It’s time to wrap up your plans and budget for next year. Do you, like me, leave out something that has an impact on your spending patterns or your operations and you find yourself either adjusting or going without all year? Or, is there the possibility that your capital won’t be approved and you’ll have to spend P&L dollars on maintaining something that should have been replaced? (I’m looking at you, card embosser…)
Obviously you’re going to submit and obtain approval before getting your plan and budget’s final incarnations. You may, however be able to mitigate some of the pain that comes from surprises in the new year. Try these tips for better planning.
Tip 1: Take a hard look at this year
For this exercise, you’ll have to be ruthless. It may even be a bit painful, but it is essential to a successful planning process. From a budget perspective, it is imperative to understand where your dollars were spent well and where they were not. From a business or marketing plan perspective, you need to know where there’s room for improvement and which things are working for you today.
What did you plan that didn’t work out in 2014? Were there things you didn’t have the funds for despite your best intentions? How could you have improved cash flow, yield, labor, data, events, etc.? What goals or strategies did you employ that just did not give you the results you anticipated? What processes or events or promotions met, or even better, exceeded your expectations and should be incorporated in to your plans for next year?
Take what you learn from this exercise to build a framework for the upcoming year. Avoid being accused of insanity by proactively deciding NOT to repeat the things you did this year and expecting a different result next year.
Tip 2: Get the interested parties together and hash things out
Sit down with the rest of your department and those departments whose budgets and plans are interdependent with yours and talk things through. If your host team needs resources or new tools to identify or maintain contact with your players of opportunity, who better to ask about what they think? If Food & Beverage wants to place steakhouse ads in the local newspaper, doesn’t marketing need to know that? If Entertainment is planning a series of comedy shows, if the hotel is doing renovations, if slots is replacing a third of your machines…you see where this is going, right? You can’t plan or budget in a vacuum and have the result be something you can actually stick to for an entire year. Have a “big ole” meeting, have everyone put their ideas and plans on the table, and figure out how it all affects the other departments’ plans and cash flow.
Tip 2: Look at others’ plans for opportunities
Take what you’ve learned from the big meeting and determine what provides you with opportunities. Is there going to be a big hotel refurbishment in your future? Ask what they’re doing with items that can be re-purposed: some of the items could even be useful in a player giveaway or promotion, or you could have a big tag sale and drive revenue on a traditionally slow weekend after the renovation is done. Is the slot department replacing under-performing machines? What opportunities are there for events or promotions related to the arrival of the new machines? Could you invite your best and most loyal players to cut a ribbon to open them up for play? Surely there are lots of things in your peers’ plans that could provide you a chance to make a splash. Learn about them now and incorporate them into your plans.
Tip 3: Dream realistically
Every department head has a wish list. Brainstorm everything you’d like to have, see, or do; then cull the list by priority without regard to expense. Then, rank according to priority with a note about how much it costs, so you can come up with a realistic scenario. Obviously, not everything on a wish list is going to come to pass, so while you’re spending time with your friends from the other departments, ask about their wish lists and see if there are some synergies that can be leveraged to help the entire property. Is IT buying any new computers next year? Let them know about your technology wish list so they can spec your equipment for a combined order with a bigger discount.
Tip 5: Expect the unexpected
Clearly, some of the things you plan for will come to pass just as you envisioned them. Others, however, will morph into something you hadn’t anticipated. Spend the time now planning for contingencies and you will be better prepared for the unknown when it occurs. Might you have to choose between two of your pet projects because the revenue projections were too high? Sure. Could you find yourself in need of a technology solution due to a hiring freeze or lack of qualified job applicants? Absolutely. Is there the possibility that a competitor will launch a campaign or promotion to which you will have to adjust? You betcha!
Any (or all) of these events will be easier to handle in the heat of the moment if you have spent some time preparing for them in advance. Happily, there is no better time to plan than while you are already planning. Look at some of the things you may have eliminated in your early planning process and decide whether any of them could readily be put on a back burner to be deployed in case of a major shift in your market or competitive set.
Tip 5: Get buy-in from the stakeholders
This is a 360-degree exercise, but totally worth the time and energy you invest in it. Once you’ve got a first draft submitted, ensuring that your plans are in alignment with those of your boss, the department, the property and your employees will go a long way to assuring that those plans and strategies are successful in the end. Have a meeting with your team(s) and share the vision with them. Ask them for ideas or suggestions to streamline their daily tasks or processes. (It’s a good idea to do this periodically even when you AREN’T planning for the year ahead, by the way.)
This brings the process full circle and provides you with an opportunity to verify that your plans and budgets are on the right track to help you and the property achieve all you hope to in the year ahead.
Did we leave out an indispensable step you can’t plan without? Please share for the edification of all our readers.