Your Budget: A Roadmap for the Year

by Kelly Deis of SoundPoint Consulting

It’s that time of year again. Most businesses are on a fiscal year which coincides with the calendar year. It is time to look back and reflect on 2017 as well as look forward and create a budget for 2018.

A budget is a roadmap. Based on where you have been, it can help guide you to the desired final destination for year-end.

If you stay on the current course – where will you end up? Alternatively, if you change the route – where will you be at the end of the year? It is up to you to decide which path is the most profitable and most likely to be achieved.

Here are a few things to think about as you prepare your budget. 

How will you use your budget?

A budget can serve several purposes. It can help you determine whether your business meets your profit requirements, given reasonable assumptions. If you can’t pencil it out on paper, then odds are the business model needs a re-haul.

Tracking actual-to-budget provides visibility into whether you are meeting your revenue and expense goals. Reviewing this on a monthly basis allows you to course correct mid-year.

Lastly, updating the budget and reforecasting throughout the year provides a projection of year-end profitability. If you are a business owner, this is great for tax planning.

What is different this year?

This is a perfect time to look at last year’s performance and assess how well the business performed against beginning year expectations.

Did you achieve all of the goals and objectives you set out for yourself at the beginning of the year?

If not, what kept you from making these goals? Were they one-time events, or has the underlying fundamentals of the business changed?

What Is Your Plan?

Now is the time to plan your business for the coming year.

First, make sure all data for the current year is up to date. Then, consider the changes you anticipate for the business in the coming year.

What will it take to implement these changes – both in time and money? And, have you adequately accounted for them?

For instance, perhaps you plan to increase sales. If so, how much incremental revenue do you expect and what is the incremental cost for generating those sales?

Similarly, you need to plan for any anticipated capital expenditures. Will these costs be funded through a line of credit, loan, or working capital?

What level of detail is right for your budget?

Budgeting and business planning can be as detailed as you want it to be. If you are a hands-on manager and there are no big growth initiatives for your business, then you can probably live with less detail.

However, if you are watching costs (and who isn’t?) and/or are making changes to your business, then you will want more detail in order to track progress against target(s).

Your budget can be a very powerful tool, both in managing expenses as well as in planning and forecasting business performance.

The budgeting process is a great opportunity to reassess your operations and develop a realistic roadmap for the coming year.

Like any good roadmap, your budget should be referred to often and your route revised for unanticipated detours.

Kelly Deis is president of Soundpoint Consulting. She earned an MBA at the Wharton School, and offers services as a Certified Valuation Analyst and Certified Exit Planning Analyst. 

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