By Linda Day Harrison, theBrokerList, Chicago, IL
It is a tough time of the year for us property managers as many of us are in the process of planning our budget for next year. However, it’s also a perfect time to poll all of your property owners, vendors, customers, and staff to see what might be on their wish list!
What is a wish list you ask? Well a wish list is a reminder of all of the things your customers, staff, vendors, or property owners have wished for that can help your property to improve, save money, or maybe even provide a new service idea!
Simply create a friendly form and title it 2013 ABC Property Budget Wish List. Leave a blank page of lines and explain that you are interested in feedback for ideas to make your property better, greener, or more efficient. Ask them to share their wish list items and suggestions because you may be able to incorporate some of the ideas into the budget for 2013, or into your long range planning for 2014, 2015, 2016! There is no time like the present to start looking out beyond next year’s budget!
Everybody understands budgeting and cost containment. People know that you cannot purchase everything all at one time. But, if you offer everyone on the property team a chance to contribute to the future you are not only giving everyone a chance to be heard, you are also holding them accountable to planning and strategizing for their department or focus area! It is amazing what ideas you can glean from such a request. The wish list for your customers may take the form of a Facebook poll, website newsletter post, or online form. For your staff, you may send an online email form as well! Give everyone a short window of time to respond, say a few days or so, and see what feedback you get.
Once you get all of the results you can look at the list and address some of the suggestions and/or share the suggestions that may be incorporated or not incorporated and why. Also, if you plan for the long term budgets, at least everyone will understand your program and your plan of attack for the future! It will also demonstrate how well you have picked up on the property needs over the last year. You’ll find out that you either have a good grasp on the needs of the property, or a little surprised to learn that you’re a bit out of touch with what other people observe as property needs.
In addition to the budget wish lists, an annual Vendor budget letter, which is a more formal request, should be distributed to all contract service vendors, suppliers, utility providers, and professional services, such as accountants, auditors, attorneys, architects, etc. Every property is different so it may not apply for all property types, but it gives everyone a part in the budget, and it also shows them that you are interested in what they think or their suggestions. When polling the vendors and suppliers you are looking for feedback and recommendations as well as the future projections for price increases next year. This letter provides a written response that can be part of your budget presentation. Even your local city water and sewer provider should receive a request for increase information. No one should be left out as it truly saves time and provides a great documentation trail for your budget. It will also explain why you are proposing various increases.
As far as the contract service providers, the request for next year’s contract is another aspect. Each year you prepare your budget you are also evaluating the contract services as well. Why not incorporate that into the request, and ask for the contract too.
Here is an example of a Vendor Budget Letter.
Even if you are not able to distribute and use these ideas for the 2013 budget process, you now have a year to prepare for the following year. Happy budgeting!