It’s Football Season. Did you know that the start of football season coincides with another season, pertinent to law firms? Football season also kicks off Budget Season. Many law firms, like the majority of businesses, begin preparing next year’s budget during the last quarter (some even do it while watching Monday Night Football).
Here are three budgeting tips that will help you stay in the game longer, earn more fans and create a long-term winning streak.
1. Draft a realistic game plan
Your budget is your financial and operational game plan for the coming year. Planning for the fundamentals is easy: overhead, salaries, supplies, marketing, etc. Flag on the field! Am I saying that marketing is a fundamental, essential expense? Absolutely. Marketing is your MVP and positions your law firm for success. You won’t have a winning season without it. Not including marketing in your annual budget is akin to benching your star quarterback. Draft your entire budget in writing, but don’t set the bar too high. You can’t score if you are unable to reach the end zone or field goal.
2. Keep your eye on the ball
Once your budget has been drafted, review it regularly to see how accurate your predictions were and if changes to the game plan are necessary. Host a monthly huddle with key management members to review the past month’s plays as well as formulate pending strategies for upcoming quarters. Frequent reviews help you stay on track, create a sense of teamwork and camaraderie, and ensure that each of your key players is following the same play book and aiming for the same goal.
3. Don’t be sidelined by losses
Just as when there are several players on the field, your budget may be impacted by a number of unforeseeable factors. Your budget might remain on target for a quarter or two, only to be suddenly sacked by unexpected expenses. What happens in the first quarter, second quarter or even the third quarter doesn’t necessarily reflect the final score. Some months may have unexpected expenses while others offer unexpected opportunities. Due to your regular budget reviews, you will notice the fluctuations and take advantage when possible. One winning opportunity could easily offset a brief loss – the opportunities are often thrown into play by your MVP (marketing). Take advantage of cost-effective marketing strategies and communications to get back in the game.
Unfortunately, when most people think of a budget, they picture limitations, pain, penalty flags and fouls. It can be very difficult to view a budget as a positive rather than a negative. Your attitude can make or break the season. Begin by drafting a realistic financial game plan. Remember to budget for incidentals and give your superstars, such as marketing, adequate attention. By keeping your eye on your budgeting ball, your firm will be poised to take advantage of opportunities that might otherwise be missed. A solid game plan, budget-wise, will ensure that you will be able to run interference when an obstacle blocks your pass. Don’t let temporary losses take you out of the game – keep your eyes open for opportunities to compensate for minor financial injuries. If you follow these three simple budgeting tips, your firm is more likely to have a winning season, with raving fans to cheer you on for the long-term.
Becca Fieler is an Online Marketing Specialist for BizActions, a Thomson Reuters Business, serving as a strategic partner in the planning and implementation of electronic communication and marketing initiatives. She develops and oversees comprehensive programs that present marketing strategies and solutions to diverse audiences, including attorneys, accountants, banks and credit unions, human resource companies and other professional service providers.
Academy Guest Blogger
American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.
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