Business Environment, one of the UK’s leading independent serviced office providers, this month celebrates 21 years in the sector.
As such BE is probably the country’s oldest independent multiple serviced office business.
Originally founded in 1994 by David Saul and Simon Rusk, managing director and finance director respectively, BE has grown to become one of the most respected in the sector. It has won a host of awards – both as a provider of quality serviced offices at reasonable costs but also as an employer.
Today BE has 12 serviced office centres providing more than 600,000 sq ft of space. While it is focused on the City the company also provides centres in Wembley, Basingstoke, Reading, Bristol and Milton Keynes.
The company’s business model is unique for a serviced offices provider as three-quarters of their buildings are owned freehold or on long leaseholds, totalling a property portfolio worth in excess of £150m. In addition to its core business BE also owns a number of different subsidiaries that provide a range of services to both BE and third party companies. These businesses include manned guarding, cleaning facilities management, development, technical support and interior design.
David Saul, BE’s Managing Director, said: “I know it is said many times, but it really does feel like only yesterday when we established the business, almost by accident. Over the last 21 years not only has BE grown steadily and successfully but the industry has evolved into a respectable and dynamic sector that is expanding rapidly.
“I am pleased that BE has developed into a leading independent operator of serviced offices that leads the way in customer service and satisfaction as well as being recognised as a great employer. All of which reflects the breadth and expertise of the team we have brought together at BE. We are proud to have been the first to provide free teas and coffees, no deposits and free IT & call packages, quite often with resistance from competitors.”
Simon Rusk, Finance Director, added: “Over the past 21 years the serviced offices sector has truly come of age. It has become recognised as both an important sub sector of the property market and a critical element in helping start-up businesses get off the ground and providing the necessary support for SMEs – our core customers. Also BE’s vertically integrated business model, together with its focus on being an asset backed company, has stood the test of time and prospered – even through challenging economic conditions.”
BE’s founders are using the 21st birthday celebrations to launch a five year expansion plan. Over the next few years the company is looking to expand to as many as 20 centres – mainly in London. While its expansion continues to be focussed on the City, the company is also looking for suitable centres in Mid-town and the West End. Indeed just this month the company has secured 14,000 sq ft of prime space on the 6th floor of 107 Cheapside.
The company’s City-centric approach has enabled it to capitalise on occupiers’ reassessment of the Square Mile commercial property market. The City has become a magnet for a much wider variety of occupiers than at any time in its long history. In addition to more traditional sectors such as law, banking and finance, a large number of TMT companies have moved to the City in search of better value accommodation. As many of these companies tend to be SMEs they are discovering the benefits of flexible serviced offices rather than committing to longer term leases.
A recent report by Deloitte Real Estate shows that over the past decade the sector has grown rapidly with serviced offices floorspace increasing by 67% while the favoured location has switched from the West End to the City and City fringes. The report also noted while the sector is relatively mature it is still evolving and becoming far more acceptable for all types of business while serviced offices have become a natural choice for first-time tenants.
BE is well placed to take full advantage of the increasing popularity of serviced offices and believes its proven track record in customer service will underpin its expansion programme.