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Keeping Calm during Budget Season....... Top 5 Tips to Survive!

By Chris Ortega, MBA, Sr. Finance Manager at Emarsys, USA

As a former public accounting auditor, I have been through my fair share of busy seasons which usually ran from September to April. My busy season experience consisted of 60 - 80 hour work weeks, working on the weekends, learning at an accelerated rate, and then waking up after April 15 trying to realize what the hell happened the past couple of months. For me, this was a character building and learning opportunity that I am privileged and thankful that I got to experience in my career. However, like most, I realized this was not what I wanted to do long term.

Moving on from public accounting to working for small to large companies I found myself in the similar burst of time known as "budget season". Although there are similarities there are also some key differences; those being working with a great team focused understanding, and partnership with other leaders.  Also, spending 1 - 3 months working on next year’s financial plan and ultimately completing the budget. I felt accomplished and confident that we delivered significant value to internal and external stakeholders.

Then, you come into the beginning of the year and all the work you just completed is worthless. The business, assumptions, markets, strategy, economy or macro business factors have all changed. Now the budget is irrelevant and the company has to focused on either a new budget re-plan or forecast.

Below are my top 5 tips to help you get through your next budget season efficiently without burning out.

1.  Help your team and organization focus on a few key business drivers.

Application: Some companies or teams want to focus on all business drivers and factors to ensure they have covered everything in the planning and overall budget presentation. Instead, focus on a few company KPI's to use for planning and predicting the business such as labor costs, capital costs or cash burn.

2.  Balance time, energy and effort.

Application: Set up a tentative budget timeline and schedule with roles, responsibilities, and timelines for completion. This will help everyone involved in the budget process to know their responsibility and timelines to ensure you are moving together and executing.

3.  Focus on quality and not  quantity of budget documents.

Application: Do you have debt compliance reporting, corporate reporting, board reporting, or other reporting for external stakeholders? If so, let this be the first place you look to ensure you are completing the necessary budget documents for external and internal stakeholders. Also, don't get consumed with having an 80 excel tab document or other documents that focuses on irrelevant business factors.

4.  Develop an attitude of learning & partnership and not frustration & isolation.

Application: As long as you are in a finance, accounting, or FP&A capacity; budgets will likely be a reality for you. As with anything in life, your attitude will determine your altitude and outlook on any situation. So, support the process, execute, and deliver your greatest effort and work.

5.  Trust the process and don't try to rush the process.

Application: Budget season is a period where executive leadership to managers to individual contributors gain valuable insights about the business and company direction. Although you might have been through plenty of these season's in the past just understand this might be the first time for someone on your team or organization. So, help them understand the importance of trusting the process and not rushing just to get things done which could lead to others missing out on a great learning opportunity.

Lastly, no matter the situation or environment find the learning, growth, and opportunity to expand your skills, passions, talents and most of all have FUN!