Please, tell us something more about OfficeMe, how did you start, what was your core business?
OfficeMe was established in December 2016. In the first stage it offered 640 m2. of business space. As our offer included both open space and office space, there was a question how to profile our offer on the market - whether to be mere coworking space or instance office, the space for small- and medium-sized companies.
With all the efforts we made to organise that, we met the demands and wishes of the people who had left the corporate business and started their own small businesses, but still wanted to be in a strict business environment. It turned out that OfficeMe has become specialised in small- and medium-sized companies that want to invest their money in their business and not in business premises. The people want to work in the building along with companies like Pepsi, Coca- Cola, Knjaz Miloš, and other big companies. Why? Because they want to establish business contacts. Also, it’s important for them to focus their energy and time on business and not to have concerns about the space, cleaning, parking, and repairs, while they expect everything to function well. They want their space to be clean and comfortable, to be in the building with the business etiquette and ancillary premises (spacious conference halls, equipped kitchens, fast Internet, lounge and rest areas).
Before your establishment, there had already been a lot of coworking companies. What is the difference between your coworking space and competitors?
The main difference between us and our competitors is that we are exclusively specialised in renting the space and everything related to the space. We also deal with people, but specifically with their demands and comfort, but not with their business operations (team building, financing, development, consulting). Our task is to take care of their comfort, to make everything works impeccably, and it’s up to them to expand their business cooperation, develop communication, and create contents.
How does it work in reality?
Beside their offices, tenants can also use many common premises (kitchen, lounge, rest areas, terraces), where they spend their time during breaks at work. There they exchange their experiences and talk about current projects over a free cup of coffee. Thus, two tenants of totally different business profiles, who set next to each other in the open space pooled their knowledge and as a team they did the project that neither of them could do alone.
Also, we have an example that one software company was seeking for external service on the market, and it turned out that the company next to them offered that specific service. They established a contact and made a deal under more favourable conditions than the market ones. That’s how they got a reliable supplier, reduced operational expenses, all thanks to sharing the same space.
You are much praised for meeting demands of your clients. How do you recognise the actual demands of your business environment and always react adequately?
By taking care of clients. I exclusively take care of their needs in order to unburden them of all organisation problems. Together we try to find solutions for their problems. I watch and follow what clients do, follow events that take place in the buildings, connect people, and meet their demands. I constantly follow what is going on. During a casual conversation, one of the tenants complained about his problem with the back. We were still having coffee when I called the company that manufactures the best chairs in town and the same day he got the chair that alleviates his pain. There was also a Japanese company that urgently needed to provide the space for its 10 employees for a definite period of time. I effectively provided them with fully equipped offices. They could only sit and do their work, like in Japan (laughter).
Do you and how do you solve everyday problems of your clients?
I care about my clients, I ask them how they spent their vacation, whether the child has recovered from measles, and similar. Every client of mine is also my friend. One rule applies to me: “While you are asking me a question, I am already dialling the number and trying to find a solution for your problem, business or private.”
How actively do you participate in the business life of your clients? Do you socialise with them over a cup of coffee in the kitchen or in the lounge?
After some time, we also become friends. After some time of business cooperation, we begin socialising out of office too. I am not like landlords who raise their rent and bother people with requirements. I take care of them and socialise with them all.
What can you learn from your clients and what can they learn from you?
As far as IT industry is concerned, I didn’t know anything apart from sales of computers, and that’s trade. After opening OfficeMe, I learnt a lot from my tenants and it helped me better understand their needs and potential tenants. For example, if the client is an IT company specialised in customer support, I know that we are not the right thing for such company, since it has a large number of employees and it is expensive for them to come here since they need the space for 50 employees. But if developers are coming, it is a small team, quiet, reserved, and I have the right solution for them.
What have they learnt from you?
Dedication to a project. For example, one big client rented the space from 1st May, but did not arrange anything else. I realised that the period of time was short and that they would have a big problem and stress unless they solve everything as soon as possible. That’s why I took them to the business furniture space on the 4th floor and they quickly found the solution for everything. In one day they managed to finish the project outline, i.e. to see how the future space would look like and what furniture would be in. Now they are free to do their job for the following couple of months until they enter the space.
In your opinion, how well informed are the people who use this kind of space? Some like to rent a flat, thinking it is cheaper and, actually, it is not completely true. To what extent are your clients aware of what they could expect from the coworking space and at what price?
It is necessary to put in some time into it and raise the awareness. I know that people don’t know, but I also know that one day of work will not bring results. It is a process, education of people, which would last at least one year and a half. It is necessary to work on that continuously until people realise it, for example, Lloyd in London works in a coworking space, as well as MasterCard, Coca-Cola, Fifa, and other big companies and organisations. These companies do not want their time, energy and, of course, money be “trapped” in their own property.
Also, there was a business woman (mother of two) who was writing her doctoral dissertation in this space. “I want to have peace”, she said, “but I also want to talk to someone, not to be like in a library when everybody is silent”. That’s how it is.
You have announced that you are expanding your business this year. What are your further plans?
This year we expanded the space for 1000 m2. In the following two years we plan to increase the capacities for additional 2000 m2, and with warehouses we will have total 3600 m2. We annually increase our capacities by approximately 50%. From our present experience we know that in 7 or 8 months we will need to expand the space.
How do you see a possibility of improving the coworking business in the future?
I think that in the future the coworking space will take over the entire business in the part of the business space renting. You will have the owners of business buildings, but they will not be involved in that business, they will give it over to coworking companies. That’s because you have to rent from them minimum 1000 square metres for five years without a notice period, with high penalties, with large deposit, and bare walls. This is, you must admit, a great burden, even for well established companies, let alone companies still trying to penetrate the market.
Branko Pejčić, OfficeMe