Don’t we wish our yearly budget meetings all went like this:
SPORTS FIELD MANAGER: Hey boss! How’s it going? Lovely weather outside!
BOSS: It’s a great day! I just reviewed all the numbers for next year’s budget, and it’s approved! No explanation needed. I also threw in an extra 25k for some extra supplies and another 25k into your salary.
SPORTS FIELD MANAGER: That’s great! See you next year!
Unfortunately, budget meetings don’t work like that. Most budget building proposals and budget meetings take a lot of planning and preparation, and they are almost impossible to plan. Most of the time we feel like everything we present is generally going to get shot down. Getting all your information together and being organized can help make a great case for why you need what you need and, in the end, hopefully get you what you require. Having a positive relationship and having open and honest communication throughout the year with your supervisors, not just at budget time, can increase your chances of getting the help and your supplies.
Keeping accurate and detailed records on supplies and equipment is key when devising a budget and agronomic and cultural practice plan that will help you and your department succeed. Basing next year off of last year and previous years is a daunting and tedious task. Knowing your team, school and/or events schedule is critical to planning a budget – and planning for the “Hey, I forgot to tell you…” events as well. Also, constant communication with co-workers, colleagues within the industry, and vendors plays a crucial role in budgeting to ensure that you are getting the best products and supplies for the best price. Staying informed about new products or early order programs from your vendors can help you get the best “bang for your buck.”
Over 14 years of working in the minor leagues, I have learned the importance of the following:
Be organized. This seems like an easy concept, but we all struggle with it from time to time. Keeping a notebook with notes on daily activities and an events calendar is a great start to being organized. Keeping up with notes is usually the task that gets neglected, and we are left scrambling to remember what we did last week. Make it a daily habit to jot a few notes down at the end of the day. Try to be as detailed as possible about what was done that day so you can keep accurate records of inventory and maintenance on equipment. Taking notes can help with forecasting, because you can see when your busiest times of the year are and hopefully plan for it the following year to make it easier for yourself and your employees. Also, logging your hours, along with your employee’s hours, is crucial to forecasting for the next year. Taking notes can also defend your case for new equipment, so you can show your bosses how often you are making repairs or how much time is spent doing one task.
Know what you got/know your shop. This also seems like another easy one. Going through your shop and having a purge day can help sort through some of the junk and find the hidden gems you may have completely forgotten. Taking an inventory once a month helps you to know what you have got in your shop, and the frequency you use these supplies. Also, you can keep up with how your equipment is wearing down and/or what needs to be repaired or replaced. Keeping a yearly report of your equipment and the life expectancy of it can help you and your supervisors devise a plan for repairs or replacements in the capital budget.
On my second day of work with the Buffalo Bisons, I had to move everything out of the shop and give it a new home. That was the perfect time to take inventory and go through what was needed and what was not. Having a monthly “purge day” with a deep clean of our new shop and equipment kept everything in order and helped us make better decisions on what needed. This monthly task also helped us to keep track of what we use the most, and maintain the equipment better.
Timing is everything/look the part. Asking your boss for an extra $5,000 to fix the tractor immediately after a tarp pull probably isn’t the best time. Ask when he or she is free, and set up a meeting to catch up. We all don’t like it when our sales reps just drop by unannounced – don’t do it to your boss either. If you know that you have a big event planned for the upcoming year, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need, and use that as leverage to get it. Major concerts, tournaments or any other activity that’s not dedicated to your sport can cause a ton of stress on you and the field. Coming up with a plan to make these events run smoothly can make everyone happy. Also, when you do get some face time, put away your favorite dirt-and-sweat-stained hat, and put on a polo shirt and khakis, at least. Dressing the part shows how serious you are about your profession, the department, and what you have planned up for the next year or years to come.
Talk the talk. Let’s face it, if we try to explain our soil sample report to our bosses, they will fall asleep. Explaining the whys, hows and whats of our jobs will go over their heads and will be more than likely deemed unnecessary because they don’t understand what you need. Try to make “dirt talk” into “numbers talk.” Taking what you know and stating it in a way that is a little easier to digest will help them understand your struggles, and hopefully get you what you need. When talking with your boss, use the research from your notes and the communication you’ve had with vendors to discuss problems you have encountered or the new equipment you want to purchase. Develop multiple solutions on how you can remedy a concern. If you need a new piece of equipment, explain how it could positively affect other departments and how it can save the organization money down the road. Making a PowerPoint presentation is a good way to clearly communicate what you need, and it provides visual information on what exactly you are talking about. During those talks, a good way to explain what you are talking about is to physically show them the concern. Also, provide a rundown of the good, the bad and the ugly. Try not to bombard them with what’s broken or that everything is a hunk of junk. Hearing some good news on how you are spending your money wisely and what’s going right is news they want to hear too. It will keep them from thinking you are a “negative Nelly,” and help shine a light on how your department runs.
While I was with the Great Lakes Loons, we desperately needed new batting practice protectors. The old ones were too big, and the grommets were completely ripped off, causing a trip hazard. One day while my GM was around the cage for batting practice, I explained the issues and physically showed him our concern. I also had some mock-ups for new ones with our logos on them sent to him, and I got what I needed the next year. (We were hosting the All-Star Game the following year, so timing was everything.)
We all do things differently and have different approaches to building budgets and communicating our needs. Hopefully you are already doing these things and have found success; or you can take some of these concepts, apply them and see what works best for you.
Kelly Rensel, CSFM, is head groundskeeper for the Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays. He has worked in Minor League Baseball over the last 14 years, and has a Sport Administration degree from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at @kelren31.