Let’s dive into some strategies and tactics that can help break the budgeting process into manageable chunks and reduce the accompanying fear.
Standards of Excellence
Standards-setting must precede budgeting to ensure that club leaders and management are aligned in communicating expectations. At the highest levels, the standards should be affirmative, simply stated and realistic. These statements serve as Magnetic North to give departmental managers a clear-cut understanding of the desired destinations.
Superintendents use an agronomic plan to describe their intentions and methods. These descriptions identify the manpower required and the costs attached to that labor. Care and upkeep standards correlate to the activities required by the golf course staff to achieve the standards and frequencies required. Routine task planning, such as mowing, irrigation and fertility management, combine with special project needs to detail the number of hours and materials that will be consumed and the associated costs.
Superintendents know that most budget initiatives die because of a lack of understanding, not because the request is flatly rejected. That’s why those experienced in the budgeting process are among the most accurate and detailed in their descriptions, summarizing assumptions and providing calculations that underlie each line item. They make sure that decision-makers understand what is needed, why it is needed, and what the results and benefits will be if the costs are approved.
Strategic Goals and Objectives
Most successful courses and clubs operate with clearly stated goals and objectives, which are detailed in their strategic plan. Management is charged with executing the plan and achieving the goals. Their budget is a key element of their plan, forecasting revenues and costs that provide the financial roadmap to the intended destination. There are three guideposts along the way:
- Confirm that you accurately understand what is expected. If there is any ambiguity, it will show up in the budget.
- Explain what is necessary in order achieve the established goals and objectives. Show that you fully understand the fit-and-finish requirements of each goal and objective.
- Describe a path to completion that includes checkpoints so everyone involved stays updated on progress. Describe progress in terms of percentage complete, budget status and timeline. If progress is poor, say so. And describe corrective steps being taken to get back on schedule.
Open and honest communication is a key for successful budget planning and execution. That’s especially important to remember when preparing complex and potentially confusing course maintenance budgets. Here are three communications techniques to make your budget easier to understand and approve:
- Educate your audience. Most committee and board members are not agronomic experts. Therefore, superintendents and managers should educate them and club members in the art and science of proper course care so the budget reflects adequate funding to achieve agreed upon standards of excellence.
- Conduct field-day demonstrations. A part of the education process is taking decision-makers onto the course to show them what is working, lacking and needed. Show what is required to achieve the standards of excellence on which all have agreed.
- Provide monthly updates that show how the budget is being managed, monitored and achieved. Managers and members develop increased trust in superintendents who hold themselves accountable for the desired results. Provide visual updates to management, board and members so everyone feels invested in the outcome.
Henry DeLozier is a principal in the Global Golf Advisors consultancy. DeLozier joined Global Golf Advisors in 2008 after nine years as the vice president of golf for Pulte Homes. He is a past president of the National Golf Course Owners Association’s board of directors and serves on the PGA of America’s Employers Advisory Council. He's a regular GCI columnist and contributor.