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I've found that budgeting exercises are one of the least understood tasks for the new department manager. It's not something that's generally taught, and often learned through trial by fire before gaining entry into the inner financial sanctum. Even if the calculation methods are provided, the negotiation process remains a mystery. It does not need to be such a daunting task.

Here are some tips for the third budgeting activity, the monthly review meetings:

Monthly Budget Reviews

1. Be prepared and anticipate what will be asked. If you draw a blank, talk with someone who has gone through the process before.

2. If you don't know, don't wing it. Say you will have to get back to them.

3. Do not say "you don't know" often, especially not for the same type of question.

4. Learn from prior meetings and don't repeat mistakes.

5. Do not fail to deliver what was asked at prior meetings.

6. Don't get frustrated when asked a question that you didn't anticipate. Part of this is a game of "stump the candidate." It's designed to insure you know your business and the numbers.

7. When pressed to defend it, have graphs or data to back-up your position. But if you're not asked, do not use them!

8. Stick to the primary objective of summarizing progress and variances. Keep it short and sweet. "Just the facts, ma'am."

9. Focus on the major dollar variances, not the small potato items.

10. Look for unusual trends, like a spike up or down for the month compared to past months. Have a good explanation for each of these.

11. If asked, resist forecasting off-the-cuff. It's a number that is most often remembered.

12. Only guesstimate if you feel what you are about to say is really achievable.

For a copy of a sample department budget model, please sign our Guestbook, and request a copy of the "Budget Tips #3 Template."

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