Doug Wendt is a co-founder and senior partner with Wendt Partners.
The serviced office and office business center industry is going through rapid change. Established companies are transitioning to open office designs and startups are flocking to incubators, accelerators and co-working centers. Increasing rents and changing market conditions are impacting costs, and many of the value-added services that helped expand margins are not as lucrative as they were. But the market is also presenting major new opportunities. By partnering with a B2B business growth consultant, office business center operators can drive new growth by focusing on these priorities:
Focus on Creating the Community, Not Just Hosting It
One traditional strategy for generating new business center leads has been to host guest programs and events at the center, and certainly activity is better than emptiness when it comes to creating market awareness. But today, OBC operators need to take a cue from emerging competitors and create their own communities. Establish and host an entrepreneurial roundtable program, rather than just hosting someone else’s. Run a series of technology hackathons. Launch a twice-monthly open co-working experience in which the center provides food and beverage in the lounge.
Help Your Clients Grow So They Can Help You Grow
Most business centers are sitting on an enormously powerful yet generally ignored and untapped resource – their clients. Sure, you may have a referral discount offer and some other perks for member-generated leads, but that’s beside the point. How about providing your clients with new networking opportunities, discounts to showcase your facility with programming in return for introductions, and adding contributed content to your blog?
If your center targets primarily small and emerging businesses as potential new clients, then ask yourself: Do you have an accountant as a current client? How about an attorney? Perhaps a marketer? An insurance broker? Guess what – you have a complete service network available and on-site, ready to help new clients build successful companies. Use your current clients as value-added resources and you create a win-win.
Flip Your Brand Strategy in Reverse
The whole brand experience model behind office business centers in the past was about creating a clean, non-branded space that each client could present as their own. And yes, there is still a place for that – but that place is shrinking. Co-working centers and startup accelerators are all about branding and creating pride in the brand among clients. In fact, there is cachet associated with saying that your company is housed at a given center. That’s a huge change from just a few years ago.
One reason your competitors can do this is that they offer unique services, and focus on specific industries. A general-purpose office center is structurally the same as a facility configured and branded as the ‘legal innovation center’, but strategically they are very different. Of course, Regus and a few other firms have built network-based brands, but unless you are in ten or more major markets, you can’t leverage a generic brand to great effect. Take other approaches to build new opportunities.
Redeploy Your Center’s Existing Assets
You just finished a $1.2 million dollar renovation and now you’re asking yourself if it was the right move. After all, you upgraded the receptionist’s workstation , added more private offices with windows, and reconfigured the kitchen. Meanwhile, a new competitor that just opened has scrapped the reception desk entirely, set up half as many private offices in the same square footage, and is selling co-working and shared desking. Who is right and who is wrong?
The answer is that the marketplace needs a variety of products and services at different times and in different circumstances. And remember, you can reconfigure and redeploy more easily that you may think. Convert one office on either end of your center into a business lounge and drop-in co-working space. Add a communal table into the kitchen and encourage impromptu meetings. And consider making your back-office capabilities more prominent by encouraging clients to keep the services they rely on from you even after they leave – just as you do today with virtual services before they arrive.
It’s clear that office business center and serviced office operators are being presented significant new opportunities, but need to change and adapt in order to harness the potential new directions the market is calling for. Working with a B2B business growth consultant allows you as the CEO to create an enhanced strategy and pursue new directions effectively, ultimately achieving your business growth goals.