Managing a Department Budget- why non-financial managers need to look at the figures


Financial Knowledge is a must for all Departmental Managers!

Spreadsheets, budgets and Profits & Losses are for management, accountants and finance departments. As non-financial managers, you need to focus on your team and deliverables, and let the experts worry about the numbers. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Profit margins are shrinking and companies have to find innovative ways to stay afloat. This makes budgets and profit and loss everybody’s problem – including yours!

Knowing basic accounting is no longer a ‘nice to have’ asset – it’s a must have. The ability to run your team within a budget and being able to justify your spend, will actually determine your team’s survival in the long term. So what does knowing basic accounting look like?

The first thing to do is get an understanding of the key figures that are important to your business and stakeholders. Obviously it’s profit – but what specifically? What are top line and bottom line costs that the company is monitoring?

  1. There are three main financial statements that you need to know and worry about – Balance Sheet, Profit and Loss (income) and Cash Flow. These three documents will give you an overall understanding of where the company is at and how it is performing. These numbers will also help you determine how your team can add value to the organisation.
  2. Managing a team means decision making, and this involves data and analytics. In order to make informed decisions you need numbers. These numbers should ideally include budgets as well. Any action you have taken needs to have a cost benefit analysis attached to it.

Let’s take a real life scenario. As a department head you are probably required to submit annual strategic plans and bi–annual reviews.

If you are in the process of developing your department’s strategic plan, then apart from annual business goals or KPIs you will need the following, if you want the plan to be approved:-

Revenue Projections – with projected growth that is based on the annual business goals and team KPIs.

  • Fixed Cost – employee salaries, infrastructure costs, etc. Basically recurring cost that you incur every month to keep the lights on.
  • Variable Cost – campaign management cost, over time pay, and other costs that need to be budgeted in during various times of the year.

Once you have all these details in place, you will need to play devil’s advocate with your budget. What are your department deliverables? What are the goals? What services do you offer to the organisation?

Play out a couple of ‘what if’ scenarios so that when the board queries your numbers, you have the data and analytics to back it up. A famous question that CEO’s like to ask managers of sales teams is – “If I double your budget can you double your sales projections?”

If a similar question were posed to you, what would your answer be? Once you have the analytics to back up your department budget, then it’s a matter of priorities.

What is a ‘must have’ expenditure and what is a ‘nice to have’?

Know you are almost ready. The next step is to use a simple budgeting tool (such as Excel) to present your projections, numbers and goals in a friendly manner – via charts and graphs.

Of course it is important to note that plans are not iron clad. Your budget will, from time to time, have variances. But planning will ensure that these variances are kept to a minimum within your department, and even when they do occur, they do not adversely affect the bottom line of the company.

In case you still aren’t convinced on the importance of budgeting practices as a non – financial manager; let’s look at an example close to home. Stevi Lowmass, the Founder of The Camel Soap Factory, started just six years ago from the shed of her Dubai villa. A first time entrepreneur and previously General Manager of a software company, Stevi quickly learnt the challenges of a owning a SME – especially cost vs. benefit.

This is just one example, budgeting can come in handy in any situation, even in personal financial management.

If you would like some in depth knowledge, join us at ISM for the Finance for Non Financial Managers workshop. Register today!

All of us are to some degree influenced by the dramatic turn of events affecting the world economy – especially those businesses in the UAE and around the world which are under considerable pressure to retain cost-conscious customers.

Irrespective of whether you are managing a team, a division or a company, you will be under the gun to do more with less, while at the same time trying to maintain employee motivation and focus.

The Response to Recession

As the economy moves unsteadily on the brink of a recession, inevitably, among the first victims of corporate cutbacks will be the elements most vital to a robust talent management strategy. A few examples of such strategic moves and their impact:

  • Budget Cuts: HSBC cutting budgets on recruitment, entertainment and travel. Derailed by the Chinese slowdown, the giant bank aims for planned cost cuts as an attempt to face poor performance in Asia.


  • Lay off employees: British Petroleum announced plans to slash 4,000 jobs in exploration and production due to declining oil prices. To touch on stats, the company plans to shed 10% of the total workforce over three years.


  • Spillover effect: Companies in the oil and gas industry in the UAE decreasing their hiring efforts to survive the downturn. This also leads to high concerns that there could be job cuts in other sectors such as retail and hospitality in Dubai.


