How To Get Your Office Budget Proposal Approved

Debbie Horovitch
June 7, 2019

For many office managers, the prospect of getting your office budget approved can create as much anxiety and discomfort as asking for a raise. Even though you’re technically the “buyer”, gaining approval of your budget requires some consultative sales skills.

When you’re asking for the approval of your proposed office budget, you’re “selling” and creating buy-in from the person who can grant (or deny) your proposal. It’s very much an activity that can help you leverage office politics and relationships, and when done well it can encourage widespread support that may positively impact your career.

Getting your budget proposal approved also requires pre-planning and pre-negotiating the details of your budget plan. When negotiating with vendors in advance of gaining budget approval, for example, you obviously you don’t want to make commitments to them, but negotiating vendor pricing upfront will equip you to present senior management with accurate estimates.

Your goal isn’t just to get approval on the amount of money, it’s more about getting support and approval of how you’ll spend and allocate the budget throughout the year.

In this article, I’ll be sharing some tried and true strategies to help you get your office budget proposal approved, without painful cuts.

How To Utilize An Existing Office Budget

If there was a budget last year for a particular need, your best bet for swift approval on your plans will be to “Repeat & Improve” upon the results of last year’s budget proposal.

If there was a budget for a specific activity last year, here are some questions to ask:

  • How was it allocated?
  • What were the results?
  • Are there any elements you MUST allocate for?

Here are some other considerations you’ll want to keep in mind (and document on your plan, to help you rationalize the details) include:

  • Is there an industry-wide or specific element increase in costs? You’ll want to recommend a larger budget this year to cover inflation.
  • If you’re able to negotiate costs down, or take advantage of promotions, bulk deals or remnant offers, you’ll want to highlight the specific vendors and “deals” they’ve offered.

Also look to highlight:

  • Areas of negotiated savings (offered by the vendors, is still negotiated savings by you)
  • Any vendors who have NEW opportunities or exclusive opportunities (that competition won’t be able to access)

While you’re most likely to be fully approved before you begin allocating the budget, you’ll want to also consider in advance if other great opportunities are likely to come up. If you’ve previously allocated this budget and found unexpected opportunities you “wish” you had budget remaining for, consider setting aside a small percentage of your budget as a “slush fund” that will be allocated before the end of the activity, but not pre-determined with the rest of the business budget plan.

Be sure to set yourself a reminder date a few periods before the end, so that you can be sure to allocate and make full use of your entire annual business budget. Many organizations will automatically reduce your annual budget next year, if you’re unable to show “need” for the whole budget this year, by spending it entirely.

For this same reason, it’s also a good idea to keep a few vendor opportunities “in your pocket”, that can be purchased at the 11th hour, at the very end of the budget period, to make use of budget that has suddenly become available again, due to unexpected (but not shocking) cancellations by vendors throughout the year.

To gain advance approval and buy-in of next year’s budget, be sure to document the results and impact of your budget allocation throughout the year. Are there certain areas of the budget allocation plan that under-served or over-served key individuals? Was there any unanticipated and unnecessary duplication or waste?

You’ll want to be clear to outline the timing of your planned budget allocation, AND the current cancellation policies of your recommended vendors.

Utilize a Business Budget Template

A good way to illustrate the timing, prerequisites, and stages of your budget proposal is to create a Gantt Chart business budget plan, which shows the relationships and timing between various elements of your proposed plan, in an easy to read horizontal bar-chart format. Or, try this budget proposal template from PandaDoc.

Also be sure to highlight key differences in your plan compared to last year, or the last few years, to illustrate any trends in business budget allocation. If you have access to the information, look at the last few years and see - did the budget go up year over year? Can you identify the reason why, or what caused the need for increased budget?

Especially if the person or group of people giving approval on your budget are new in their roles, they will appreciate you providing these insights to help inform them and encourage them to approve your budget without major changes. Their own reputation is on the line for the success of the budget they approve.

Also, be prepared to identify areas where you can make cuts, without compromising the plan. -- Don’t put it in writing, but share potential considerations if you’re presenting your plan, and then you’re asked if you can make some cuts.

Responsible budget planning & allocation can help improve your career standing and reputation, giving you more responsibility in your role and earning you a positive viewpoint from your employer, organization CFO, and colleagues.

When To Ask For A Larger Office Budget

Can you recommend that the budget is too big? Or too small? The person who manages the allocation will always be the most informed, but it’s in your best interests to ensure that this person approving your budget proposal knows all the reasons why it needs to be adjusted.

If you need more budget, find ways to highlight how your recommendations will improve company culture, employee satisfaction or organizational efficiency. These are key areas of improvement that can often help get your budget proposal approved with few changes.

The most challenging budget to get approval on is usually no budget at all. If your boss requested to see your “zero budget” budget proposal, then you’ll need to establish your recommended budget, and then convince them of how it will fulfill their needs. When asked to make a budget recommendation, I like to come back with three flushed-out options.

First, I search online and with colleagues at other organizations to get an idea of their annual budget allocation for a similar sized project or team. Sometimes, I’ll ask vendors to weigh in on the most common budgets they see from the whole industry.

Then, I get to work on my 3 recommended options for the business budget plan:

  1. Create (and present) first, a budget that covers ALL the “must-haves” that organization leaders are expecting
  2. Create a budget that represents the minimum-viable option, to fulfill the purpose and outcome of your budget proposal for the lowest possible total cost
  3. Create a budget that will make everyone happy and fills all the needs, and can help the organization resolve problems or grow -- would you recommend a specific new piece of equipment, a new event to participate in, or an additional employee or specialized contractor?

You’ll also want to consider if portions of your budget will need to be allocated for holidays or special events.

Benefits Of Being Responsible For Your Office Budget

This approach to pre-planning budgets is not only applicable for your business budget plan approval, but it can help you recruit support and endorsements for your plans & projects, from anyone who you want to get assistance from.

Not only can this get your budget approved, but it can also improve the interpersonal relationship you’re generating with the person approving your budgets, as they learn that you’re always looking out for their best interests.

Being the person responsible for creating and then allocating the business budget plan can seem like a lot of pressure and a high risk, but if you’re well informed of all the options available, and confident that you plan will serve the needs of the key players, it can also be the key to newfound confidence and career advancement.

Are you interested in making your workplace more efficient? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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