The leaves are beginning to change colors and modern day gladiators are rumbling on the gridiron. Ah, I love the fall. Unfortunately, my favorite season coincides with one of my least favorite things—budget season. To use a football analogy, let me give you the “play by play” analogy as it may be unfolding at a company near you.
Budgets Look Bright In September
Week One. CFO and controller produce a fresh calendar with budget milestones outlining when budget managers will be presenting numbers. At this point, people are in relatively good moods, and they’re optimistic about how smooth this year’s budget process will be. The theory of continuous improvement can apply to finance types, too!
Week Three. It’s time to lock down head count, revenue, and expense projections for the rest of the year based on current run rates and DSAMM directives (don’t spend any more money!).
Things Turn Tough In October
Week One. The sales department is issued special Ouija™ boards to help turn this year’s numbers into a revenue forecast for next year. Budget managers diligently consider future workload, staffing, and capital project needs.
Week Two. Following capital project questions about installing a football field in the front lawn, controller teaches a short course on “Return On Investment (ROI) 101″ and issues guidelines for salary and expense adjustments.
Week Three. Facilities manager contacts vendors and borrows prediction tools from sales to review maintenance agreements and to project potential increases in operational expenses, capital improvements, and deferred maintenance. The million dollar question is then asked: What else might break?
Week Four. Based on revenue projections from sales, top secret decoder ring ratios are guarded by the controller, who has not slept since mid-September and has contacted facilities to send up a cot and caffeine IV drip in her office. Budget managers distracted by satellite subscriptions for every college and pro football game on TV submit a first round of budgets. Controller returns initial numbers to distracted budget managers who either didn’t follow general guidelines, have submitted head count increases of 300%, or still think the football field on the front lawn is a good idea–citing artificial turf as a major improvement to the original ROI of “Never.”
Budget Season “Playoffs” Hit In November
Week One. Facilities manager issues work orders to install yellow “CAUTION” tape and barricades around finance department and issues hard hats and Kevlar vests to janitorial staff working near controller’s office. Gambling pools are accidentally submitted with second round of budget revisions.
Week Two. CFO and controller submit budget proposal to CEO and board of directors. If board of directors has used same prediction tools as sales, budget is approved. If not, board usually rejects budget and asks for decoder ring top secret percentage of sales increase and expense decrease projections.
Week Three. If board has rejected budget, managers try again and might even consider eliminating football field capital project entirely. Controller schedules therapy sessions to follow a lengthy vacation in January.
Week Four. Facilities manager schedules HVAC holidays for Thanksgiving but programs “exception codes” for the finance area.
Year End Deterioration
December often signals the end of budget season, at which point there is no clear champion, because performance review season immediately begins.
Week One. HR director holds a short course on “Performance Management 101.” Managers begin considering year-end performance reviews and “league imposed salary caps” based on new budgets (hopefully approved by this point).
Week Two. Performance reviews are scheduled between NFL wild card games and divisional finals. HR director borrows controller’s caffeine IV drip and schedules joint therapy sessions for volume discount with a company recommended, board approved psychiatrist.
Weeks Three And Four. Staff spends holidays with family and friends. Facilities manager and maintenance staff enjoy quiet time with annual boiler, chiller, and cooling tower inspectors. College bowl games and NFL playoffs are taped and watched later that night, taking all due precautions to avoid radio or TV scores and highlights.
Post Game Blur
January starts the New Year with seven polls (AP, CNN, USA Today, Gallup, UPN, CIA, and Zogby) naming different college football champions. In a similar state of fog and confusion, staff returns to the office with a general holiday hangover. Slower metabolism from excess consumption of turkey, dressing, and celebratory champagne generates “It’s always freezing in here!” complaints, even from people not wearing tank tops, skirts, and sandals.
Unless the controller and HR director have escaped from their strait jackets in time, the facilities manager appropriates some of the HR director’s “employee relations” budget to host a big Super Bowl party!
Crane is a mechanical engineer and regional property manager with Childress Klein Properties, a leading real estate developer and property management services provider in the Southeast.