  • Stress-producing event: Financial crisis can negatively affect an employee’s psychological state, health and work performance.

However, such moves will be short sighted because the need for talent has never been greater. Companies that deal with economic slumps by cutting back too drastically on talent may find themselves unprepared for the long term.

The Underlying Issue: Managing Talent

In such trying times, the first, almost instinctive reaction of management is to reduce expenses by cutting salaries and jobs. For that reason, many companies place Talent Officers or HR Managers squarely in the middle of their turnaround plans.

However, the most pressing issue is the lack of talent management during an economic uncertainty or stagnation. In an environment of recession, every difficulty that emerges can demoralize even the best of employees. Their experience, talent and skills might not be enough to face the challenges.

Therefore, it is important to have on board people-sensitive managers who understand the importance of recognising and fully utilising the knowledge and unique skills of each employee. The dire need for motivation in the workplace under such demanding conditions is more important than ever, in order to mitigate potential reduction of productivity and to achieve operational excellence.

Let’s not forget, all carrots don’t look the same – especially during an economic downturn where the concerns are of a different nature: forced early retirement, change in one’s financial situation, the duration of unemployment, decrease level of income and fear of losing one’s job.

Instead of paying lip service to common phrases such as ‘people are our most important asset’, organizations should demonstrate that they are committed to looking after their employees during tough times, by investing in them through implementation of training and development programs, for instance.

Recession: an Opportunity

Investing in human capital during a downturn is, in most cases, considered a luxury. Hence, recessions offer the perfect opportunity to reach out.

When financial resources are scarce, the means to advance the company is through employee engagement and commitment. Utilising the maximum potential of one’s employees is an effective way to not only stay afloat but propel the company to gain a competitive advantage.

The effect a recession has on employees cannot be mitigated through one technique alone; rather it requires a combination of tactics. Managers may use various approaches, – one effective method being Training and Development.

Evidence of Demand

A workforce with low absenteeism and turnover rate is crucial for a successful business, especially during an economic slump or during road to recovery.

  • According to a study of 100 HR managers from ILX Group, an internationally recognized leading provider of professional learning and consulting solutions, 51% reported boost in employee morale as a key reason to conduct training.
  • Another study by the ASTD (American Society for Training and Development) of over 2,500 companies with well-developed training programs highlights 24% higher profit margins and 218% higher revenue per employee.
training cuts

Do you really want to cut your training budget?
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The Importance of Training

Attracting and retaining talented and highly skilled staff is fundamental for those operating in competitive industries such as, Oil and Gas, IT, Pharmaceuticals, Banking and Financial Advisory, and Fashion.

Economic downturns demand fresh thinking, new ideas and innovation, which are most likely to be found outside your industry. What we do know is that those most likely to thrive in the current environment are those with resilience and high levels of self-knowledge and self-worth.

Strategic investments in your talent ensure the company is able to cope with current challenges and while readying itself for the return of better times. This is where corporate training in Dubai significantly contributes to an organization’s talent management efforts.

Companies can benefit from sustained investment in training and development in many ways – because the natural defensive barriers we all carry around at work can be dropped during dire circumstances such as facing a financial crisis.

What can companies do to stretch their Training & Development budgets?

  • Seek out corporate training firms in Dubai who can address multiple topics instead of hiring different trainers for each topic.


  • Enjoy free concessions by offering multiple enrollments to corporate training in Dubai. In addition, get better pricing if the sign-ups are higher.


  • Make it part of the deal that employees privileged for outsourced training are required to return and share their learning outcomes with their peers and colleagues.


  • Seek out not only training you require but perhaps additional needs such as Effective Sales Management, Digital Marketing Essentials, Executive Coaching and so on.


  • Ensure that certain avenues of corporate training in Dubai are always outsourced. This way, you are equipped to look outwards in terms of best practice rather than remaining inwards-focused.


The Way Forward

Recession or not, talent is more important than ever. As noted, the temptation for management during a recession is to slash training and development budgets. However, it is smarter to do just the opposite although this may sound counter-intuitive during a downturn.

The bottom line is that while the recession will eventually end, the fierce competition for talent is going to be a business challenge for the foreseeable future.

It is two-fold: The organization invests in talent management, such as by implementing training and development programs for employees to boost morale and reinforce positive motivation. In doing so, the effects of an economic downturn on employees as well as the organization along with positive motivational approaches, have the potential to strengthen organizational performance, even in the face of a major crisis.

