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Done for you! Why a budget is essential for your sales office


Back in the mid-1990s when Sony Discmans was THE way of listening to music on the go and hyper colour T-shirts were the clothing article of choice, I was an annoying, over-eager baby designer with a notebook and a Kilometrico pen always poised at the ready.

On this outing, I was with Derek Hooper, my boss, a giant in the exhibition design field and bearer of a personality that was 90% charm and 10% mongrel. We were at an on-site meeting in the industrial badlands of Port Melbourne, taking a brief from the marketing manager (MM) of a car firm symbolically tied to a lion.  As we strolled around the vast empty interior of the saw-toothed ceiling assembly shed, MM pointed out where he wanted new signage and displays.

“Over here” he gestured broadly “I want to see some stuff that shows our output of cars a month”.  I dutifully noted that down.

“And up here” he motioned to the gantry above “More signage.  I want logos and shit”.  I noted that down too and put a question mark after “shit”.

“This all needs to be tidied up” he jabbed his finger towards a single garbage bin “and I want it replaced with a graphic panel showing the components in each car”.  I nodded, drew a garbage bin, then crossed it out and sketched a freestanding panel.

Meanwhile, Derek was silent, except for the constant murmur of “yes…yes…of course.  Hmm”.

The walk around came to its completion.  I had several pages of sketches and notes.  Derek silently considered the stark warehouse one more time.  His gaze landed on MM.

“What budget do you have in mind for these works?” he asked.

MM’s eyes narrowed and a tight smile appeared “I’m not going to tell you.” He winked at me. “I want you to keep your pencil sharp”.

I give you Derek, champion of the budget!

Derek simply nodded, extended his hand to the MM, and started striding towards the car with me hastily promising the client to send concepts through within a week and we’d be in touch to set a time for the presentation.

Buckled up in Derek’s vintage Mercedes, I turned to Derek “So, what do you think?  What about a printed banner off the railing and then we can use some of those Octonorm panels….” I started to rattle off the brief.

“We’re not going to do a fucking thing,” Derek said calmly, easing the car into traffic.

I looked quizzically at him. Why would you say no to a job, especially in the aftermath of the early 90’s recession?

“That MM does not respect our talent and our experience.  We ask the budget not so we can spend every last dollar.  We ask for the budget so we can design to that, make recommendations that are tied to a particular price point, and ensure that the objectives of the project are met.”

Derek looked me squarely in the eye. “Listen Cookie, never be afraid to ask for the dollars.  That’s business – he’s in business to make money as am I.  But the best design ever done will be nothing if it is not tied to a specific budget that is reasonable for the scope and objectives.  I’ve seen too many brilliant designs and talented people go nowhere because the budget was not set and agreed to upfront. And once someone actually grows the balls to speak about money, they find out that that the brilliant design is so far over what the client has to spend, it gets pulped or sliced up so many ways it no longer fits the brief.”  Derek paused to take a breath.

“Fuck that MM and fuck his sharpened pencil.  Any client not willing to have an honest and open conversation about budgets and money is a {redacted…but it rhymes with punt}”.

I think this story is illustrative of several things:

  • I’m so glad I had Derek Hooper as a boss, mentor, and design giant to learn off. Every day I’ve been in business, I’ve used something he taught me.  That’s some rich ROI. I hope I’ve repaid the time and effort he put into a very annoying, overly earnest kid who always seemed to be munching on a cookie.
  • Derek was a man to stand on his dig.  I think these times call for a resurgence of this character trait.
  • Budgets are respectful and kind.  Much like the vibe, the Obamas give off…and who doesn’t want to ape their vibe?!?
Why a budget for your sales office is a must:

My clients don’t always have a set budget for their sales office fit-out when they come to me to discuss their next sales office project. From designing, project managing, and delivering hundreds of sales offices across Australia for over 20 years, I’ve got so much data and case studies under my belt that I’ve developed a Sales Office Budget Matrix for my clients.

I’d be happy to share this document with you, just reach out to me at and I’ll shoot it across to you and make a time to talk you through it.

The Matrix has saved my clients so much time and energy by doing some simple calculations in the initial project phase.  By mapping out their sales office mandatories and calculating the square meterage of space their sales office will occupy, we can establish realistic budgets for the fit-out of sales offices from the get-go.  It eliminates all the embarrassment and wasted time when a designer gallops off to produce a sales office design that might look amazing but it’s well outside the client’s budget fit-out allocation.

There are added benefits of having full transparency around budgets:
  • You’ll save so much time on your hands, you’ll be doing crafternoons whipping up felt barnyard animals and Japanese silk embroidered vignettes of your travels.  By setting budgets early in the sales office fit-out process you and your sales office agency are all on the same page so you don’t pulp valuable design time by having someone design a fit-out based on a Mumm budget when you’re budget is more like a $16 bottle of red with a fancy designer label.
  • Your boss / CFO / development manager / CMO / your mum and your pet aardvark Jubjub will think you’re a GENIUS managing a budget and landing a sales office for the coin you said you would.  Don’t underestimate the power of being the team member that has their budget stuff on a tight lockdown.  Money matters more than ever. So if you’re the smart cookie that can say to all the stakeholders that are all agog on the beauty of the sales office fit-out on opening day “Oh yah, this was all done for the budget I set at the initial stage”…then you’re setting yourself up for high praise, potential bonuses, more authority within your role and bragging rights. You’ll be able to claim with absolute confidence on your resume “successfully managed simultaneous marketing budgets from digital marketing spend to capital expenses such as a 140 square meter sales office fit-out.
  • You’ll have more money to spend on your other marketing activities. Setting the sales office fit-out budget will allow you to lock away one of the largest expenses on marketing a property development. This will give you complete confidence knowing you can invest in social media marketing, EDM’s, VIP launch parties, professionally streamed information sessions to registered potential purchasers with the remaining budget.
  • No uncomfortable conversations for you! No sliding under your desk when the sales office partner unveils a design and you enquire about the budget. They happily tell you “It will probably be about, oh…$250K?!?” Which is exactly twice what you were hoping it would cost.  If you’ve been able to set a realistic early on in the sales office fit-out process with the help of your sales office partner, everyone is crystal clear on the budget and the expectation that the budget will be met.

We take all our clients through the Matrix to help them with their sales office fit-out budget.  Even if they already have a budget in mind, we use the Matrix as a sanity check to make sure their expectations don’t overtake their budget. It’s been so useful as a tool, our clients even prepare their next financial year budgets using the Matrix and get buy-in from their stakeholder team in advance.  My marketing clients know the budget is allocated and approved well before the development project comes online. And that eliminates a BIG part of the stress around delivering a sales office.

I’d be happy to share this Matrix with you. Drop me a line at and I’ll shoot it through and step you through the process.

Remember to keep that pencil sharp!


My mentors Derek Hooper and Gary Porter. Derek’s the one with the chicken on his head. LEGEND.

Fiona Jefferies
Fiona Jefferies