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Being the best in the business

A young man with a trendy haircut and big smile sits in his wheelchair. The background behind him is red.

The key to success (and in-demand services) can be found in fine tuning your offering, and being the very best in the business at doing whatever it is you do!

That’s why Elizabeth Hickey recommends National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers get clear about who they want to service and what they want to deliver – so they can create a point of difference through specialisation.

Elizabeth runs AFA Support Coordination and believes that identifying your perfect client and niching down your business can tip you into the world of big success. The questions and answers below show she’s got some great insights to share!

Q. Why is specialisation so important?

A. The NDIS is based around providing individualised support to participants, so they can navigate the impact of their disability. As service providers, we have a responsibility to ensure services meet participants’ needs in a way that’s cost effective, of the highest quality, and achieves the National Disability Insurance Agency’s (NDIA) ‘reasonable and necessary’ requirements.

One of the best ways for providers to ensure they deliver high quality services is to specialise. This doesn’t mean they should only provide services to people with one type of disability or have a very narrow view of support – it’s about identifying the strengths of the services they deliver and discovering exactly who their perfect client is.

Q. How have you seen this play out?

A. Whenever I meet a new provider, one of my first questions is ‘What client group do you typically work with?’. Many times, the response I receive is ‘Everyone – our services aren’t specialised’. This means they don’t know who their service best supports (or they don’t want to market to that) or they’re not focused on providing individualised support.

So many times, I need to tease out who their best client is and what they do that makes them different.
As a support coordinator, when I’m looking for new providers for my clients, I want to find someone who’s likely to be able to meet their needs with the least amount of work. I apply this to my own service delivery as well. A provider should be able to easily identify and meet the need that their client is engaging their service for. That may be through specific training, a delivery method, or even lived experience.

This is important for support coordinators as well. We need to be able to easily understand the general needs of our clients, have a good idea of what supports they’ll need and where they can be accessed, and work with them around crisis points. The more comfortable a provider is, the more rapidly and smoothly these things will happen.

If, as providers, we know a select number of service delivery support areas well, this can be achieved easily and we can provide amazing service to our clients.

Q. How can you specialise while still working with a wide range of people?

A. It doesn’t matter what sort of service you deliver – be it plan management, gardening, occupational therapy, support work, or any one of the many other services out there that provides NDIS support – service delivery doesn’t have to be restricted to one specific group of people.

Many groups (depending on what your specialty is) overlap. The overlap may be as simple as the specific service you deliver (e.g., home visit physiotherapy), so you work with many different client groups, or it could be more specific (e.g., a support coordinator who’s skilled in a specific disability service, such as Supported Independent Living – SIL).

By identifying your specialties, how they can be used, and who your perfect client is, not only can you easily work with a specific group of people, but you can also identify a wider range of clients to target and work with.

Q. How do you identify your perfect clients and specialties?

A. There are three things to identify when considering specialisation and your perfect client:

#1: What you do best – every service you provide can, and probably already does, have a point of difference, be it having lots of support workers who do a great job of providing short notice supports, a speech therapist who focuses on one specific problem, or a support coordinator who works well with families.

By identifying what you do well and using that to focus the support you provide, you’ll be in a better position to offer support and services to a range of clients in a way that meets their needs and provides quality service.

#2: Who your perfect client is – have a look at your clientele. Who does your organisation work best with? What sort of participant does your business attract? Do you work more with families or individuals? Is it one type of disability you focus on? Is there a specific thing you do well for participants, or do you attract people for a specific reason?

#3: What sets your service apart from others – do you do things in a particular way, offer a specific thing, or have a type of worker on staff? Think about it.

These three questions may only need to be considered once, or you might need to come back to them several times. Depending on the services you offer, you may need to go through the process for different worker types, different supports, and different services.

Getting clear on these things is an important part of business. It allows for skill gaps to be mapped, training to be identified, future recruitment to be planned, and business development and service growth to occur. It also helps businesses and their workers to understand who they serve best, so that when enquiries are received from potential new clients, the team knows if it’s best placed to accept the work or refer to another provider.

One thing to note is that specialisation isn’t a discriminatory practice, nor does it mean you’re restricted to working with one group of clients.

By working primarily with a specific group (or groups) of participants, you’re better able to address their needs, provide great services, and deliver value for money.

Knowing what your business does well, being aware of the focus areas of other providers in the market and being open and clear with potential clients and referral partners is an important sign of a quality business.

Plus, being great at what you do and developing a strong referral network reduces the need for advertising and ensures you enjoy a positive reputation!

Q. How does specialisation address service delivery quality?

A. Through the identification of your service specialties, you’re better able to deliver targeted support in a high quality and speedy fashion. This is because workers are empowered to concentrate on specific areas of support and, as such, focus on developing the skills and knowledge needed to deliver them.

The NDIS Code of Conduct states that all providers should ‘provide supports and services in a safe and competent manner with care and skill; act with integrity, honesty, and transparency’. By identifying and focusing on service delivery, providers who specialise are able to ensure that workers are trained and skilled in providing specific support and communication with new participants and their families about what their services can deliver. This information is more likely to be accurate, honest, and transparent.

By focusing on what your business does best – your specialty – you’re also positioned to deliver services that are reasonable and necessary, and value for money.

Another part of being an NDIS provider – especially if you’re NDIS-registered – is constant review, improvement and training. By focusing on one or more specialties, a business is able to train its workers in specific areas, thus reducing the overall amount of training time required.

Identifying specialties also allows a business to more easily review outcomes for participants and identify new groups of participants, as the support may be complementary or only require a small amount of training for workers to become competent.

Providers benefit from specialisation in marketing and new client intake as well. The disability industry primarily relies on and utilises word of mouth – you only need to talk to a small group of clients within a community to know that they’re all connected.

It may be a local social media group, a provider that’s common to many, or a carer support network, but word of mouth is important – it’s the basis of a provider’s reputation. By specialising and providing both quality and value for money, service providers can increase the likelihood of being talked about positively.

Now it’s your turn!

One way to identify your perfect client is to look at your current client base. By recognising the type of client you get the best results for, and those that are the best fit for your team, you can identify who you’re best able to serve – and you can then leverage this knowledge to adjust and identify improvements to service delivery.

Here are some questions to help you map out who your perfect client is:

  1. What’s the average age of the clients I’ve served best?
  2. Do my clients tend to fall into a specific gender category?
  3. What’s their background?
  4. Do they have a specific interest?
  5. What’s their family situation?
  6. Do I deliver to one disability group?
  7. Is there a specific cultural or religious group I work with?
  8. Do I deliver a specific service that clients always ask for?
  9. What sort of client is referred to me through word of mouth?
  10. What services do my support workers enjoy delivering the most?
  11. Where does my business get the best outcomes?
  12. Do I communicate with clients in a specific way?

We hope this knowledge has helped lift your game so you can identify your perfect client and gear supports towards serving them best.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
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