If you are looking for corporate training in Dubai to motivate and boost employee morale, ISM Dubai offers a variety of courses to suit your needs and budget. Get in touch with ISM Dubai for more information.

When the topic of emotional intelligence comes up in conversations with people in Dubai business, it quickly becomes clear that many people are still unclear as to what it actually is! There is a fair amount of confusion around it, how can it be quantified and how to actually develop it.

It might be easier to highlight what a lack of emotional intelligence looks like. I am sure we have all, at one time or another, come across those bosses and managers who seem distracted, make decisions without taking into account how they affect other people and without clear communication, lose the plot if things aren’t done the right way, and create an atmosphere of trepidation and anxiety around them.

It is not difficult to see that a workplace characterised by this type of environment is going to struggle with morale, motivation and job satisfaction. The result of this directly affects financial performance – manifested as absenteeism, lack of co-operation with fellow workers and a lack of discretionary effort on behalf of employees, meaning that company goals are not met. That is what an absence of emotional intelligence looks like and how it affects work environments.

In a piece of research done by the Conference Board of New York in 2009, the findings indicated that how people perform at work is directly affected by how they feel about their work – and primarily how they feel about their relationship with their boss and their co-workers. This report is quoted in a book by Mark C Crowley, entitled ‘Lead from the Heart’. Mark Crowley decided to map the results of Fortunes Magazine’s’ ‘Best Places to Work’ onto the financial performance of those companies and, guess what, he discovered that the companies where people are happy outperform peer firms financially by 4%, which in real terms is a staggering amount, considering that high performing hedge funds that beat the street by just 2% are considered superstars. (P33 Lead from the Heart, M. Crowley 2011 Balboa Press).

In another study conducted by PepsiCo, they found that leaders who scored high in emotionally intelligent behaviours outperformed their peers, delivering a 10% increase in productivity, an 87% decrease in executive turnover, $3.75m added economic value and over 1000% return on investment.


Are you emotionally intelligent?

Daniel Goleman, the leading author and though leader on emotional intelligence, identified five main behaviours of the emotionally intelligent person. My descriptions below are deliberately simplified.

  1. Self-awareness – the ability to know what you are doing and why you are doing it.
  2. Self -regulation – the ability to think before acting and measure your responses appropriately.
  3. Motivation – the ability to sustain effort and attitude in spite of external circumstances.
  4. Empathy – the ability to leave your own perspective and see things from the perspective of another and,
  5. Social Skills -the ability to engage, build and sustain interpersonal relationships.

With such great outcomes evidenced, it’s clear that it’s an area worth understanding and growing it within your business.

If you are interested in becoming more emotionally intelligent, ISM Training run regular high quality training for this in Dubai. To check when the next course is visit

digitalDigital Marketing has exploded and most UAE marketeers whilst they understand the inherent opportunities it affords are racing to catch up on their knowledge and creative application , especially in Dubai where sadly we still lag behind other countries at the forefront of innovation. The increasing jargonistic nature of the digital marketing landscape doesn’t help those seeking to learn either…frankly it can be quite off putting. For as little as 100 dollars you can gain a dubious qualification in Digital Marketing but woe betide the employee who finds their latest recruit really only has one or two tricks up their sleeve and doesn’t really have a) a solid marketing background and b) little idea of the scope of tools that need to be brought into play and how, where and when.

Digital Marketing can be used ad hoc but it yields far better sustainable results when proper planning is put in place. 50 % of companies have no clearly defined digital marketing strategy and I am guessing this number is higher in Dubai. Before you implement your digital marketing plan brainstorm your key strategies for growing your online business. A well thought out goal will provide focus for your digital marketing efforts.

How to Reach Prospects and Customers

There are lots of ways to reach customers digitally through social media marketing; SEO; mobile marketing; email marketing; pay per click and content marketing to name a few. Clearly you will not be using all the channels but will select those that reach your target audience with greater return on investment. What are your competitors doing and how can you stand out?

How to achieve interaction

A dynamic dialogue with customers can give a boost to Search Engine Optimisation as well as Social Media Optimisation. Ultimately you want your business to become customer focused, so that they drive the business and traffic for you. The customer can participate by reviewing your products, requesting information or commenting and suggesting improvements or expressing interest but unless your communication channels are monitored the dialogue will quickly close. E.g. If a customer subscribes to an email newsletter or makes a first purchase a welcome to your company or products should follow to open the communication.

