In addressing planning, forecasting, and budgeting, some may think this is a deviation from the mountain operations theme of the Steep newsletter, but I would argue that is not the case. Unfortunately, as I try to promote the products I sell, MountainOffice and Medic52, I see the hesitancy from mountain operations folks to push back on the bean counters – the budget doesn’t allow me to do this. Make no mistake I am a solid advocate for excellent planning and forecasting; I spent my formative business years as a financial analyst for IBM developing strategic and operating plans that had input to the pricing of mainframe computers. Unfortunately, there are very few ski areas that could engage the process and the staff I experienced many years ago. However, the structure and the vision behind the process can and should be used.
The first step is that any plan must be true to the vision of the company. If a ski area’s vision is to be customer centric and provide the best skiing and riding in your geographic area, you can’t slash multiple customer touch points or not fund snowmaking to a level which enables making snow when you know you will need it.
The inclusion at the front end of the planning and budgeting process by all who contribute to the success or failure of a plan is critical and often neglected. Cross functional development of the plan assumptions is vital for success. Sending down from on high that revenue will grow by X% is farcical. I once had the experience of sitting in a meeting at a ski resort that had just come off a record snow year and the boss said that revenue will grow by 20% over the year just finished. You should have heard the cry from the GM and CFO of the mountain, but guess what, the 20% was put to paper. The point is that if you plan on growing revenue it needs to be identified in specifics and the resources necessary to make that growth realistic. It should not be wishful thinking but thinking grounded in reality with defined steps for achievement.
My next prophecy on planning, forecasting and budgeting are to recognize that budgets are static and yet the ski season is dynamic. Having the ability to do rolling forecasts is fairly easy given today’s tools and technology. Rolling forecasts can help you adjust staffing and spending levels without sacrificing the experience for the guests. As I said there are new tools that did not exist in my IBM days and I am sharing one with you via this article. I have no affiliation and no gain from anyone using this tool. But I do encourage you to completely read the article I am sharing. There are links within it to more research and information on this subject. Here is the link to – Ignite Cross-Functional Engagement in Your Planning Process. The obvious draw for me was cross- functional engagement in the title.
Mountain operations must be a full partner in the planning and forecasting process of every ski area, regardless of size. If you build the plan, you believe in it and will make a much greater effort to make it happen or exceed it. If you have it mandated to you, there is no ownership or commitment to success. Simple!