The 2020 budget season will be intense. First of all, it’s a leap year with a presidential election and that’s not all. Superintendents who have weathered the many storms of 2020 such as COVID-19. closures, record rounds, more cart traffic, labor issues, high expectations and limited resources to name a few will now be tasked with budgeting for 2021. You as superintendent must find the new financial reality that will impact you, your team and the property for the foreseeable future. Are you ready? Do you know what’s at stake? Do you have a plan? Here are a few strategies to successfully craft a budget during the most pivotal budget season of your career.
Take Time to Reflect
Before you jump into the spreadsheets and analytical processes, take a few minutes and reflect on what really happened to you and your operation this year. Congratulations! If you are working on 2021 budgets, you survived a global pandemic and its economic upheaval on top of your normal agronomic and weather challenges. You have done well. Now the next chapter can begin. I kept a daily journal this year and it has helped me track the ebb and flow of our business from closure, to one course reopening, to our new normal with COVID-19 prevention protocols in place. Whether you kept a journal or not, take a few minutes to recap and take a look at how you performed in these situations and realistically answer the question how will you succeed financially in 2021. Every course is different, but all of us helped set a few new standards in 2020, and we will certainly be asked to continue delivering controlled inputs with high expectation products next year. Take a deep breath and start putting numbers on paper to sustain golf’s brave new world and your role in it.
Master the Processes
Master the financial forms and processes that are used at your property. This year will require even greater mastery as you will likely have to defend each line item with razor-thin variances. Historical budgeting will likely be replaced with year-over-year projections, so 2020 becomes a base number and 2021 becomes a bit of a budget influx. Learn the language and gather the data and deadlines. Reach out to vendors and other superintendents to gather accurate projections for products, services and labor. Do your homework. Meet with all stakeholders of your property early in the financial process to confirm details and expectations. Do not be afraid to instigate these meetings as it will show your commitment to the process. Be creative and make forms and documents that capture your operational value. Maximize early order opportunities as they allow for discounts and lock in programs and pricing which can be very helpful in a volatile year. It will not matter if you are a rookie superintendent or a vintage one this budget season will challenge everyone to up their financial savvy to justify every dollar.
Communicate, Communicate and Communicate some more
You have reflected on 2020, you have mastered the financial process and now you must communicate the realities of what this budget for 2021 can actually achieve. You must remain a professional, positive and constant voice in each interaction, both formal and informal. You will be judged on the course conditions and course conditions are always linked to resources and effort. If you actively communicate to golfers/members, management
and/or ownership the consequences of budget cuts and the value of spending money that protect green assets as well as the potential revenues that are generated by those green assets, you will be successful. Failures in budgeting and expectations are often linked to poor or under communication so be willing to stay late to meet with stakeholders and remain vigilant in defending or adjusting budgets. Your private conversations should match your public ones, so take the high road, fight for every dollar needed and set the example of an informed and integral professional. This applies to emails, voicemails, virtual meetings and, yes, even social media. The old saying sow good seeds applies here, as a mentor once told me, “be sure to PR your P & L.”
We are in uncharted waters as we head into 2021. The golf industry has a lot to be grateful for as we navigated the challenges for 2020. Now we take the first steps into 2021 on the pages of likely the most important budget seen by our generation of golf course superintendents. I hope these strategies will help you put together a budget that is effective and innovative and may the New Year bring you health, wealth and happiness.