How to convert to leads or sales

Do you have a marketing funnel in place? When you have a lead, how can you encourage them to purchase? If a customer shows an interest you should be able to move them through the marketing funnel and convert their interest and desire to action. This can be done with lead magnets, calls to action and offers and providing them with additional relevant information to help in their decision making. In Dubai I get increasingly frustrated when I call clearly interested in a product and no-one ever calls or emails me back.

How to engage consumers through time.

You need to think in terms of fostering an active passionate online community around your product. Your customers not only form relationships with your brand but also with peers and they share their experience with your service. Provide them with intuitive tools to talk to you also, whether it is open honest feedback on social media or a live chat line on your website or the development of an app. Loyal customers account for 80% of your business. They can become staunch brand advocates and value truly good customer service.

If you would like to learn more about Digital Marketing please get in touch, ISM Training are running their first Digital Marketing programme in September in Dubai and we have an excellent UK instructor on board. You can find the brochure here /docs/Digital%20Marketing%20Essentials.pdf

Giving a presentation can be daunting. However, whether you are presenting to the director of a car dealership in Sheikh Zayed Road, or talking to a roomful of delegates at a conference, if you avoid these common presentation mistakes, you’re more likely to succeed.



Are you terrified of giving a presentation? Relax you are in good company….

Mumbling is a cardinal sin when giving a presentation. If you start to mumble you will quickly lose your audience’s interest. They’ll start looking around for something else to fill their time – like their smartphone, documents, staring out of the window or looking around the auditorium. If you are speaking to a large crowd in an auditorium it is too easy for an individual to stand up and walk out. And once one person has done it, others will follow.

The trick is to keep your voice interesting and loud enough for people to hear you (but don’t shout – unless it’s to make a particular point). Whether it’s a presentation to a new client, a packed university hall, or a small conference room, your voice is the strongest ally you have in making your presentation successful. Interesting speakers don’t keep the same tone or pace when giving presentations. They mix it up to keep the audience engaged.


The opposite of mumbling is talking so quickly the audience doesn’t have time to absorb the essentials, never mind your carefully worked out nuances. Understanding how to pace yourself when talking to a group of people is a core presentation skill. If you feel yourself speeding up, take a breath, pause and then continue. Pausing is a great way of grabbing the attention of the audience. If they are beginning to lose focus, your silence will make them tune back in to what you are saying, or rather not saying. You’ll discover that pausing also gives people a moment to allow important points sink in. When practicing your presentation, consider how to use silence to drive home specific points you feel people may otherwise miss.


Don’t drift off topic, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re doing: because your audience has a finite amount of patience and if you can’t bring it back to the presentation, they’ll feel you are wasting their time and don’t know what you’re talking about.

Have some notes to keep you on track and don’t deviate too far from them. However, don’t spend your entire time looking at your notes. People like to feel a connection with a speaker, and if you are always looking down, you can’t make the all-important eye contact to people in the room.

Turn around

And while we’re thinking about looking down, don’t spend your entire time looking at the PowerPoint behind you. Remember, people don’t warm to a person’s back; they warm to a person’s face. It’s fine to turn to the screen behind you to make a particular point, but for the most of the time face forward and engage with your audience.

Winging it

For some people the thought of having to practice their presentation is daunting; so they wing it. And, unless it’s something they’ve presented frequently, the audience can tell.

You’ll commit all the mistakes listed above, and then some. You’ll drift, you’ll refer to the screen behind you too much, probably mumble when you lose sight of where you should be, and most definitely wont pace yourself properly.

Even if you’ve been landed the job the day before, spend whatever time you have available to prepare a proper presentation. Remember, you are taking up people’s time and they’ll be more open to what your are talking to them about if they feel you’ve made time to make it interesting for them.

If you’ve never given a presentation before, or are naturally quiet, ask a member of your team, or someone at home, to listen to it beforehand and give you feedback. You only get one chance to shine when presenting, so practicing beforehand is essential.

If you’re unsure of how to present, or want to improve your presentation skills, book a place on our Presentation Skills workshop today: /courses/presentation-skills/index.php


Whether presenting to a small group of people in a boardroom, or hundreds at one of Dubai’s premier hotels, brushing up on your presentation skills is a must.

