Caleb Parker is the CEO of MeetingRooms.com, a new platform for finding and reserving instant, on-demand meeting space worldwide, headquartered in London, U.K. Previously, he served as the founder and CEO of two prior ventures in the flexible working industry, both based in Washington, D.C. As a visionary leader in the dynamic and rapidly changing workspace sector, Caleb shared his thoughts with us on the nature of entrepreneurship and the future of work.
WP: Tell us a little about yourself and your professional background.
CP: I grew up in a little town outside of Savannah, GA called Pembroke. In high school and college I worked in the hospitality industry, then left college early to start a wholesale business that I had very little success in. But I fell in love with entrepreneurship and business and returned to the hospitality industry to start a couple of small businesses in the exploding tourism industry in Savannah. I had a hotel staffing company, an industry trade magazine, and a concierge business that booked last minute hotel and dinner reservations. Then in 2007 I relocated to Washington, DC and joined the Regus DC management team and fell in love with the flexible workspace industry, where I went on to co-found an industry brokerage firm and a technology company to solve industry-related distribution problems.
WP: What is your mission and strategic vision for MeetingRooms.com?
CP: Our mission at MeetingRooms.com is to help people succeed in the new economy. There is a revolution taking place in the way people are working. We’re embracing technology that gives us freedom and flexibility to work on our own terms because it improves our quality of life. While the methods of how we do business may be changing, traditional business principles haven’t. That’s why we’re launching MeetingRooms.com – so people can have freedom and improve their quality of life without sacrificing their business. I know this first hand because I adopted a flexible work lifestyle a couple of years ago. When I was asked to lead the team at meetingrooms.com I felt it was the perfect opportunity for me to help move the future of work forward.
WP: What market opportunities have you identified that would benefit from the kinds of solutions your company is delivering?
CP: I believe you have to start at the top and segment the market. Starting at the top, we’ve identified huge opportunities among knowledge-based workers who are not dependent upon one physical location or office – people who are using cloud-based and mobile technology to access and perform their work. Segments across this market range from the startup and solo-entrepreneur, to small-medium sized companies, and even enterprise employees. We see a big shift to virtual and mobile working, and that works well for many people, including myself. But the opportunity for us is when people need a short-term physical space work or meet -- when they need more privacy than a coffee shop can provide. We provide them with instant privacy and a professional image, on-demand.
WP: You previously served as CEO of two other companies in this market. What has led you through this journey, and what lessons did you learn along the way that you see as key to your strategy for MeetingRooms.com?
CP: I’ve learned that building a company is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s easy to zero in on the next milestone and stay focused on that. And you should definitely break down your vision into milestones. But I’ve learned you must look at the big picture – not just your company’s goals, but the business environment you’re playing in. What factors internally and externally are likely to affect your industry over the long term, which inevitably will impact your company’s goals. Then prepare your plan A, B, C and so on.
WP: You've had the opportunity to work with Wendt Partners on two of your previous ventures, having us assist and advise you on strategy, positioning and branding. What led you to make the decision to retain our firm to work with you?
CP: I’ve gotten to know Wendt Partners and its CEO, Doug Wendt, over the years. We’ve had numerous conversations about the flexible workspace industry: what it offers, what it lacks and where it is headed. Doug has a unique perspective, having been a client of our industry for many years and utilizing the flexible work model to grow his own company across multiple markets and geographies. I’ve appreciated his firm's ability to dissect the big picture and identify opportunities for our company to have success, as well as helping to identify and solve problems that could impede successful growth.
WP: What have been the one or two greatest benefits that came out of your work with Wendt Partners?
CP: I would say the two greatest benefits have been intangibles for me as a CEO – opening my eyes to the bigger picture for our industry, and seeing the business environment more clearly. The Wendt Partners approach provides companies with strategic focus, which is something CEOs often struggle to identify and maintain. When you're busy working to address the challenges of today and the demands of tomorrow, it's easy to lose track of the critical pathway between you and your marketplace. Wendt Partners works tirelessly to ensure that everyone in your organization is aligned with a clear, focused go-to-market strategy. These advantages, and the executive advisory role that the firm provides to CEOs, have uniquely helped me decide how to move forward as a business leader.
WP: What would you tell other CEOs about the value and impact they can gain from working with Wendt Partners to help them grow their business?
CP: I meet a lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners in my line of work. We tend to get caught up in the daily tasks of building a business and serving our customers. We don’t think often enough about how customers see us, how the world sees our brand and how we can position our brand to meet tomorrow’s demands. Having an outside, professional perspective to not only dig deep into our company and processes, but to identify how we best fit into our industry ecosystem, is extremely important to future success. Wendt Partners can deliver by providing this perspective and creating clear, actionable steps to make progress and improve.
WP: Do you have some key pieces of advice that you'd encourage other CEOs to consider to help them grow their companies?
CP: Do right. Be fair. Think big. Listen. Take calculated risks. Maintain a healthy balance between confidence and arrogance. You need to be confident in your direction to succeed, but humble in your leadership to execute.
WP: What kinds of CEOs do you like to meet, and what kinds of communities are most valuable for you professionally?
CP: I rarely meet someone I don’t like, unless they’re a genuine pessimist. I have a passion for entrepreneurship and shaping the future of work. I would enjoy connecting with any person or community that shares one or both of these passions.
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