Businesses leaders know their time is valuable, and fitting extra activities into an already full day takes a lot of effort. However, business budget planning is an essential part of every business, no matter what the focus of the business is or where the business operates. All businesses, large and small, need to set aside time for this. Knowing and understanding the business’ goals keeps all staff working in the same direction and allows for success.
In the article Lean Finance: 4 Awesome Tips for Busy Mgmt Accountants I outline how I manage to save time whilst producing a good result. The following 4 tips will go a bit more into detail and help you finish your business budget planning on time.
Business budget planning will be easier and less stressful if a reasonable timeline is established and followed. Make sure that you know your deadlines (for example handing in the final budget) way in advance. With this information, you can start planning your time backwards. Make sure that you incorporate enough time to prepare, discuss and review the budget or parts of it.
Personally, I use to already block the time in my calendar to make sure I can allocate proper budgeting time later (see tip 3). I also book time slots in all managers’ calendars for planning meetings (tip 4). It could be very stressful later on if you are unable to get hold of an important person. Therefore, I highly recommend booking meetings as much in advance as possible.
Often, the tools used to keep track of the budget cause the business budget planning session to be difficult and frustrating. Some business owners and managers still prefer the use of a spreadsheet and a pencil for budget planning. On the one hand, we should accept individual preferences. On the other hand, we should make sure that the most efficient tools available within the company are actually used. This can save valuable time and thus speed up the whole process.
I recommend taking a lead position and defining in which form and tool inputs need to be handed in. Think about it in advance and already prepare planning tools as templates.
Time slot allocation
It is common for interruptions to occur during budget planning. Even the best-organized planning sessions can become ineffective or even useless if interruptions frequently stop the session. This is why planning is important. Honestly, assess the business for potential time drains. This can include, but is not limited to, the structure of the business, the type of technology used to review the budget, and personnel who commonly mismanage time. Knowing in advance, what may interrupt a budget planning session can help alleviate the situation, even stopping it before there is an issue.
For my individual work on budgets, I block the time in my calendar and make sure that I work on the business budget planning and on nothing else. Focus is the key. Multitasking will divert your focus, so try to avoid it. Don’t check emails, simply leave them for later. The aim is not to get interrupted at all for the duration of your planned session. My planning sessions are normally topic related and last for 1-2 hours.
Planning meetings have been proven to be very powerful. I personally aim to sit together with every single manager of a profit or cost centre. We then determine the budget for the next period together. At the end of the meeting, we both have the same view on the topic and have some stable figures for the budget. If needed some more research on a topic will be done but in most cases, I manage to finish the meeting with a solid budget in my hand.
In order to achieve a productive meeting I recommend preparing your budgeting tool in advance, mark critical points and already send these point to the manager in advance. Doing so, we can ensure that all the information needed at the meeting is actually gathered before.
Conclusion of business budget planning
To summarize, problems and circumstances that hinder timely budget planning can easily happen. To avoid losing valuable time and to present a completed budget in a timely manner, it is necessary to understand the business and the employees. With careful examination, budget planning can be more simple and completed in a timely manner.