Use the four-step C.A.S.E. system to help you organize and professionalize your budget pitch.
In the last column, we reviewed how to research and plan programming and product needs for your facility. Now it’s time to take this information and focus on how to make your C.A.S.E. to convince the general manager (GM) and others to support your request.
C.A.S.E. (consider, analyze, strategize and evaluate) is a four-step system designed to help you organize your research and opinions to create an argument based on facts versus fiction. C.A.S.E. will help you carefully consider the candidates; give you analytical tools to help determine if the product/program is a fit; provide strategies to determine who’s on your side; and, finally, offer an objective evaluation tool to showcase the bottom line.
You’ve already researched the program or product you want. Now dig a little deeper to find the unique selling proposition (USP). Also known as “unique selling point,” USP refers to any aspect of an object that differentiates it from similar objects. Uncovering the USP is the first step toward deciding if you are making the smartest decision. You’ll use the USP to prove to the GM what the product/program will do for you, your instructors or your members that the competition or something you already possess does not do. If you can’t do this, it will be harder to succeed.
Consider the following questions:
What does the product/program promise?
The company or vendor should be able to deliver a compelling “elevator speech.” In 2 minutes or less, the seller should be able to explain clearly why you must have the product/program.
- Look for information that details the product or program’s uniqueness (how does it compare with the competition, or is it one of a kind?).
- Decipher whom it will service (current members, different segments of your clientele, new members).
- Determine why you should invest (increase revenue, decrease spending, improve retention).
What is the product/program’s history?
Quiz employees from the company or research trade journals and websites to find out about its history. Ask the following:
- When was the concept developed, and by whom?
- What was the original intention or purpose?
- Who took a chance on the first purchase/implementation?
- How long has it been around, and how many other customers do you have?
Keep in mind that every product starts somewhere. However, it is generally easier to convince the GM if you can point to a distinctive history; to key influencers who have already succeeded with the product/program; or to longevity.
Who are the key players involved in the development, marketing and education?
It’s crucial to gather ideas for implementation and get pertinent education on the product/program. Also, find out what kind of support you will receive after purchasing. Determine who is involved and if these pieces exist. Ask the following:
- Who developed the product/program?
- Who is responsible for the educational content?
- Who has determined implementation strategies, and what type of on-site support is offered?
- Will anyone need to travel for training or education?
Of course, it’s best if the key players are professionals you trust who’ve been involved with other successful programs/ products, but newcomers can have equally valid ideas.
Next, run a needs analysis to determine how things are now; how they should or could be; and how this program/product will help your facility. Put your personal preference on the back burner for now. This is the first step in determining the cost-to-benefit ratio (how much it will cost compared with what the benefit will be). Follow the steps listed below with your top choice. If there is still more than one option, this process will help you make up your mind:
Restate and Clarify the Request. Begin by restating the request you’ll be making to your GM, your instructors and anyone else involved in the potential project. Clarify what you’ll be asking for (time, money, support). Record the information on paper in a clear, succinct and compelling way.
Identify the Business Need Underlying the Request. Get directly to the point: What part of the facility’s business will this impact? Will it increase membership or retention rates? Serve a new segment of your current membership base? Enhance employee relations? If you can show how the program/product will have a positive effect, you will have an easier time convincing the money holders to loosen the purse strings.
Decrease Expenses, Increase Revenue, Regulate Attrition. Everyone’s goal, from the top down, is to decrease expenses, increase revenue and regulate member and employee attrition. Identify, on paper, how the investment will bring in money, save money or keep employee satisfaction high while minimizing attrition. During this phase, spend little time with the hard numbers; you will come back to determine potential return on investment later.
For example, with the help of your GM and fellow managers you’ve identified that the club is missing the older- adult demographic. You set out to find the perfect program to service this group; however, it will cost $200 a month to license the program, $200 per person for the training and $500 for the new equipment. On paper, this looks like a large expense; however, if it meets outreach needs and services the mature population, it may make your case stronger. You must be able to prove how the new product/ program will help in one of these three categories.
Identify the Performance Gap. The performance gap is a way of measuring the current state of affairs against the desired state of affairs. It tackles the question: “If I buy this product/program, how far will my team have to stretch to make it a reality?” How much time and money will be needed to learn, practice, implement and continue offering the new product/program? This helps uncover hidden costs and/or the “sweat equity” involved, which equals money.
Conduct a Task Analysis. Identify the specific process necessary to obtain, train, implement and maintain the new product/program. What physical tasks are involved (ordering, receiving, installing)? Identify the intellectual tasks (user’s guide, training for instructors, member orientation). Forecast the attitudinal tasks (garner buy-in from staff and other team members; win over members).
Describe the Users and Influencers. Who will be the primary user(s)? Identify both the members who will be serviced and the instructor(s) who will deliver the new product or program. Think about assistance needed in purchasing, receiving, installing and upkeep. List names and identify the key role each will play. Remember, the fewer people you need or the more internal you can keep the process, the easier your argument will be.
Describe the Environment. Where will the product/program be used? Which studio? What part of the club? How will the timing work out? Will anyone or anything be misplaced? How will the installation or implementation potentially disrupt current procedures or club amenities? The fewer disruptions, the better.
Identify Project Constraints. Will something potentially make implementation difficult? Can you foresee any negative aspects? Many times we try to hide potential downfalls because we’re scared they will send warning flags to the GM and halt our progress. However, it’s better to speak up and let him or her know that you’ve identified potential issues and you know how to resolve them.
Now it’s time to strategize or develop your plan of attack:
Search for Impact. Develop a timeline based on when it makes the most sense to launch. For example, is January 1 the smartest time to bring in a new product? It depends on whom you’re trying to service. If your plan is to service new exercisers, then January 1 may not be the best time, since people join the facility at this time anyway. It may, however, be really smart to launch in June when new folks aren’t knocking down your doors.
Scout Support From Employees. Determine if you have enough employees to help you implement the program or if you will need to search beyond your team. You can’t do it alone; have an idea of who the key players will be and how you can get everyone on board.
Seek Resources for Education, Purchasing and Implementation. Review current educational opportunities. If support is nonexistent from the company, determine what you will need to prepare for staff training, including the investment in time. Review the purchasing process (type of payment accepted, preset terms, delivery timeline). Also, review suggested implementation procedures or detail your own. When will you have to order and get everything ready in order to launch on your chosen date?
Before you make your pitch to the GM, you have one more step: evaluate.
Sweat Equity Plus Monetary Equity. With the previous two steps, you detailed both the time and the money it will take to get the new project rolling. Now it’s time to add up all these numbers. How much is your time worth, and how much time will it take? Turn the numbers into dollars. Determine how much actual money it will take. This represents your total investment.
Possible Return on Investment (ROI). Search back through the “analyze” and “strategize” sections, above, to figure out how to determine potential return. Look at tangibles. Are you charging for the program? Will it lead to new memberships or a decrease in expenses and time needed for a specific task? Also look at nontangible items such as marketing opportunities and increased member and staff loyalty and excitement. Remember, an ROI allows you to be creative in what you consider the positive outcome to be rather than just the dollars and cents. Show how the time and money investment will positively affect your department and your club.
You now have enough information to make a compelling argument in support of your chosen product/program. Congratulations! This information will help you put together a presentation for upper management. Our next installment will focus on the finer points of budgeting and help you better understand terms that the GM, the controller or the accountant might throw your way.