Brad Feld

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Budget: First Half, Second Half

Jun 07, 2016
Category Management

If you are the CEO of a VC or angel backed company, will need to raise more money in the future, are doing more than $100,000 of revenue a month, and are growing more than 25% a year, then this post if for you.

In January, you finalized your budget. Unless something went horribly wrong, you made your plan in January, especially if the plan was finalized in February. Assuming things were on track, you made March and declared victory on Q1.

Q1 is the easiest quarter to make. If you miss your Q1, regardless of the type of revenue you have, you aren’t going to make your revenue plan for the year because your budget process isn’t accurate. If you are a SaaS or consulting business, you likely just can’t make up what you missed, especially if your growth rate is greater than 50% for the year. If you sell a physical product, you have a lot of Q4 upside and unpredictability, but now you have to manage your cash to get to Q4 so that you can invest in building inventory to over-perform. If you are a marketplace, you’ve likely got a supply/demand imbalance that you don’t completely understand. And, if you overperformed on sales but can’t implement things fast enough to recognize revenue, you’ve got an entirely different, and especially difficult problem to overcome.

If you aren’t going to make your revenue plan, it’s unlikely you’ll make your EBITDA or Net Income plan. You don’t even have to get complicated and look at Gross Margin or more derivative metrics – if you are off in Q1 and have any sort of growth expectations , you are going to miss for the year.

But, if you are like most CEOs, you think you’ll fix things in Q2 and be close enough to or at plan to keep going on your current budget. And, if you met or beat Q1, you’ll be somewhere between appropriately confident and overconfident about Q2.

It’s June 7th. You likely know how you are going to do in Q2 by now. Every now and then I run across a business that doesn’t have a handle on their first half of the year by the beginning of June, but if you are honest with yourself today, you know whether you will be ahead of, at, or behind plan at the end of Q2.

If you are going to be more than 2.5% behind plan on your revenue line for the first half of 2016, it’s time to rebudget for the second half of the year. If you missed your EBITDA by more than 5%, it’s time to rebudget for the second half of the year. If your GM% is off by more than 5% for the first half, it’s time to rebudget for the second half.

When I say rebudget, I don’t mean “reforecast.” I don’t mean have three numbers – original plan, new plan, actuals. I mean start now, before June is over, and create a 2H16 budget. Throw away your current budget for 2H16 – it’s wrong. Don’t wait until July to realize that it’s wrong. Own that it is wrong right now and come up with a new plan for the rest of the year.

Deal with reality. Your growth rate will be slower than you planned at the beginning of the year. No matter what you do at this point, your EBITDA loss and the amount of cash you will consume over the year will be greater than the original budget. You will have an uncomfortable board meeting in your future. But it won’t be nearly as uncomfortable if you keep waiting to deal with reality.

This is especially true if you have a growth rate of > 100% planned for the year. The smart CEO has already reduced her hiring plan but in an informal way. By creating an entirely new budget for 2H16, you make it official. You also make it clear to everyone, including your team, your board, and your investors where you really are at and where you are planning to go.