Very often a presentation can feel more like an endurance test, when it should be an informative and persuasive sales pitch. Remember your audience is there because your talk attracted them in the conference brochure, or the boss told everyone to be at the meeting. It’s your job to makes sure they don’t walk away feeling their time has been wasted.

Research who you’re talking to

If you are presenting to a large group of people at a conference, understand what their overarching concerns are. Is there a particular issue affecting their industry? What are the specific problems they are facing that your company can help solve? If you know some of the people in the audience, consider talking to them before the presentation and find out what they want to hear.

Stand up straight and smile

It’s often the little things in life that make the biggest difference. At the beginning of your presentation face the audience and look around the whole room, smile and say hello. Making people feel welcome will put them in a more receptive frame of mind. Smiling will make them more at ease.

Look the part

Depending on whom you are talking to will dictate how you dress. Think about what will make your audience have more faith in your words. Are they going to respond better to a suit, or will smart casual win them over?

Structure your presentation

Presenting is a bit like storytelling. You need a beginning, middle and an end. This gives the presentation a good flow and people are wondering why you suddenly bring up a solution to a problem you’ve not spoken of yet.

Don’t just repeat what is on the PowerPoint

Everyone has heard of death by PowerPoint. Don’t let your presentation slip into this category. If you are using slides, don’t just repeat what is shown on the screen. Have a separate script prepared that enhances what people are reading on the screen.


If you don’t practice your talk, you will fail to engage with the audience. They will be moments when you forget what you are meant to say, you’ll trip up on basic points and the audience will get the feeling you really didn’t think them important enough to prepare properly.

Knowing what you want to say will mean that you aren’t always looking down at your notes, and you can spend more time looking at the audience, hopefully creating a real connection that will make it easier for them to come and talk to you afterwards.

Don’t overrun

If you have 15 minutes with five minutes for questions, don’t talk for 30 minutes. Your audience may want to go and see another speaker, or they might have another appointment lined up straight after your talk. Keeping to the allotted time is a key presentation skill.

Keeping within the time given is one of the more important presentation skills. It keeps you focussed and audiences are happier. It also means that if someone does have a question, the whole audience will be listening, not just the ones who stayed behind out of politeness or because they had nowhere better to go.

So what are you selling to your customers in Dubai? Are you selling all the details of what your product can do? How long it took you to bring it to market? All the research and develop that went into it?

giant squid

Is your product launch going to be a damp squid ?

Well if that is all you’re selling then you are missing a fairly important trick. Very few people are interested in these as selling points. They want to know how your product is going to make their life easier. Not how many man-hours went into perfecting it before it came to the boardroom sign off.

In the 1940s, Rosser Reeves, of Ted Bates & Company came up with the term ‘unique selling point’. It translates into what is so unique about this product that makes it better than it’s rivals? What specific benefit does this product that means it is something more desirable than another product?

Reeves was a pioneer of television advertising, a man for whom the idea that you just show your product and hope people buy was wasting an opportunity. He felt that not only did a product have to be said to better than its rivals, it really had to be better. You had to find what was unique, what the real benefit of a product was and use that as the unique selling point.

So when you look at your sparkling new product which has taken hundreds of man-hours to research, develop and manufacture, you need to strip away the extraneous back story and look at why your customer needs it.

There are generally three ways of selling a product: through its value to the customers, it’s benefit to the customer and its features. Find which one of these is going to appeal most to the end user (who may well be a customer of your customer), and build your sales campaign around it.

Let’s say, for example, you’ve developed a piece of software that untangles accounting procedures, automatically updates with new legislation, and cuts the time it takes to process accounts.

Ask yourself the question, what do we lead with? What is the real benefit for your client? Time is money, so cutting time means saving money. But do they really want the headache of updating legislation removed? Is it both? Or have you missed something more essential? Is your product easy to use? At some point during the development process was there a point where the actual usability of the product was left unquestioned?

Software can have all the bells and whistles you think your customer wants, but if it is difficult to use, looks ugly, isn’t intuitive, then the end users isn’t going to like it, regardless of how much time it saves, and how easily it integrates important information.

Find the unique selling point, find the real benefit of your product, and you can really start to sell your product to customers in Dubai, and the rest of the world.