Proactive budgeting

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June 8, 2022

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They say it’s never too early for ice cream, to get out of bed, or to be someone. That adage also holds true for budgeting, a task for which you can definitely be too late.

We’ve hit the mid-year mark. For most facilities, budgets won’t be finalized until the end of 2022. But that doesn’t mean managers shouldn’t be getting serious about the process that will lead them to a budget that not only gains the approval of their general managers, boards and owners, but also provides the funding and staffing that support near-term and long-range objectives.

The following three-step process will lead you through the budgeting cycle efficiently and proactively.

Put away the calculator, open your ears

Clear a path for the disciplined work ahead by putting away the calculator — number crunching will come later. Instead, grab a notebook and a pen and begin a series of meetings with the people who can tell you where the club and course want to go next year and in the next five years. What are the growth goals? What capital improvements are planned? How has member and player feedback informed budgeted and potential changes to course conditions?

These conversations are also excellent opportunities to win support for your own plans for the next year. Maybe you want to introduce a new turf maintenance technique, finally fix a troublesome drainage issue or add a staff position. Now’s the time to make your case. And don’t overlook extended stakeholders, such as the city council and leaders of the local municipality, especially if you have a strong jobs creation or sustainability story to tell.

During this phase, create or update your agronomic plan. Updates to any post-pandemic plans must address labor costs and benefits, as well as access to the competitive labor market, the cost of fuel and petroleum-based resources, and availability of fertilizers and other inputs affected by supply chain constraints.

Identify strengths, benefits and risk factors that are part of your agronomic plan. Help each person involved in your decision-making critical path map to understand changes that are needed, the benefits of an altered approach, and their cost and long-range implications.

Align your agronomic plan and budget

The agronomic plan is the thought foundation of your budget. All that you will do is based on the dependable alignment of your plans and the resources — time, money and labor — needed to support them. Here are three keys to effective alignment:

  • Begin with agronomics and set the plan exactly as you wish to execute it. Adjust to account for increases in scale or scope and decreases in available funds. It’s critical that that you are prepared to manage and protect your plan and its budget. Remember, nobody knows your plan as well as you do, and nobody will defend it as intelligently and persuasively as you.
  • Rely on the decision makers with whom you collaborate. This is where the quality of your downfield information sessions comes into play. Keep them informed and emphasize the disruptive and corrosive effects that cost-cutting can have on your agronomic plan.
  • Monitor changing costs and their impacts on your budget. Volatile labor and the uncertain supply chain are a certainty. Anticipate the changes and communicate the impacts of these changes in a timely manner to all decision makers.

Enjoy the process

Budgeting doesn’t have to be drudgery. Consider it a time to better understand the opportunity to deliver great golf experiences to your members and customers, and align yourself with the plans of your managers and boards for long-term success. Similarly, relish the opportunity to educate your stakeholders — members, players, managers, boards and community leaders — on your professionalism and dedication.

As we often encourage, plan your work and work your plan. Communicate tirelessly to keep your managers informed and watch as they come to rely on your knowledge and dependability. By scheduling regular meetings — formal and informal — you’ll limit surprises and stay alert to their key issues and hot buttons.

The professionalism and precision you exhibit during the budgeting cycle are qualities that managers look for in high-performing leaders and signs that you’re ready for the next step in your career. That’s another reason it’s never too early to get started.

Henry DeLozier is a partner at GGA Partners, trusted advisors and thought leaders. He is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audubon International.