GREG RAY: Hitching a comfy ride

MANY people ride many different types of cycles.

You’ve got your bicycles, your tricycles, your motorcycles and your unicycles. 

And in many businesses – and in government departments – they have budget cycles.

The trick with riding the budget cycle is that your wheels are supposed to get bigger every year. 

So if you start a job in government – federal, state or local – you might begin with training wheels but if you’ve mastered the art after 10 years you should be a big wheel.

The budget cycle can be a tricky beast, but the rules really aren’t that complicated.

You start with your estimates.

That’s when you have to tell those above you who are supplying the money to run your section just how much you will need in the coming year.

Mostly, from what I’ve seen, all you really have to do is look at last year’s expenditure and add a fat margin. 

About 10 per cent is usually enough.

The estimates process can be a bumpy road at times. 

Occasionally you might be asked to justify some item of proposed spending. 

But with a bit of waffle you can usually get most things through, at least partly because your bosses are all riding in the same direction.

The destination of your friendly little peleton is retirement, via various steps up the career ladder, and when you get there you want to be the biggest wheel you can.

You do this by building an empire beneath you, and you do this by spending other people’s money.

That’s why your estimates should never bear too much resemblance to reality. 

If you say, for argument’s sake, that you only want enough money to do the actual tasks you really have to perform, then you will almost certainly find yourself in strife.

Your empire won’t be growing. 

It will be shrinking and your journey may prove to be surprisingly short. 

No, the rule is a sensible rule and few involved in government will willingly ignore it.

After estimates the cycle has its twists and turns but it’s mostly about spending your budget.

The sensible budget cyclist always holds a bit in reserve, like a Tour de France champ, for a late run at the finish line.

Just keep an eye on your monthly targets and don’t stray too far.

But when April rolls around and you see the finish line just two months off, it’s time to think about a sprint.

Got a fair bit left over? Of course you have. You asked for more than you needed, remember?

You managed to get some underlings hired so that you could have somebody to boss around. 

So far, so good. You spent money on consultants (thanks cuz!) and you redesigned a heap of stationery. 

Oh, and the computers. And the cars. 

And the trips to interesting educational sessions. 

But what about that leftover cash? 

It’s got to go, and if you are smart you will actually spend a bit more than your budget, just to show that it wasn’t really quite enough after all.

It’s time for a spree. Go crazy. Spend up big. Pay too much. Just get rid of the dollars before the end of June.

Doesn’t really matter too much what you spend it on, as long as it fits more or less under one or other of your budget lines.

Redesign the stationery again, if you must. New letterheads are always nice and nothing thrills punters more than a new corporate logo.

New TV for the lunch room? 

No problem. 

Hey, how about fixing some potholes in the road, or doing some kerb and guttering?

That’s so crazy it might work. 

Just keep that old budget cycle on the track, build your empire year-on-year and soon you too will be a big wheel, cracking the whip on a whole team of cyclists below you, all pedalling like fury to a bigger and better tomorrow. 

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