There is an old saying that goes like this: The owner of our course has deep pockets (a lot of money). Unfortunately, his pockets are so deep he can’t reach the money! Every golf course superintendent has encountered a few setbacks when asking for a budget increase. It seems there are many reasons to cut a budget, but there are relatively few reasons to increase one. To earn a budget increase, a superintendent must overcome the initial reasons for rejection. These obstacles must be systematically removed and replaced with the benefits of choosing to properly invest in the program rather than resist. Let’s take a look at three common budget increase obstacles.
The first obstacle to earning a budget increase is there is no more money. You can overcome this by simply qualifying the actual ask. Is it a budget increase or is it a reallocation of funds, perhaps connected to a Return on Investment (ROI)? It is always easier to sell the reallocation of funds without decreasing the bottom line profit. Owners evaluate a healthy business by profit not productivity. Justification of an ROI or reallocation is critical to earning the financial trust to make a budget change. You must create an easy to understand Return on Investment (ROI) or reallocation plan that shows the bottom line impact of the change. Can you show that by spending the money now that you will actually recoup the money in the future? For example, if an application of plant growth regulator costs $1,000 but it is not currently in the budget. However, the application will save labor in mowing and blowing costs as well as improve the playing conditions while reducing the wear and tear on the fairway mower. These savings equate to $1,000 within the use period effectively having an ROI of one month as well as the added benefit of better playing conditions. It is a no-brainer, simply prove the value and its impact on the operation and consistently deliver the projected results and you can have more control over the budget.
The second obstacle to earning a budget increase is the negative impact the action has on bottom line profit. This is a big one because unlike an actual ROI or reallocation now we intend to impact the bottom line profit. Sometimes the way to approach this obstacle is by asking for a budget increase, but go beyond the simple accounting equation to show the need and value of extra expense. Let’s say you ask for $4,000 dollars for a critical fungicide application to greens or an irrigation pump repair in mid-summer and the answer is, no, we cannot afford the expense. However, the same request posed as an insurance policy to protect the greens valued at $400,000 may open closed minds. The philosophy is that there are times when expenses are beyond profitability (no budget increase) and then there are times when expenses are critical to the survival of the core product (budget increase approved). By not repairing the irrigation pump during the critical watering season or forgoing a fungicide application while disease pressure is high, you risk certain large-scale expense (turf loss/replacement). It is the proverbial lesser of two evils and even the toughest owner can see the clear choice: spend the money even if it seems as much an insurance policy as an agronomic practice. Your ability to communicate the criticality of a need versus a want is key to earning a critical budget increase.
Rob Peter, Pay Paul
The last obstacle is robbing Peter to pay Paul obstacle. In short, if you ask for and receive the $4,000 in the above example for irrigation pump repair, then you are asked to recover the money by year end from other line items such as labor, sand or fuel (the actual obstacle). The fact is that something must suffer for something to be repaired. In fact, the current critical issue is usually an item that previously suffered from the lack proper financial/mechanical maintenance. Perhaps the regular irrigation pump maintenance expense had been overlooked to offset a previous fungicide or fertilizer expense. Do you see how robbing Peter to pay Paul sets in motion an inevitable day of reckoning that is often more costly than the initial need had it been addressed in a timely manner? Do you think the owner or financial manager sees the correlation? The key to overcoming this obstacle is to show the true cost of deferring the other items. Sure, we could save on fuel, we just cannot mow to the established standard for a few months or maybe no one will notice if we do not topdress greens this summer. I have found that giving owners and financial managers the cause and effect of taking away resources to cover other needed expenses is effective in earning a budget increase. You will need real numbers and quantified scenarios that are presented in a professional manner. Persevere, never stop teaching the wisdom of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially on a golf course.
There is nothing easy about earning a budget increase, but these strategies have helped many superintendents overcome the obstacles and reap the rewards of a bigger budget.