I reviewed another corporate budget last week and it reminded me how much I don’t like the activity. In my 40-year career I have probably reviewed, negotiated and approved 300+ budgets and have felt, in retrospect, like my teams wasted hours and hours of valuable time. I often ask companies what their philosophical accuracy of the percent of the budget they expect to achieve is, and I get answers from 75% to 100%. But never over 100%.
So, what is the real purpose of the budget?
Budgets DO NOT:
Pay any bills
Pay any bonuses
Buy down any debt or provide any additional capital
Add to stockholders’ equity
Have much to do with the services you sell that clients want.
A budget is a ‘one point in time’ mental exercise that involves draining emotional interactions and often subordinate gaming for the lowest acceptable number. Management teams struggle with different techniques of bottom-up or top-down styles in repeated iterations to derive desired results.
So why do we spend so much time (and energy) on budgets and their iterations? Isn’t this really a topic where IBM’s Newton (or computer automation) could do well without much distraction, to leave you to lend your attention to more important company activities?
If I were to automate anyone’s budget, this is the analog I would give Newton: Start with the last year’s gross revenues and increase them by the sum of the growth rate of last year’s industry competitors plus additional 5 %-points. So, if your industry competitors grew by 4%, the top line revenue would increase 9%. Why? First, in a labor-based business, you should get +3- to 4%-point growth just from annual cost of living salary increases. The logic being this revenue level is level […]