Budgets and Business plans are a waste of time

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A bold statement I know! Realising that I could be missing something, Andrew Dunn an associate with extensive experience in managing the finance side of budgets for major hotel groups kindly agreed to run a sense check and give his own thoughts on the subject.

We would love to know what you think

Murray says:

Over the last few months I have talked to various senior people in the hospitality industry who were busy doing budgets and business plans. Needless to say, they were not enthralled with the time and energy the process involved and the fact that it seemed to consume and almost paralyse the whole organisation with many investment decisions (operational and capital) delayed until the budget is done.

I have to say this is consistent with my memories. No one that I can remember looks forward to budget time, they just look forward to it being finished and being able to get back to running the business – and therein lays the problem!

Some facts about business today:

  • It is hard enough to predict and forecast a month ahead never mind 12 months
  • All larger business are re-forecasting to the end of the year on a monthly basis (recognition of the above)
  • The world is dynamic and unpredictable quickly rendering many strategies set out in business plans irrelevant
  • Today’s successful companies are agile and lead rather than follow their market. Their limited resources focus on work that is meaningful and fulfils the long term vision of the company

Despite all of this we persist in dedicating massive amounts of time and energy into creating budgets and plans to solve last year’s problems which are largely outdated as soon as they are printed (remember many are done 2-3 months in advance of the financial year starting!)

The result?

  • A lot of business plans in drawers gathering dust (often returned to where they came from having been dusted off for this year’s process!)
  • Patch work strategies and tactical plans to address unforseen problems that arise
  • Time and effort spent analysing/justifying numbers that do not meet budget
  • A lot of time spent on the urgent but not necessarily the important for the business
  • Another review and changes to the budget and business plan format and process to make it “better” next time

What’s the answer? I don’t know, but I do reckon it would be worth a discussion to come up with a solution that was faster, more accurate and meaningful whilst keeping the banks, owners and financiers happy. Not to mention engaging the people involved in the process.

 Why?

  • Engage people in the process and get true commitment and accountability
  • Get the business working consistently on the important rather than urgent
  • Shape the future rather than react to past events and situations
  • Deliver better results over short, medium and long term

Oh and not least – save time, money and reduce the opportunity cost of having the business tied up in budgeting and planning.

Some ideas:

1. Turn the existing month forecast to the end of the financial year into a rolling 12 or 18 month forecast. Let’s makes sure it is done well and at any point in time it becomes the budget

2. Don’t bother setting plans for a year, know what has to be achieved for the business in that year (owner’s longer term asset plan, the management company strategy) then set 90 day plans – review, adjust and reset after 90 days. (see Success Alliances for Hotels)

3. Every 90 days review the world you are operating in. Where a goal or activity is no longer relevant then stop it. Accept that the world has changed and what needs to be done and do it – don’t wait for the business plan to come around again.

Some will argue that the budget is an important process to go through the business in detail. I would argue that an in depth review once a year is not sufficient anymore. Modern reporting allows managers to know their business better than ever before, they need to be supported and encouraged to know and be across at any given time what is important to the business and review in depth as the year unfolds.

Would we really save time with all this?

The forecasts are being done monthly, so in theory no extra time is needed.

A 90 day review when done effectively can be done in a half day. (Remember we are looking forward and on things that matter)

Too easy?

Maybe, or maybe it should be easy to free up the time for people to do better work on the stuff that is relevant and current.

Andrew’s Comments

I could not agree more that the traditional annual business planning cycle utilised by the majority of the industry should be reviewed. There must be a better way. Is it called an annual business plan because it feels like it takes all year to complete?

Is there life beyond budgets?

A rolling forecast process is certainly one way forward in reducing the resources directed towards the annual budgeting process. In order for this to be a success there are a number of aspects to consider:

  • Is the current forecast process robust? Are the right tools and processes in place. Does it produce good forecasts? This might be the first thing to review when considering implementing a rolling forecast process. Once everyone is comfortable (managers, corporate office, owners, shareholders) that the forecast process is delivering then perhaps its time to look at changing the budget process.
  • Improved collaboration with owners might be needed – owners and managers need to be speaking the same language. More often than not the owner is presented a business plan and then the negotiation starts. In order for the rolling forecast process to be a success there needs to be better and more consistent dialogue with hotel owners on what the future looks like rather than a monthly meeting just focusing on past performance (which is still important!).
  • What is the end game? Is it just to reduce the time spent on annual budgets or is it also to develop a better and more strategic way of managing the business?

Owners will always expect an annual budget but there are better ways to deliver. The annual budget process can definitely be reduced if not entirely replaced.

Any change that can potentially make a business more agile, more responsive and more strategic is worth further thought. Perhaps the business planning process is the best place to start.

 If you read this and are inspired to look at a new way for your business then drop us a note. We would love to share our thinking in more detail and see if we can assist your discussion with the rest of the business and facilitate a more strategic approach to business planning and budgeting.

 

 

 

 

Have you ever “gone round the room” and failed?

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A great blog from Seth Godin who as always gets to the point quickly and makes it with great conviction!

 

Recognising the forgotten ones and what they bring

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We have our stars. We are always on the look out for them and make sure that when we find them they are rewarded.  We expound their virtues to all who will listen and look to grow and develop them to be ready for the next opportunity. When they leave it is a great loss.

Then there are the non performers. They are the battle we want to win so we put a lot of effort into “rescuing” them and making them better or if we can’t win, moving them on. When they leave it is a great relief

Then there are the forgotten ones. They turn up everyday and do their job with no fuss. They allow the stars to shine and clean up the mistakes of the non performers. When they leave, they leave quietly and we don’t know what we have lost

Do you have any forgotten ones? What do you do for them?

