‘Fundamentally, the serviced sector is here to stay because it gives occupiers what they want. If you’re an SME who doesn’t know where you’ll be in 15 months, never mind 15 years, flexibility is a core business need. The average length of stay for our clients is three years, and fully one-third change their size requirements when they renew with us, underlining the business need.’
Now take a walk across central London and meet Enrico Sanna, co-founder and Chief Executive at Fora. Fora say they provide a premium service, which it distinguishes from the luxury offer of LEO.
The business has six sites launched in London and Reading. This time next year, Fora will have doubled its representation. Enrico’s hospitality industry background is the key to their approach.
‘Most serviced floorspace is cheap and cheerful and standardised, but we offer something premium, and we are able to do that because we own the buildings we operate in,’ says Enrico. ‘If we own the building we can strip them out completely, we do not have to compromise.’
The result is that mechanical and electrical services, ventilation, lifts and other facilities are installed to a higher standard, says Enrico. In a normal landlord-owned block they would be installed to meet average user requirements, and Enrico argues that flexible working is far from average.
‘Here’s an example: look at the ventilation. In a normal office you have occupation at the rate of one person per eight or nine square metres, so the ventilation is set accordingly. But in serviced offices it might be one person to every five square metres, and if you had normal ventilation it would be stuffy and airless. The same goes for overworked lifts, and everything else,’ he explains.
With the residual value of the property on the balance sheet (meaning they can always sell-up and recover their costs), Fora can take larger risks. Hence the premium offer.