it doesn’t feel right to receive 2014 budget questions already, but
the reality is that a lot of companies are starting the planning
process this summer. Sure makes vacation planning a challenge!
sure everyone gets a slice of that pie.
enough about fun; let’s dive deep into budget mode and see if we
can jolt your brain into forward-thinking about monetary requirements
to build a successful next year.
once worked with a company that did “zero-based budgeting.” Translation: They looked at the actual amount spent during the year,
not the budgeted amount. This means that if you had $100,000 budgeted
for marketing but they only let you spend $25,000 of that sum during
that year, you could not put more than $25,000 into your budget for
the next year.
your entire $100,000 marketing budget had been cut during the year,
then with zero-based budgeting for the next year, you would budget —
yep, you guessed it — nothing. Follow this operation long enough
and budgeting becomes unnecessary: Since you’ve spent nothing, you
can budget nothing.
bring this up because finance dudes (technical term) typically do
look at “actual” spending when they are approving budgets, so it
is vital that throughout the year you spend what you’ve got in each
of your budget lines, or you could end up with less firepower the
easy to convince yourself you’re saving the company money — and
indeed you might be for that year — but it’s possible that the
next year you’ll have a competitor and no ammunition to fight
because you out-smarted yourself.
always start the budgeting process with salaries. Without happy
employees, what do you have?
media employees have become accustomed to a 3 or 4 percent
cost-of-living increase. I urge even small operators to think hard
before taking away what little cost-of-living increase they offer.
You may be better off with one fewer employee to allow raises for
others who need to feel appreciated and happy.
that I’m advocating smaller staffs. Goodness knows most station
staffs are small enough already. For talent, you may be better off
considering ratings bonuses over standard increases. When talent hits
it big, everyone wins.
of which, if you have talent contracts coming up for renewal, do you
have an alternate talent plan in mind if negotiations don’t work
out? Have you considered how the incoming health care policy will
affect your staff budget?
are a few more benchmarks.
Can you afford not to know what your listeners enjoy and what
they detest? Even if you don’t have enough money for perceptual
studies, or music research, can you at least allocate enough for a
few focus group sessions?
Licenses: Many a manager has neglected to investigate software
licenses properly. Don’t wait until a product becomes unsupported
to realize you need budgeted money to purchase an upgrade. Be sure to
ask your staff what they believe they will actually need. This
doesn’t mean you are obligated to make the purchase, but you should
know how the people using the software think.
You probably can’t allocate much, so what you have you must
utilize wisely. Consider putting up the dough for Twitter and
Facebook advertising. Once you capture new social media users, you
can continue to market to them over and over. It’s the gift that
keeps on giving.
& Entertainment: You’ll have at least a few corporate
trips, right? Allocate a few bucks for meals schmoozing with
Services: Everything from show-prep materials to on-air guests to
Fees to the people you hate to pay but can’t live without.
Costs change. Be sure and check.
You’re paying something for hosting, bandwidth and other tools.
No doubt you are creating a separate capital budget. It is rarely
due the same time as your operating budget, but the two really belong
together because they require coordinated planning. It’s a good
idea to start it now even if it’s due later.
Put lots of money in this line because an outsider with a fresh
perspective and creative ideas can help move you the needle.
Allocate at least a gazillion/trillion dollars.
Lapidus is president of consulting firm Lapidus Media. Reach him at