10 signs you may not be cut out for the budget director role

An effective budget director combines financial and accounting skills with several specific people skills. Not everyone can master the combination--can you?


Image: iStock/AndreyPopov

To be successful, every organization, whether business or nonprofit, must be able to plan, manage, and maintain its finances. The ability to plan for revenues and expenses in such a way that the operation is consistently and predictably solvent is an acquired skill. Individuals filling financial management positions like enterprise budget director must not only have accounting skills, but also certain people skills, including a balanced temperament.

As you might suspect, not everyone is well-suited to be a budget director. Planning a financial budget for an enterprise requires a patient, detailed-oriented individual with impeccable accounting skills, thick skin, and a strong constitution. Before considering a life of balancing budgets, pinching pennies, and cajoling executives, you should seriously assess your ability to master the strenuous demands of a financial management career.

This article lists 10 signs you are just not cut out to be a budget director. For this purpose, we assume you have the necessary accounting and financial skills to be a great budget director--the pertinent question is do you have the necessary nontechnical skills?

Check out this free ebook for a look at other IT job roles to help you decide if they're a good fit for you.

1. You don't like dealing with numbers

This category may seem obvious, but you would be surprised by how many people choose a career in finance and accounting without realizing just how deep the numbers can go when developing a budget. A good budget director must not only plan for large capital expenditures like new production equipment, but also for the small day-to-day expenses. By the time a budget cycle is over, a budget director will know how much the enterprise spends on paper clips annually and have a strategy to account for it.

If delving that deep into cost structures on an annual basis is not something you can embrace, life as a budget director is going to become tedious very quickly.

2. You don't like saying "No"

One of the primary functions of a budget director practicing their craft in a business enterprise is to know when to say "No." Sometimes there is just not enough money in a budget to allow a department to spend what it wants to spend. When that happens, the budget director will have to say "No" and mean it. If the idea of saying "No" to a group of people and risking their ire gives you an ulcer, perhaps you should choose a different line of work.

SEE: Hiring kit: IT finance manager/budget director (Tech Pro Research)

3. You don't like taking the blame

Closely related to the idea of saying "No" is the idea of taking the blame. When a budget director turns down a budget proposal because it's too expensive, it is often not really the budget director's decision. Strategic financial plans are decided by enterprise executives and then passed down to the budget director and their staff where the policies are enacted.

In essence, the budget director is in charge of enforcing the financial decisions of the enterprise executives. But because they are front and center in the enforcement of those policies, they often get the brunt of the blame--whether it is fairly earned or not. A budget director has to be able to absorb this blame regardless of absolute responsibility.

SEE: IT budgeting: How to do it right (free TechRepublic PDF)

4. You don't like deadlines and inevitability

Generally speaking, the budgetary process runs on a periodic schedule--monthly, annually, etc. This fact means that each budgetary period has an end, a deadline for completion of the process. It also means that the process is continuous--when one period ends a new period begins.

This cycle of crucial deadline followed by preparing for the next crucial deadline can be stressful and may lead to burnout for many people. If the certainty of repeating a process over and over again appeals to you, budget director may be a good career choice. But if it doesn't, your career may lie in another field.

5. You don't like collecting data

A major part of a budget director's duties revolves around collecting and collating financial data from department heads. However, in more than a few cases, department managers can be less than enthusiastic about providing the necessary information, and the process can devolve into a cat-and-mouse game with a looming deadline to increase the pressure.

If you consider collecting data from reluctant participants about as appealing as herding cats, the budget director role may not be your best choice.

SEE: 2019 IT Budget Research Report: IT spending increases due to business conditions, security, and revenue opportunities (Tech Pro Research)

6. You don't like negotiating compromises with executives

While a budget director is often not responsible for making the ultimate enterprise financial decisions, they are often called upon to provide actionable information to the executives who are. As the one person in the organization most familiar with all aspects of an enterprise's budget, a good director will also fill an advisory role during its preparation.

This advisory role will require the negotiation of financial compromises and potentially the cajoling of executives stubbornly hanging onto strategic plans that are just not in the budget. Directors in this position must be comfortable with saying "No, but maybe we can do this" to executives listed above them on the organizational chart. That is not a situation everyone can embrace.

7. You don't like negotiating with clients and vendors

Negotiating favorable terms from vendors and clients of the enterprise is an important part of a budget director's responsibilities. Again, negotiations involving finances, costs, and money almost always require compromise and more than a little cajoling. To get the job done, a budget director may have to be friendly and charming with one vendor while being tough and firm with another. Knowing which vendor responds better to which tactic is an acquired skill requiring a measure of people savvy that not everyone can bring to the table.

8. You don't like legalese, contracts, and written agreements

Once a budget director has negotiated terms with the organization's clients and vendors, those terms must be memorialized in a contract or service level agreement (SLA). This means a budget director must be familiar and comfortable with writing, editing, and reading legalese, especially as it pertains to financial planning.

Wading through a long contract to verify the specifics of a negotiated deal can cause some people's eyes to glaze over. On the other hand, if you have the knack for quickly and accurately scanning legal documents, the budget director job may be a good fit for you.

9. You don't like managing staff

Except in extremely small operations, a budget director won't be able to perform all the required duties for an enterprise on their own. A staff of assistants, clerks, and data entry personnel will likely be required, and they will have to be actively managed by the director. Depending on how the operation is configured, this will include training, development, and employee reviews.

Effective personnel management is a skill that eludes many. You should be honest with yourself about your true skill in this area. If you are not able or willing to take on the responsibility of managing a staff, budget director won't be a good career choice.

10. You don't like dealing with compliance regulations

Often overlooked as a responsibility for budget directors working is certain industries is compliance with governmental regulations. Banks, insurance companies, hospitals, and other regulated industries often have budgetary compliance reporting requirements that must be completed on a periodic basis.

Compliance with those provisions adds another layer of stress to the budget director's cycle of deadlines. In addition, it will be necessary to wade through an assortment of esoteric laws and regulations to determine exactly what's required and when. Dealing with the minutia of government constructed compliance regulations does not meet everyone's idea of job satisfaction.

SEE: IT budgeting: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)

Career path

To be sure, budget director is not a career built for just anyone. Performing the job effectively takes financial and accounting skill combined with people skills not everyone can master. However, if you have those skills, the budget director position can be one of the most satisfying careers a person could have. It pays well, and those talents are always in demand.

Does the budget director job seem right for you? These resources can help

Your thoughts

Do you have what it takes to be a budget director? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.

By Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.