As they sign up fast-growing corporates and exciting tech and creative start-ups, the sector appears to be maturing nicely – and hopefully without the cultish hype seen in recent years.
But I would like to remind the property world of us ‘Davids’ out here in the sticks. There are hundreds of independent single and low-number site operators in non-city-centre locations across the country. Many of us are the real risk-taking innovators in our local markets, not the big boys.
Many of us can only aspire to five-year growth strategies; we work on short-term survival scenarios as we wait until the next licence fee invoice run or contract renewal cycle to secure cashflow for the next breath-holding period.
We don’t all own freeholds or have access to overseas investment banks or high-net-worth investors. We can’t invest tens of thousands in technology to track a client’s dog as it moves around the centre, to give us bucket-loads of expensive-to-analyse data. The tech we do have has to be a cost of sale and not just an infrastructure cost.
But we have to deal on a day-to-day basis with high street bankers who don’t quite understand the world of selling flexible office space, the sleep-losing concern a Goliath might move in on our manor and the excuse-making clients who also manage cashflow on a daily basis!
But we are successful and are surviving. We know our limitations and ‘got’ the concept of delivering personalised customer experience as in the hospitality industry long before these new guys dreamt of it. Most of us do this because we love creating exciting places to host local entrepreneurs.
So, my big ask to the agents, brokers and property marketeers is: please give more exposure and support to independent flexible workspace operators in secondary and tertiary towns. We take local entrepreneurs from their kitchens, bedrooms and garages, nurture them and hopefully move them out of our centres into the Goliaths, so clearly it is us Davids who are the drivers of the future – not only of the flexible space industry, but local property markets and ultimately UK plc’s economy.
Of course, if any investors, overseas bankers or lottery winners reading this are keen to invest…
Mark Kass, chief executive, The Hive Enterprise Centre