketing plan, de-mystify the idea of marketing.
Many staff members are afraid of marketing, because they think that
“special” skills are needed to market. Marketing strategies
must be clear and tailored to the organization. Remember the dignity
of the people served, and have fun. Some ways to get the word out about
the change in the organization is attending Chamber of Commerce meetings,
making presentations to local government agencies, joining service clubs
and business associations. Join! Join! Join! Encourage consumer participation
with marketing efforts. Be a part of the community and not apart from
Question: What are the potential pitfalls
in the organizational change process?
Answer: The potential pitfalls need to be
acknowledged in the business plan. For example, if moving from a facility-based
program, the plan has to look at what to do with the building once the
sheltered service has been substantially reduced or everybody has moved.
Plan what to do if staff that do not want to become involved in the
move decides to change jobs. The plan has to deal with those issues
as well as how much money it will take to accomplish the planned organizational
Assuring that the planning process goes through staff as a part of
the business plan will help prevent staff from becoming deal killers
in this effort. Management overviews the change process; staff really
is what makes it happen. Therefore, staff needs to be the drivers of
the system. Also, parents first of all want safety, security and happiness
for their sons and daughters. Experience and success stories in employment
will help encourage parents to become an asset, not a liability, in
the change pro cess.
Backfilling must be prevented. Many organizations appear to think that
as people move into jobs in the community, the only way they can continue
to exist is to bring new people into the workshops. Find strategies
that do not allow backfilling. Use strategies that in fact allow for
the downsizing of the center-based program and the elimination of the
need for the building. Have a philosophy and a business plan that says
priority will be given to every new students coming out of the school
system that go directly into community based employment. Move people
off the waiting list into community jobs.
Question: What are other important considerations
in developing an effective business plan?
Answer: Develop relationships and collaborations
with other organizations. Find the experts and use them. But don't just
use the experts within our own field. Look at what business is reading.
Go to a local bank president and ask: “What is the last book that
you read on business organization and planning?” Buy it and then
have staff use it. Go to the major businesses in your community and
ask them the same question. Build a library not just with the books
and the experts from our field, but also with the business experts.
Find how to use the information to make sure that the agency fits into
what business does.
Be creative and expand the agency’s horizons. Don't stick with
the same old way of doing things. Talk to people in the field. Talk
to people in business. Talk to people in the community and find out
what they are doing new in their business. Business is not doing things
the same way that they did 20 years ago. Again, if organizations keep
operating the same way, they will keep getting the same results.
Finally, celebrate success. Celebrate each consumer's success and each
organizational success. Study the failures. Study what didn't work exactly
right. Determine what could have been done better or could have happened
in a better way. But then celebrate those successes. Share the success
with the family, with the folks that you serve, with board members,
with staff, and with the entire community.
Information for this FAQ sheet came from T-TAP: Training and Technical
Assistance for Providers. Contributors for this issue include Suzanne
Hutcheson, President, Tri County TEC and Grant Revell, Director of Training,
T-TAP. The editor for this fact sheet is Dr. Katherine Inge. For additional
information on customized employment, you may contact ODEP at (202)
693-7880 or T-TAP - Dr. Katherine Inge, Project Director, email@example.com
or (804) 828-5956. For more information on T-TAP, please visit http://www.t-tap.org.