The flexible office market continues to boom. New and longstanding firms jostle to stake their claim – and as I have said before, there’s plenty of space in the forest for everyone to co-exist.
The big-name players continue to act as a constant and effective PR machine for the entire industry – but the big question is: what comes next? Like any industry, our service offering will need to evolve.
To my mind, space is one thing – but money and advice are the other ingredients that SMEs need to scale their businesses. To date, this three-pronged approach is something that has been lacking in the sector.
A recent study we conducted of more than 1,000 SMEs discovered that only 44% feel as though the government provided enough support to small businesses during Brexit negotiations. What this says to me is that flexible office operators should take on a more active role in supporting the UK’s small businesses, especially during these times of uncertainty. Someone needs to pick up the slack.
The government recently announced £108m of funding to support small businesses in the event of a no-deal Brexit, but as the Federation of Small Businesses has declared: “This just isn’t going to cut it.” Especially when compared with the total package of £6.3bn allotted for a no-deal Brexit. No one can even tell us how exactly this money will be used – and actually how many SMEs will benefit.
Small businesses need to be higher on the government’s list of priorities. SMEs are not only drivers for national growth but the glue that holds local economies together. Of course, flexible office operators can’t be expected to fill the gap entirely, but there are things we can do, given that we are at the coalface of the SME market.
With Newable’s recent acquisition of Citibase, we are now equipped to supercharge British businesses beyond providing affordable bricks and mortar. We see access to funding and business advice as equally important tools for success, the same way that a cocktail doesn’t work if you remove one of the ingredients.
With the backing of Newable and its additional product offering, we will be able to provide an unrivalled nationwide growth proposition for some of the 5.7 million SMEs that collectively form the beating heart of the UK economy.
Newable, which is a leading delivery partner for the Department of International Trade, recently announced record loan applications from SMEs, which serves as clear evidence that despite the uncertainty and doom and gloom in the media, there is still an appetite for responsible funding for firms that are looking to launch and grow.
In what will essentially act as an in-house service, Citibase will be able to offer SMEs access to this responsible funding, as well as advice from top business advisers, a one-stop shop if you will. We want our customers to think of Citibase as not just an affordable option for office space but also as a business incubator.
Yes, SMEs will forever need support from the government – now more than ever. However, as flexible office operators, we can still offer a lot more while these small businesses are, quite literally, under our roof.
Steve Jude is chief executive of Citibase