“Plan for what is difficult while it is easy. Do what is great while it is small.”
As the new year draws ever closer, many of us scramble to find effective ways to spend any extra funds that remain in our budgets.
Whether it’s accounting, human resources, research and development, sales and marketing, IT, or engineering, those departments who spend less toward expenses than they are given by the company often find themselves “punished” with lower budgets in the following year. In contrast, those groups who somehow manage to earmark an operational need for every dollar afforded to them are routinely rewarded for their efforts. It’s one of the great ironies of the corporate economy.
Despite the urge to act now or face the year-end “use it or lose it” backlash, it’s critical to think strategically about your organization’s future objectives before moving forward.
As you decide how you could (or should) ultimately spend those last remaining dollars, consider these four effective ways to use your end-of-year budget. With the right purchase or investment, you may have more than a budget increase to look forward to next year.
Your actions could positively impact other areas of your organization—from bolstering employee morale to helping you get ahead on your new goals for the upcoming quarter.
So, let’s get started.
Questions to determine how to spend your end-of-year budget
Before we dive into our top four suggestions, remember that the best way to spend end-of-year budget will be unique to each company. Ask yourself these questions as a starting point:
- What is your business strategy for the upcoming year? Will you need any additional technology, research, or resources to achieve those goals?
- Are there opportunities to streamline operations, automate processes, or bring services in house to be cost-efficient? For example, maybe you hired a commercial printer to create name badges for events this year, but you could use your extra budget to purchase a name badge printer.
- Could you use an outside opinion on your company’s performance, customers, market opportunity, or upcoming strategy? Invest in third-party research or audits.
- What marketing campaigns or content performed well this year? Can you boost promotion or create additional assets based off that content?
- What resources would be beneficial for your team and help them perform their roles better?
- Could any of your office tools, furniture, or software use an upgrade?
- Are you expecting your company to grow in the next year? Extra budget could go towards additional software licenses, phones, computers, and other tools and supplies that new hires will need.
Essentially, think ahead about where your company needs to be and devote your end-of-year budget to getting there. We don’t want to tell you how to spend your money, but if you’re still undecided about how best to use your extra funds, consider one of these tried-and-true options.
1. Assign resources to marketing efforts
There never seems to be enough time (or resources) to complete every goal, project, or assignment that comes your way—especially if you’re part of a marketing team.
The reasons are often simple enough. In most situations, we’re limited to the number of employees on our current payroll. Other times, we’re faced with budget constraints that restrict our companies from launching new ad campaigns or testing against our tried-and-true work.
When you are able to assign end-of-year resources toward your marketing efforts, you’re effectively making an investment in the year ahead. For example, your company could secure the talents of a freelance graphic designer to refresh your banner ads or commission a writer to author a series of blog posts. Or even hire an SEO firm to suggest strategies for your website.
Best of all, Q4 can be the perfect time frame to experiment with advertising ideas.
According to an AdRoll study, holiday ad campaigns that begin in October enjoy a 7% increase in ad impressions, a 12% drop in cost-per-click, as well as a 20% decrease in cost-per-thousand impressions—as compared to other months in the holiday season.
You might even want to compile a retrospective of your company’s accomplishments for the year. Infographics, videos, and case studies make for highly effective sales and marketing tools to attract new customers and resonate with your existing client base. Not only do they provide a way to address a year’s worth of milestones, but they can also demonstrate how your company’s products or services resolve issues and fulfill customers’ needs. If your sales team is like most, they will appreciate any additional resources you can offer to give prospective clients more compelling reasons to do business with your company.
2. Add new technology to streamline processes
The end of the year is a great time to take inventory of your current technology stack and identify any gaps in your business processes that cause pain for your department.
There are always a few employees who could use a new workstation—especially those with roles that demand more powerful hardware. Even though technology needs vary by industry and company size, using year-end budget resources on managed services and software expenditures can often have a greater impact on a company’s bottom line.
Within your department, which processes could be improved by new technology?
Perhaps your company has experienced significant growth over the past year—making it increasingly difficult to keep track of new and ongoing projects. If you don’t currently have a project management platform, think about investing your remaining budget in a project management platform like Workfront. It can provide your organization with a more effective way to eliminate silos, track progress, deliver faster results, and work together more efficiently.
Maybe your company could benefit from greater collaboration. If so, consider Lucidchart. Our web-based platform allows users to create, revise, and share diagrams to better understand and visualize your organization’s processes, systems, and more.
Compared to other purchases, investing in a technology platform that potentially makes your job easier is one of the smarter ways to spend your remaining budget before the year concludes.
Prior to the purchase of any new technology, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will this technology potentially save time or improve productivity?
- Will the cost of training on a new technology outweigh its benefits?
- Is this a proven technology or should you wait before adopting it?
You may even want to ask your employees for their opinions on what technology (if any) will have the greatest impact on their performance. If you can’t readily identify the advantages of investing in a new technology at the moment, it’s always okay to reconsider your decision.
Consider these additional questions as you evaluate enterprise software for your growing company.
3. Take a moment to recognize employees
Everyone enjoys feeling appreciated. If your company enjoyed a successful year or your team has gone above and beyond, why not use money to reward employees at the end of the year?
Recognition takes many different forms, which can fit almost any budget imaginable. For example, you could:
- Gift your outstanding employees with company apparel or logo merchandise.
- Present certificates or awards to help honor specific employee achievements.
- Set aside money for bonuses, event tickets, or gift cards to reward employees.
Employee recognition can also be as simple as a catered team lunch or an after-hours party at a nearby restaurant or hotel conference room. Of course, a year-end celebration is more than just another opportunity to highlight employee successes and company achievements.
It’s also a great excuse to get out of the office and get motivated for a great new year.
An alternative to the year-end party worth considering is a team-building activity. It can help build trust, encourage communication, resolve conflict, and increase collaboration between employees. Effective team-building activities produce more engaged employees—contributing to a healthy work culture while boosting your bottom line and retention numbers.
The best team-building activities don’t feel like the typical day at the office. Try to avoid being too overt in passing on leadership lessons or corporate mantras. Spending time together, sharing experiences, and working toward a common goal are all signs of any successful team-building activity—as well as evidence of company dollars well spent.
4. Invest in professional development
Related to our last suggestion, budget surpluses can also provide ways to invest in training and continuing education opportunities that can keep employees up to date with industry standards. And more satisfied with their jobs. Workforce statistics reveal that companies with engaged employees make 2.5 times the revenue and those highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their jobs.
Ask employees what resources would be the greatest benefit to their professional development. These opportunities could include:
- Conferences and travel costs
- Online courses or webinars
- Subscriptions to industry publications
- Memberships to professional associations
These experiences benefit your employees personally, but because employees are the greatest asset that your business has, ongoing education and training will also pay off for your company in the long run.
Don’t forget—January 1 is just around the corner. These are just four of the ways that you can spend what remains of your budget with intention prior to the year ending. Whatever you do, plan now to use it before you lose it after December 31.
See why Lucidchart is a savvy investment to help accelerate understanding and drive innovation throughout your business.