How many budget meetings have you been in during your career? For me, the number would have to be in the hundreds, maybe thousands. I’m guessing our drill is similar to yours… infinite ideas chasing finite dollars. Today, we were trying to rank order our budget requests.

After several impassioned pitches, each extolling the value and priority of the initiative in question, it was apparent we once again had more ideas than we had dollars. Then, a new member of the team asked a profound question:

“What happens if you don’t get the budget approved for this work?”

I love that question! Budgeting is not a binary function – you get the cash or you don’t; or at least it shouldn’t be. That would be like playing baseball and only counting the home runs. In reality, you can score a lot of runs without ever hitting it out of the park.

Here are eight ideas to consider if you DON’T get the cash…

  1. Scale back your request – You may want to do ten training sessions, but rather than do nothing, consider reducing your request. Five high impact events will certainly add more value than zero. The scope of most projects can be reduced.
  2. Break your project into phases – Yes, the ideal scenario might be to execute all three phases of your idea in one calendar year. So what? The second best way is probably to break the work into multiple parts – each funded in separate years. Even if it takes three, four, or even five years to fund a major initiative, that should still be better than doing nothing.
  3. Pursue a less expensive path – Let’s face it, most of us don’t recommend the least expensive way to do anything. However, faced with the option of doing nothing or a less expensive version, I will almost always choose the cheaper version. During a recent budget cutting effort, our catering became pizza. It still worked.
  4. Delay the work – If you can’t secure the funding you need in the upcoming budget cycle, one option is to defer. This is NOT the same as walking away from the work forever. Today, 26 years after we started talking about becoming a team-based organization, we added a statement about teams to our list of guiding principles. [tweet_box design=”default”]An idea deferred is not dead.[/tweet_box]
  5. Consider a new approach – This is often the hardest and most productive outcome of a “no” during the budgeting process. How else could you do this work? Not a scaled back, less expensive, phased approach; rather, something fundamentally different. How could you do this work in a way you have never considered before? The lack of funds could be the breakthrough you have needed in disguise.
  6. Piggyback on another project – This response does require some mental agility and good judgment. It is not intended to blur the lines of integrity, hide money. It does however require some ingenuity. If your travel budget is cut for one project, can you combine trips with another project that is funded? If your focus groups are not in the budget, can you add some questions to someone else’s focus group agenda?
  7. Reallocate money from existing work – Again, this is not intended to play fast and loose with the budget. However, many organizations give a high degree of discretion regarding how allocated dollars can be invested. If this is true in your case, look for something you’ve done in the past that has less value than your new idea. Stop doing the old work and fund the new.
  8. Don’t do the work – If all the options above fail, you can decide not do the work. However, if you can’t find any legitimate way to proceed, but you can’t live with the idea of never doing the project, see number four above. You may decide to hold your initiative until the time is right. How long? It depends on how much you believe in your idea.

By the way, the real goal is not to have to do any of the things above. Your primary objective should be to secure the funds you need. Next week, I’ll share a few ideas on how to increase your batting average during budget season.[GLS_Shield]

Author: Mark Miller

Mark is a business leader, author, communicator, photographer, husband, and father. He spends his time helping leaders grow.