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Qualifying The Elements Of Your Forecast….

July 29th, 2009

     We’ve recently began the process of transitioning to a 5-Quarter Forecast process, primarily to provide a greater level of insight to our Sales & Marketing folks. As we speak, they are already making trade show commitments, planning regional sales meetings, and finalizing ad placements. How can you be making these significant commitments without your plans in place for the following year? For the previous company I was at we were able to work under a more traditional annual budgeting process. This worked because we had a predictable activity flow, did not have large marketing or development efforts,  and we typically did not have more than 6-8 weeks visibility for our revenues due to the nature of the offering. But now, in the midst of a much more volatile & dynamic environment, not to mention, a Sales & Marketing calendar that is working almost a year in advance, such an approach isn’t feasible.

 

     As I regularly speak with folks in my network, which isn’t just inclusive of my finance friends, I’m surprised by the lack of information that is tabled/submitted with respect to qualifying a Budget or Forecast. I’m surprised that there are still Management teams that accept Budgets which don’t itemize the individual areas of growth or improvement for the coming year. How can you hold specific teams accountable if there are no specific actions tied to achieving the goals?  For instance;

 

          You’re citing revenue growth of 10%.

a.                   For the coming year have you itemized the various channels that will contribute to that growth, or taken into account any shrinking channels?

b.                  Have you timed the growth of your revenue to coincide with the calendars necessary to drive the growth plan?

c.                   Have you erred in forecasting a linear growth plan w/o even a plan to support that?

 

          You’re forecasting an increase in gross margin.

a.                   What are the contributing elements?

b.                  What are the non-recurring elements that will support the increase?

c.                   Have you reviewed the make-up of sales and looked at the margin quality of those transactions? Do you need to look at Domestic vs. Intl or any inter-group sales?

d.                  What portion of your increase is volume based vs. productivity based?

e.                   If productivity-based, what are the specific areas that you are targeting?

 

          Have you discussed your assumptions for OpEx with the rest of the team?

a.                   Do they buy into your preliminary assumptions or are you facing a potential shift in the business model that will necessitate new expenses?

b.                  Are there certain areas that need to be bolstered for a turnaround in 2010? Do your expenses support the revenue growth being projected?

c.                   Have you incorporated the necessary amount of consideration to mitigate unforeseen shifts increases?

 

     No matter what, you’re not going to be able to capture everything within your Budget. At a previous company, we received an unannounced increase in our utility rates from Southern California Edison. This happened a month after the Budget was approved by the Board. When your annual utility bill is $1.3 million, a 22% increase is not a minor element. We were able to make the necessary adjustments, but not without some difficulty for other areas. Whether you’re sitting in the CFO chair, CEO chair, VP of Sales or a Director chair, do you understand all the elements of your Forecast and are the assumptions that are incorporated sound? It’s redundant to start asking about why I may not be discussing other elements of the Budget, but again, this is the 40k foot commentary. Are you clear about the elements that comprise the foundation of your Forecast?

 

Thanks for reading . . . .

 

Jeffrey Ishmael

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