Four Easy Steps to Budget Approval

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As an office operations professional, you're tasked with creating and maintaining a great space for your colleagues to work. As you manage feedback about your office space and company culture, you will inevitably identify areas for improvement throughout the office. You may also be tasked with managing an office construction or design project, but given little direction on how to approach it. In your role you may operate as a team as one, but for larger initiatives you still rely on your company leadership for project and budget approval.

When it comes to office operations and employee experience, in your company you are the industry expert and the one who is the closest to the daily needs of your employees. Company leaders have limited time, and the more you highlight your expertise with clear goals and recommendations, the easier it will be for them to approve your projects. To prepare and present your project ideas successfully to company leadership, follow these steps:

1. Define the why before the what

Before you present an idea for a workplace improvement, concretely define what you want this project or initiative to accomplish. Write down your goal for the project and why it’s important to your company. Gather support and evidence as to how this project will benefit your colleagues and the company as a whole. Note if the issue has come up multiple times on employee surveys or via employee requests.

For example, if you have received many complaints about the chairs in the conference room and you want to replace them, your overall goal could be to create a comfortable, productive meeting space for your colleagues and guests. If the current chairs are uncomfortable and disrupt meetings and conference calls by squeaking distractingly, they are not contributing to this goal and you can make the case as to why they need to be replaced.

2. Research and present concrete options

Be proactive and do research to understand the steps involved in realizing your idea and how it much it might cost. Consider multiple options and price them out. If the project requires working with a service provider, research multiple vendors who have experience in executing similar projects, discuss your idea with them, check their references, and get quotes for how much the project will cost.

Based on your research, make several project budgets, including a “gold” version with the most expensive option, then “silver” and “bronze” versions. Also make a recommendation for which option you prefer and why.

For example, if employees are asking for bike storage in the office, you can research how much it would cost to build out a separate bike storage room versus installing a rack or hanging bike storage in an open area, and make the case that hanging bike storage is the most economical option and saves the most space.

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3. Highlight how your proposal will benefit the company over time

In addition to a budget that illustrates how much the project will cost, calculate the value it will deliver to your company over time. Be specific and highlight the annual cost savings, increased efficiency, or productivity improvements your proposal will deliver.

If you want to install a smart water cooler that serves flat and sparkling flavored water, you can compare the cost of installing and maintaining the machine to the cost of buying canned seltzer and bottled water. You can also factor in the cost of recycling and disposing the trash bottled beverages can create.

4. Anticipate the questions you will be asked

Think about what questions your leadership team will ask you about your proposal and be prepared to answer them. Consider what details they will want to know more about and what is important to them. For example, your CFO may want to know why this project should be a spending priority, while your Chief People Officer might ask about how it fits into your job goals and company culture overall.

You’ll be able to get to "yes" more quickly when you are proactive, organized, and present a thoroughly researched project proposal with concrete goals and a clear budget. In addition, you will have confidence that your suggestions will be taken by the company's leaders seriously because you’ve demonstrated your expertise and respect for their time.

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