If you’re struggling to create a business budget in the current economic climate, you’re not alone. With COVID-19 in play—and the unprecedented economic uncertainty that came along with it—budgeting can be a daunting process.
A business budget is still one of the best ways to avoid financial disaster when unforeseen challenges arise. Use the strategies below to keep your business on track during these uncertain times.
Before we dive into creating a business budget in uncertain times, here’s a quick recap of what the annual business budgeting process looks like in simpler, “regular” times.
Use accurate, historical data to inform your budget—such as your business’s sales analytics, up-to-date books, and accurate financial statements.
Figure out which business drivers are having the biggest impact on your business’s performance. These can vary significantly by industry, but common examples include sales leads and quota attainments, internal efficiency, and supplier costs. Find yours by looking at your financial statements and asking: “What drives this line item?”
Are you planning to hire more employees, purchase new equipment, or lease a new physical location? Make sure your budget reflects the financial impact of any known upcoming changes you’ll be making in the next 12 months.
With all of the above information on hand, it’s time to pull your business budget together. Make sure it includes:
The catch with creating a business budget in regular times is that it relies on typically predictable variables, many of which have been thrown into flux thanks to COVID-19.
Things like market stability, supplier availability, and even the ability to hire staff and work with customers at a physical location are all no longer guaranteed.
So, as you begin to create a pandemic-proof budget for your business, there’s a list of new considerations that you’ll need to keep in mind.
Every industry has been impacted differently by the pandemic. Demand has skyrocketed for some and trickled for others.
While you may be able to forecast how market conditions will impact your business in the months to come, it’s important to accept long-term uncertainty and be prepared for things to change suddenly at any time.
Given how the pandemic could impact your business, it’s time to ask a tough question: are your pre-COVID growth plans still viable, do they need a slight tweak, or is it time to pivot and create a new growth strategy altogether?
The answer to this question will be different for every business.
Some things to think about include:
Investors tend to be more cautious in a downturn. If your business relies on funding, make sure you’re clear on how easy or how difficult it will be to secure investment in the next 12 months.
It’s never fun to imagine your business in crisis. But coming up with a plan to deal with financial challenges before they happen can help you course-correct and avoid disaster.
The following strategies can help you plan for future uncertainty in your budget.
You know what drives business in regular times. And based on the last six months, you also have some rough historical data on how the pandemic and economic downturn has affected your industry.
To plan for future uncertainty, use what you know to assess how your key drivers may be impacted over the next 12 months.
Ask the following questions:
Based on what could happen to your business drivers, create several versions of your budget and put a plan in place to navigate the best and worst-case scenarios.
Use these questions to get started:
With a contingency plan on hand for each of these scenarios, you’ll be able to course-correct the second an unforeseen challenge arises.
For better or worse, all of these scenarios are going to impact your business’s financial runway.
Make sure you’re clear on your runway needs in each scenario by asking some tough questions:
If you find that your runway is shorter than expected, run the numbers and recalculate your cash burn rate.
By extending your runway, you may be able to give your business more time to find its footing again before turning to investors or creditors for support.
Remember those growth plans you had before COVID-19 hit? It’s time to re-examine them and decide if they need to be adjusted, postponed, or shelved.
Use the following questions to assess your growth plans for each of your budgeting scenarios:
It’s challenging to create a business budget in the face of so much uncertainty—but it’s also more important than ever. Adapting your business budget for uncertain times can keep your business on track as the economy recovers in the wake of COVID-19.
Remember: you’ll need to have accurate books and up-to-date financial statements to work through the strategies we outlined above. If you need some help with that, Pilot’s expert bookkeeping and CFO services can set up the foundation you need.
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