Although we develop software to mathematically convert ideas into measurable outcomes, we have always viewed Plansmith as an education company. Not education as in ‘a + b = c,’ but in the way relationships and behaviors drive a financial outcome. This year, we are introducing a new educational solution called Budget Playbook. This online tool connects vision with purpose and execution to help you reach your budget targets. At Plansmith, we use Budget Playbook to dive into the relationship between ideation and plan execution to foster communication and drive better results.
At Plansmith, we focus on not only helping our clients with preparing an annual budget, but identifying the action items involved in making the plan come to fruition. When you work all week helping banks and credit unions do a better job of planning, it’s probably not uncommon to take a step away on the weekend and refresh the batteries.
But do we ever really stop planning?
Last year, shortly before COVID hit, I was making plans (there’s that word again) to attend a concert at Chicago’s Thalia Hall. Since this was a general admission show, my goal was to arrive early in order to be relatively close to the stage. If you’re a bank or credit union CFO, think of this as my desired ROI.
I’m often asked, “What are the differences between a plan, a budget, forecasting, reforecasting, what-ifs, and stress testing?” Although some of the actions are similar and often intermingled in conversation, it’s their purpose that defines them. If you’re a client, most even involve similar keystrokes using your Plansmith software navigation; yet each plays a unique role within your organization’s total planning process. Let’s discuss.
To start, everyone’s familiar with a budget, but let’s make sure we see it for what it really is. A budget is a prediction or forecast of a financial position at a set time in the future, typically one year. A budget represents a desired financial outcome and requires consent by your board of directors. Most often a Budget is primarily thought of as cost allocations, but when combined with the ideas regarding new business you will often hear it referred to as a Plan. Once approved, the Budget Plan never changes. It is ‘set in stone’ for the duration of your selected time period.
Plansmith is a planning company, as our name implies. For 50 years, budgeting has been what we’re known for. We get a lot of questions about our top budgeting advice, and as we kick off a new year, it’s the perfect time to offer some fresh tips for successful budgeting.
Though we certainly suggest using a robust budgeting solution like our Compass software, this advice applies to any process. We understand many organizations still use spreadsheets or outdated software, and that may work for them because they’re used to it. However, quality planning software makes budgeting much easier, more accurate, and more approachable for all parties involved – including the board during presentations.
So, what are some realistic tips for effective budgeting?
During the Middle Ages the town controller or accountant would show the citizenry how much was in the town’s “bouge,” a leather bag or wallet. With this knowledge, they would decide how best to spend it to cover the town’s expenses. Eventually, the term became the “budget” and was adopted by various enterprises to control expenses. Since not all expenses are immediate, the idea of forecasting revenues and expenses slowly entered the picture. However, expense control remained the primary objective. Hence the saying familiar to all of us: “That’s not in the budget.”
Quick, what pops into your mind when I say, Budget? Oh… I hear a lot of groans, but nothing specific. When I hear Budget, I feel the same way. Now, I know as the president of a planning software company, I shouldn’t have that reaction, but I am human. Even with the best tools, the fact remains that all businesses struggle with the same issue: balance. How do you maintain balance between growth and earnings given the costs associated with obtaining new business?
Times are strange. We haven’t been in our Plansmith offices together since March 16th. That’s over a hundred and sixty days – it feels crazy. But like with anything else, we adjust and move forward to reach our goals, but the plans for getting there have definitely changed.
We still want to get together with everyone. We still want to talk about what works, what doesn’t, and how things are going. Even though we can’t meet face to face at our Schaumburg offices this year, we can still come together virtually!
We have some exciting news! Our first installment of Plansmith’s Client Spotlight Series is here. Our intimate spotlights are designed with you in mind. You’ll hear firsthand from our guests as they share their real-life experiences with planning, budgeting, managing risk, and making strategic business decisions.
Are you really planning, or are you just budgeting?
By this I mean, are you just filling out the numbers on a spreadsheet by trending? It is gratifying when all the numbers come together in a neat package showing expected growth and earnings for next year. Along the way there were probably many contributors who verbally expressed their goals and plans for the year. Then, once the budget is done, it gets presented to and accepted by the board. As each month passes, comparisons are made of the budget “predictions” to reality. Variances from “budget” are explained, and business continues. In essence, that’s budgeting.
There’s something about summer that always represents freedom to me. It could be the Fourth of July resonating past the day of, or it could be the warm weather and carefree attitude that comes with it. Maybe it’s the road trips we take and barbecues we host with friends and family. Maybe it’s the trips to the pool or the beach. Maybe it’s the general sense of enjoyment that we try to soak up before the weather gets crisp again.