Building a case for a bigger budget

Three-step plan for getting what your course needs to present top conditions.

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June 3, 2014

 
Henry DeLozier

Your course needs a bigger budget to compete and meet demands for consistently top conditions. You could ask politely, but there’s a better way. Here are three distinct steps.
 

Pre-sell

Meet with management well in advance of the budget cycle to make sure you understand the facility’s short- and long-range goals. Make sure your management knows the budget you’re developing is designed to align with the direction it’s taking the club.

Perhaps most important thing in this step is communicating that you remain dedicated to the club and will exceed expectations. In the days leading up to the budget presentation, have casual conversations with management about the work you’re doing to analyze the competition. Let owners and managers know you’ve walked their fairways and met their superintendents and you know what the market requires.
 

Due diligence

This is the heavy-lifting step because it requires that you develop a comprehensive agronomic plan that supports the quantitative and qualitative goals established by the board, the owners or the manager.

The budget you recommend should reflect that you have calculated every line-item. Don’t guess. Have your assumptions and back-up ready to reinforce your recommendations. The budget also should reflect ways you intend to complement the club’s high standards and member expectations.

What’s more, the recommended budget should indicate a strong understanding of the facility’s strategy and competitive position. For example, if a goal is to raise green fees, then your budget should show what is required to improve course conditions to prove the value of the increase to members and customers.

Your due diligence should include feedback from focus groups comprised of key constituencies – women’s group leaders, top players, golf professional staff and longtime members – to learn what they expect from their experience.
 

The presentation

The presentation might start with a review of the previous budget year, showing images that reflect the standards you will sustain and the challenges you intend to tackle in the next year. Present your budget proposal creatively. This is an opportunity to educate. Make your background and credentials (such as certifications) a part of your introductory remarks.

During the presentation, reassure management that you understand the facility’s competitive position, long-term strategy and objectives. Also communicate that you understand membership and customer expectations and desires.

Show sensitivity to finite resources of people and capital. Communicate that you’ve taken a conservative, prudent approach to your budget, using sound logic and anticipating changes that could affect the course and the budget during the year.

The plan you present should identify opportunities you have uncovered to accelerate goals and objectives, even if funding those opportunities stretch the budget. The budget should present – factually and not in a threatening manner – the consequences of underfunding.

Describe what you want the course to look like, the types of compliments you want the course to earn, and the criticisms you plan to eliminate with your budget and actions. Show how changes to your practices – mowing fairways mid-afternoon to get golfers onto the course earlier in the day, for example – increases revenues.

When challenged, be appreciative of questions and the chance to clarify and inform. Don’t take them personally. Instead, persuade the questioner of the importance of mission-critical actions. Set clear expectations and consequences. You might say, for example: “If we must make these reductions, I should reevaluate my plan to see how they will affect course quality and our ability to achieve the quality standards.”

The biggest reason budgets are not approved and people walk away disappointed is they don’t respect what should be a disciplined process and the roles that various stakeholders play.

 

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.