Genuine recognition of what they bring and a simple ”thank you” is often enough.

 

Collaborative Strategy vs competitive thinking

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“Tomorrow’s strategies will not come from competitive thinking rather they will come from radical thinking about how best to discover and create value. Value creation starts with people united with a purpose that creates passion for discovering how to create more and more value together.”

This is an excerpt from a good article on Collaborative Strategy by Jay Deragon

Switch off, breathe and switch on

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Switch off from all those “urgent” e-mails, appointment reminders, to do lists, reports

Switch off from those “important” calls to receive and make

Switch off from Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and all the rest

Switch off from the music, the radio and whatever other noise surrounds you

Switch off from other people and their busyness

Just Switch off and be yourself

Now switch on to yourself

Switch on to your breath; just breathe

Thinking ?

Switch back on to your breath and clear your mind

Keep breathing and be aware

Thinking again? That’s okay.

Switch back to your breathing

Switch on to your body and your feelings? Explore and discover!

Keep breathing and be aware

Done?

Now slowly switch yourself back on

What did you discover?

What did you learn?

How do you feel?

…..consider carefully what else you need to switch back on and go

When will you next give yourself the time to switch off and explore?

One final question before that difficult decision

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There are many questions we ask when making difficult decisions: we think through all that go wrong and we second guess people’s reactions.
One final question to ask yourself: What will happen if I don’t do it?
  • What will happen if nothing changes and we keep going the way we are going?
  • What will happen to my view of myself and how I measure up to my beliefs and the values I espouse?

So what is your decision?

Check the facts and turn up the volume on the positive thinking

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We can all experience situations when our mind can take on a life of its own allowing negative thoughts whether about ourselves or others in a particular situation to get out of hand with unwelcome consequences for our own confidence and behaviour.

Most of us are fortunate in that we do not allow the thoughts to endure and we can break out of it. If we don’t it can impact our health and well-being.

A good first step to limit the impact of this negative thinking and stop it in its tracks is when you feel it coming on take a step back and run through the facts of the situation. The facts or evidence will more often than not, not support the thinking and help you turn the volume up on the positive thinking.

So if my mind is telling me that I always screw up, then I can check the evidence:

  • What is it we are talking about and how bad is it really?
  • Who said I screwed up?
  • Who supports me and believes in me?
  • What have I got right, recently and what is going for me?
  • etc etc

If this is something that resonates with you and you want to learn more about managing your own thinking I would recommend an excellent book “Change Your Thinking” by Sara Edelman . This is an excellent guide to managing upsetting emotions and to think in a healthy and balanced way and gives practical strategies for overcoming negative thoughts and behaviours.

 

Reinventing management to meet today’s challenges – a talk by Gary Hamel

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Gary Hamel, rated by the Wall Street Journal as the world’s most influential business thinker, asserts that the management systems we are using today were designed for yesterday’s problems and that we need to reinvent management to meet the unique challenges we face today.

In this entertaining talk he lays out his reasoning and sets out what Management 2.0 should be like.

He outlines 3 things successful companies have to do to succeed:

  • Change as fast as change itself
  • Have everyone in the organisation see innovation as their job
  • Create the environment where employees bring all their gifts and talents to the job every day

He states that is is not about making organisations fit for the future but making them fit for humans

Enjoy and be prepared to be made uncomfortable and excited at the same time with some of the examples and concepts he suggests can make this happen.

 

Mind your body language

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Amy Cuddy presents her research on how our body language affects our own thinking and behaviour

Verbal communication, the words we use, makes up 35% of how we communicate. Much more significant is our tone; facial expressions, movement, appearance, eye contact and posture, this non-verbal component of communication is 65%But what influence does our body language have on our own thinking and behaviour?

Social psychologist Amy Cuddy uses this TED talk to present her research to give us more insight to this fascinating subject and tells her own very personal story that led her to take up the research.

Within the talk we learn that:

  1. We make judgements about other people based on their body language
  2. Many of the postures we have are naturally programmed (people blind from birth display them)
  3. Whilst we influence others with our non-verbals – we also influence ourselves and govern how we think and feel about ourselves
  4. By being aware of our body language we can change our minds

This talk really caught my attention as a big part of coaching is understanding how our thinking influences our behaviour and in turn our relationships and culture we work in. Cuddy adds another level of awareness to that whole process and the importance of our non-verbal communication to ourselves as well as others.

Have a think about how you are holding yourself and how it then influences your thinking about yourself in that situation. Typical situations are:

  • In meetings with your team or with your boss
  • In a conflict situation
  • Making presentations
  • Interviews
  • When asking for something
  • Talking on the phone

I hope you find the time to look at this. If this makes you aware of something you are doing experiment with a change of posture and see what difference it makes.

Enjoy!

P.S. for those interested in the brain and how it works I recommend Jill Bolte Taylor’s stroke of insight.

Innovation – yes, but remember the basics

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Innovation: out bosses look for it and encourage it; our customers want it. It can consume a great deal of our energy and resources. Yet, what people really want is a good service or product that works.

Windows phones have not grown market share the way it was hoped. Why? The software does not work or deliver against i-phone and android.

The telcos have suffered for years, despite all the great technology and products, they have been lambasted because of hidden costs in contracts and lousy response to customer problems whether technical or service related. (They are on the improve).

We go to fancy restaurants that look great and have innovative menus etc – but they do not sustain themselves – why? Because the service is not there.

So whilst innovation is important and we should always challenge ourselves to do something new, particularly if what we are doing currently is not working, we should not forget the basics. If we go back to the fundamentals and invest the time and energy in getting that right, then there is a far greater chance of success.

Maybe that will be the new innovation – service and products that work!

What do you think?

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