Why are budgets so boring?
I recently had the pleasure of presenting to the students of the Sports Leadership Program run by AFL SportsReady.
The students were covering the unit, “Managing Budgets and Financial Plans”. The demographic of the group I was presenting to was early to mid 20’s who did not have a lot of experience in managing numbers. Naturally, the unit they were covering was focused on finance and lots of numbers.
The challenge for me as the guest speaker was to share some valuable content to this group that would help them with this unit. I needed to grab their attention from the start…I needed a great headline.
So I decided to tackle the elephant in the room.
“Why are budgets so boring?”
This was the question I posed to the group. The look on their faces said it all “How could a Finance Guy ask that question? Isn’t he telling us that what he does is boring?”
After a moment, the students started to respond.
“Staring at lots of numbers will send most people to sleep.”
“Complex calculations, involving lots of numbers will send most people to sleep.”
“Something that is tedious and takes a long time will send most people to sleep.”
I had a pretty good idea what their responses would be as I had experienced it first-hand over the last 20 years in my role as a finance analyst.
Staring at lots of numbers will send most people to sleep. Understanding the story behind the numbers is what people want to hear about when it comes to budgets.
To illustrate this point, I shared a story with the students.
A local sporting club wanted to increase their revenue over the next 12 months. They started by looking at the numbers.
They wanted to increase registrations by 10%. They looked at last year’s numbers and did their calculations. They shared their calculations with the key people on their committee.
They had their target. They were ready to tackle the year ahead. Or so they thought.
“But how are we going to do this?” asked one of the committee members.
There was a pause.
Then a member of the operations committee spoke up.
“Last year we started a specialized program in the early age groups. It is targeted for new players to our sport. The feedback from the parents was very positive. We have kept 90% of the players that started this program. I believe this is an area the club should continue to focus on.”
They all agreed that getting kids involved in sport from a young age was very important. Getting kids active in today’s environment was a challenge worth pursuing.
They had found a common goal. One that was important to all of them. And they would pursue it together.
As I shared this story with the students they began to share their own experiences. Each one had a story to share with the group.
At the end of the discussion they came to an agreement.
They would go back to their sporting clubs with one focus.
To better understand the story behind the numbers. Because that’s what people want to hear about when it comes to budgets.
And they would do this with the support of other members of their sporting club committees.