Your teams have spent months creating, adjusting, re-creating and finalizing your budget for the next year. Managers have input their needs and requests for equipment, staff and training. Sales teams have projected their volumes. While not a small feat this year, you’re ready to bring your annual budget presentation to the board.
But are you? Is the board going to care that you’ve allocated 20% of IT’s budget for training? Or that accounting has planned $5,000 for a new printer?
Not really. Not unless those are the answers to some very important questions that the board will be laser-focused on.
What are the plans for the organization?
This may seem like more of a strategic planning question than a budgeting process one, but the two are heavily intertwined. As you tell your board what your goals are for the business – market growth, additional teams or staff, heavy investment in R&D – they may be excited at the potential of the business plan. At the same time, they will also want to know that you’ve considered what it will take, financially, to accomplish those plans.
The easier you make it for the board to draw the line between the points of your strategic plan and your financial plan, the less explaining you’ll need to do to get their buy-in on the budget proposal you’re presenting. Don’t force the board to make the connection themselves. Make it clear that the office of finance has thought hard about how to make the company’s strategic goals a reality by having a plan in place for financing the activities needed to reach those goals.
Showing your board how you’ve reflected your plans in your budget presentation will be key to getting approval and illustrating that you’ve taken all aspects of your goals into account.
Can You Pay the Bills?
This may seem like an obvious question and one that your organization has spent a lot of time answering with your budget plan. But it is one of the core responsibilities of your board – to make sure that the company is being fiscally responsible while meeting its goals.
Companies have responsibilities to its vendors, employees and investors. Funds are needed to keep the business operational. Your budget should account for your expected expenses and where and how much income you’ve projected, as well as your current cash position and investments.
Look to your current budget to understand what these outflows already look like as you start the planning process. During your budget presentation, you should be able to speak to how the organization’s financial responsibilities might change in the coming year and how you intend to meet the needs if there is no change, but adapt if the need arises.
With this information, the board will be in a better position to approve your budget or guide you into a more solid standing.
Are your income projections reasonable in your budget presentation?
It’s easy to be optimistic about sales – or pessimistic if you’re coming off a particularly difficult year. When the board reviews your budget, they will want to understand how much risk is associated with your income projections.
To get board buy-in, be prepared to present data to support those projections. That data may be in the form of actuals from previous years, in competitor performance, or even in forecasting created through the use of far-reaching data points pulled together through the use of big data and business intelligence. Wherever your information originates from, it should be in a format that makes sense to the board while pointing to the effects the data will have on business outcomes.
What happens if it all goes wrong?
Plans go awry. Sales flop. Products take off. Your board will want you to show that you’ve considered a Plan B – what the business will do if things don’t go according to your budget forecasts.
Having what-if scenarios prepared for board review will build confidence in the budget you have laid out. Your board will understand that you’ve got a plan in place should the winds change and you need to set a new course. With alternative scenarios, the board will have a clear view of how closely you’ll be able to keep to your “most likely” (aka approved budget) scenario, and how you’ll continue to achieve your business goals in the face of adversity.
Is your report easy to digest in your budget presentation?
While your board may be business savvy, they aren’t in the weeds on the day-to-day operations of the business. You can’t assume that they have information that will help them understand your budget presentation. At the same time, you don’t want to bore them with a heavily detailed PowerPoint presentation.
The key to presenting everything discussed above is to make sure you’re taking your audience into account. Don’t overwhelm with detailed line items, but be prepared to answer questions about them. Offer a high-level overview of the financial plan, with easy access to details if needed.
It’s also important to remember that different people respond positively to different information delivery methods. While some board members may want to see financial reports and columns of numbers, for many others it’s easiest to see data presented graphically in charts and graphs.
Graphics make it easy to see how data relates to one another, and how performance and expectations measure up against KPIs. If you aren’t using a tool that easily creates dashboards and graphical reports for you, it may take extra time to prepare your budget plan to make it easy to read. The time is well worth it, however, as the clarity will lead to more focused and purposeful questions from the board.
Your board is there to help guide and direct your business and ensure that the company is meeting obligations to both business partners and investors. By having a budget presentation that answers their questions before they are asked and offers the information in an easy to understand format, your board is better prepared to give you the guidance needed to move in the right direction.
Centage Corporation’s Planning Maestro is a cloud-native planning & analytics platform that delivers year-round financial intelligence. With Planning Maestro, Centage offers the sophisticated features needed by small and mid-market organizations to integrate budgeting, forecasting, and deep data analysis within one easy-to-use, scalable SaaS solution. For more information on how to modernize your office of finance with intelligent planning, view our product demonstration video, or call 800-366-5111.