Last week, I had a day of back-to-back unrelated meetings, and I realized that at every single meeting, one of the topics that predictably came up was money. Whether the meeting was administrative in nature or about implementation or planning or advertising or education, considering the financial side was inevitable. Seems like a shallow, obvious thought, but I had this epiphany about how money is intrinsically related to every need and want we have.
This was kind of a bummer. As a creative, out-of-the-box thinker, I don’t want to consider monetary limitations. It seems like a budget sucks the fun right out of an idea.
But then I thought back to those meetings and how the various budgets actually HELPED the process. Having a budget helped make decisions, spurred us to think bigger, reigned in our needless extravagances. It was then that I realized a budget isn’t about limiting yourself – it’s about making the things that excite you possible. Below are the basic categories explored in this article to arrive at a budget:
- Setting a Budget
- Reactive Vs. Proactive Budgeting
- Budgeting for the Long Term
- Who Pays for the Branded Environment
- There’s No One Right Way
Every time we work with clients on a branded environments project, we have to ask about budget. But not only is the size of the budget important to consider, but also the source of the budget. Where’s the money coming from? Asking where the money is coming from gets clients to think creatively about funding their projects. And just as varied and creative as the design projects are, the budgetary solutions are varied and creative, too.
SETTING A BUDGET
Probably the most difficult task in establishing a budget is just knowing where to start. Our clients often can’t tell us their budget at the onset because they don’t know how much to spend, what the project should include, or exactly where the money is coming from.
When we have a first meeting with a client, we like to talk about goals and desires and outcomes. There’s a lot of discovery that goes on in that first meeting. The client has to come to a realization of what they want and what we can give them. Defining the project is an iterative process, one that clarifies and comes into focus in subsequent meetings.
Later meetings deal with design possibilities and best ways of getting to the desired goals. There’s a lot of leeway at this point because while some clients know exactly what they want, others might need more leading in that area. Many clients depend on us to keep them abreast of new workspace design options and visual display trends.
The better the clients understand what they’re trying to build and how they can attain it – attracting talent, increasing productivity, boosting innovation – the more comfortable they are deciding on a budget to meet their goals. The process is definitely emergent in that it becomes more evident as it evolves.
REACTIVE VS PROACTIVE BUDGETING
We often get called in to help address an urgent need in response to a demand from upper management. These reactive projects automatically have a smaller budget because they are limited to discretionary funds. Reactive projects can be stop-gap, if not temporary, and the potential budget can be limiting but also helpful in determining next steps.
When the project is proactive, however, there is more potential funding available. Stakeholders have more opportunity to make their case for investing, for example. Also, multiple department budgets can be tapped to invest in a larger long-term project.
Sometimes, large projects require budgeting over time, payment over time, or implementation over time. When clients decide they want to build out all of the design elements we proposed upon hearing their business objectives but they can’t immediately afford the entire project, they still have options.
Some projects lend themselves to architecturally dividing the project. For example, this year’s budget will cover the overhaul of the showroom and next year’s will cover the lobby and offices. The larger project is planned and implemented, but it’s paid for over two fiscal years.
Some projects can’t be divided architecturally because they have contiguous spaces or, for some other reason, it just doesn’t make sense. These projects can be divided into “tiers” of implementation. For example, this year we will tackle the “must haves” and next year we will tackle the “wants.” Another example of tiers would be addressing all the graphic design needs one year and the AV elements the next. Maybe the office needs new branding immediately but it can wait for custom programmed touch screen wall displays.
Whatever the need and the budget, projects can be planned and scheduled to meet both. Projects can be planned out further than two years, also. Vision-minded execs have long-term goals for keeping their space fresh and exciting.
WHO PAYS FOR BRANDED ENVIRONMENTS?
Because branding is so closely linked to marketing and is, therefore, seen as part of marketing’s “baby,” the marketing budget is often tapped for branding initiatives. However, because branding affects the entire company, other departments often contribute funding or even lead the project.
Here are some examples of how that might work:
- If the branded environment project is primarily being done on the company’s building, the funding might come from Facilities, which manages the buildings.
- Facilities would also fund the project is the work were part of a planned facility redesign.
- Maybe the branded environment is considered a long-term depreciable investment, in which case the funding would come from the capital budget.
- Maybe the branded environment benefits only one or two departments. A new showroom or customer experience center would be underwritten by sales and marketing. An innovation center would be funded by engineering or product marketing. A board room or recruitment meeting room overhaul could be absorbed by human resources.
- Perhaps the executive team pushes for a branded environment, but there is not budget set for it. The funding could be pulled from the general fund, operations, administration, or a combination.
- If a branded environment features a lot of parts to its implementation, it can be broken down into parts and the cost split up between affected departments. For example, IT could pay for the technology, facilities could pay for building improvements, and departments could spring for new furniture and décor.
THERE’S NO ONE RIGHT WAY
The takeaway here is that there’s no one “best” way to budget for your company’s branded environment. There are lots of great ways, and the best way for YOUR company is to find what works for you.
The best first step is to meet with a designer on the front end. Have a conversation about what you think you want and need. Listen as they help you solidify what you want. If you have a budget up front – great! If not – great! It’s not a roadblock. Not having a plan is not a roadblock. The collaboration between company and designer is where the magic happens. Every company and project and budget is individual and there’s not a map that gets everyone where they’re going.
If you’re considering a branded environment to enhance your business, Skyline Exhibitor Source and Facility Source are ready to help you!