A little help with budgeting goes a long way for first-time leaders.
“If you’re a communications major, no one teaches you how to do a budget.” So says Rob Batarla, CFO at the American Physical Therapy Association, in this issue’s cover story. Ain’t that the truth.
I wasn’t a communications major, but I was a humanities and social sciences student at a small liberal arts college. My studies expanded my mind and my world’s horizons, but they left a lot of practical learning to happen on the job. Some years later, with my career in gear, the first budget I was responsible for landed on my desk—with a giant thud and little guidance.
I remember feeling lost as I reviewed those rows and columns on the budget worksheet. I recognized the costs of the publishing program that needed to be funded, as well as the revenue source that primarily supported them. But my predecessor had held the budget close to the vest, and there was scant information-sharing between the revenue and expense sides of the ledger. And so when the work fell to me, I was ill-equipped to do much more than replicate previous years’ patterns—and that, my friends, is how “we’ve always done it that way” thrives.
What I needed back then—and what APTA and other smart associations provide to staff—was basic budget training. Even more than that, I needed to see more clearly how my department’s slice of the financial pie connected to others in the organization. As the years went on, I gradually gained that knowledge, which put me in a much better position to develop budget alternatives when the 2008 recession hit and every organization, including mine, had some uncomfortable belt-tightening to do.
But as Batarla and others point out in our story, associations have a vested interest in actively teaching financial literacy. Don’t wait for your team to absorb financial know-how through some sort of organizational osmosis. How to do it? Start by turning to page 40.