I have some thoughts on budgeting, now that I’m trying to put two kids through college at the same time.
1. Profit generation
I credit Tommy Witt, CGCS, for enlightening me many years ago with his presentation on “The Golf Course as a Profit Center.” It should be required reading for all owners, GMs, club presidents and other managers. Unfortunately, too many of the people in leadership positions see golf course maintenance only as an expense. As superintendents, you know that your work directly contributes to revenue generation. Your communications to the leaders at your facility – and even to golfers – should highlight your department’s role in generating revenue. With that perspective, the likelihood to maximize revenues through appropriate resource allocation is increased.
2. A seat at the table, part 1
How many times has leadership dictated a budget to the various departments without getting any input from them? No budget should be developed unless facility leaders have had a discussion regarding the facility’s objectives and the resources needed to achieve them. Decisions should be made with the input of those who have the best information. Superintendents should make every effort to be engaged from the beginning at the highest level of decision-making.
Being involved not only allows you to demonstrate your expertise, it also displays your focus on the facility. This is your opportunity to engage in a collaborative process to do what’s best for the business. It might require some give-and-take on your end, but it is a clear indication to leaders that your perspective on your department is not myopic.
3. A seat at the table, part 2
As a superintendent, you know that the success of your team is based on the contributions of many individuals with specialized responsibilities. It only makes sense that you get the input of those individuals to best align your strategies and tactics with resource allocation. Your plan and budget should include input from assistants, equipment managers, spray technicians, horticulturists, and anyone else who can provide information that will support the desired outcomes. Accordingly, individuals in those positions should accept the responsibility to support the team by being engaged in the process.
4. Show them the money
Getting your maintenance team involved in the budgeting process is only half of the battle. You should share your department’s budget reports with your team on a regular basis so they understand how the budget plays out in reality. Unforeseen circumstances often force a budget adjustment. Keep your team in the loop and discuss why and how adjustments are being made. Get their input as well. They might have ideas to address any contingencies that arise.
5. Develop yourself and your team
Especially in lean times, too many budgets fail to include professional development opportunities. Enhancing your skills and those of your staff is not only vital to career development, but also benefits the facility. There are options available for little or no cost, but time must be set aside for staff to participate. Conferences and professional memberships fall in this bucket too. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish when it comes to this line item. More often than not, the return on professional development activities is several-fold.
6. Steal the best ideas
With a bevy of data on golf course maintenance operations at your fingertips, there is no reason budgeting should be done in a vacuum. The USGA, GCSAA, consultants and publications offer valuable information that should be reviewed on a regular basis. You should also pick the brains of your peers and others in the industry. What are they doing that could benefit you, too?
7. Listen to the customer
Superintendents should always be communicating with golfers regarding their jobs, but the discussions should go beyond course conditions, environmental stewardship and weather information. Don’t get me wrong, those are all important. But you can help yourself and your team by sharing how you are investing resources to the player’s benefit. Of course, some information should be limited to the facility’s leadership team, but you should share what you can. Are water rates increasing? What are you doing to offset the cost, and how might that affect the golf course? Why do you have those shiny new greens mowers? Is it possible you negotiated a lease that provides a better cut and simultaneously saves the facility money in the long run? Build a rapport with golfers so they understand and appreciate you and your team’s efforts.