Financial Manager’s Christmas List for 2012

Editor’s Note:  David Eberle, Director of the Environmental Finance Center at Boise State included this editorial in his most recent newsletter.  To learn more about this EFC, go to http://efc.boisestate.edu

 What’s on your list for 2012?  We encourage our children to make Christmas lists of things that they want.  They will spend hours thinking about what should be on this list.  Sometimes they are heartfelt, healing for a friend for family member, sometimes they are unrealistic, but the point is they spend time thinking about what it is they really want. Whether you are Christian or of different faith taking time for wishful thinking is a valuable pursuit. As adults and managers this is some of the most difficult thinking to do with all the time pressures to get things done.  Yet it can also be some of the most productive time spent and the holiday season is a great time to do some our own wishful thinking with people preparing their homes, children out of school, and everyone looking forward to a couple of days of escaping the office demands.

Making a list is the first step towards making 2012 more productive than 2011. What should be on that list? The easiest place to start is with what was achieved in 2011. Did you start or update your asset management plan? The corollary to this is whether you worked on your disaster management plan. Did you achieve your capital improvement plans with system upgrades?  Did you successfully place long-term debt? Did you meet your fiscal budget? Did you implement a rate plan that will allow your utility to maintain its major R&M? Did you improve your communication with your board or commission? Did you conduct performance evaluations of your staff?  The list quickly becomes exhaustive and you have not started on what you would like for next year.

What would you like to achieve next year?  The list is similar to your review of the prior year, 1) asset management, 2) disaster preparedness, 3) fiscal budgeting, 4) capital improvements, 5)  long-term debt placement, 6) major repairs and maintenance, 7) rate design and revenue plan, 8) better communication with your board, 9) employee development and 10) meeting new federal regulations. Trying to keep all this in your head, some elements will drop between the cracks. Trying to do all of it at once will conflict with day to day management. Ignoring it will lead to compliance violations, steep rate increases and will upset the governing board. Wouldn’t it be nice if Santa could just bring you a bag full of money to solve all the issues?

By taking the time to write down how you did the previous year and where you need to be at the end of next year is the first step to finding that metaphorical bag of money. Once the list is made, then take the time to break it down into small increments and allocate tasks throughout the year. If you follow a regular pattern throughout the year, many tasks that have been deferred in the past will get done because they have been scheduled into the work flow.

OK so that list looks like it could have been written by Scrooge. If you have a couple of dollars in your budget left over, picking up an iPhone or iPad (or something similar) to photo your assets, record the longitude and latitude, and email this information to your office to get a jump on an asset management or disaster preparedness plan would be one of the best purchases you could make.  Happy Holidays.

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