January 17, 2012

Cover Story

Gary L. Crocker

Gary L. Crocker doesn’t gripe about his days as a broke, Harvard Business Sch...Read More

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Shared Office Space

Is a virtual office right for your company?

Nick Bundra

January 17, 2012

Shifting from a home office to leased commercial space can be a huge leap—it’s a greater financial commitment and requires a new level of business management. Some entrepreneurs are choosing to share office space in order to defray costs and draw on each others’ business acumen. Greg Guest, a sales engineer for Luscombe Technical Sales, found that his noisy home environment stunted his ability to work effectively. Finding locations outside of the home proved challenging as well. “I used to be at Beans & Brews or other Wi-Fi hotspots on a daily basis. While trying to do conference calls, the cappuccino machine was always going in the background at just the wrong time.” Guest turned to a new leasing program offered by Davinci Executive Suites to find a quiet place to work. Launched in July, Davinci’s Emerging Business Program provides individuals with full-time collaborative workspace replete with Internet, mailing and other extras for $50 each month. Now, Guest says he often works at up to three of Davinci’s four locations in one day and, within a more professional environment, he feels better equipped to accomplish his duties. “We’re your orchestra. You just overlay anything you want,” says Sam Souvall, president of Davinci Executive Suites. Solo entrepreneurs, business professionals, small businesses and satellites of larger organizations are among the clients of the turnkey office suite provider. Davinci has a particular interest in meeting the needs of young businesses. Co-founded in 1997 by Souvall, Davinci initially offered long-term lease agreements with setup fees, down payments and payment for add-on services. But when banks began withdrawing lines of credit for small businesses during the recent economic downturn, Souvall and his team reinvented Davinci. “Last year, we just kept thinking, ‘How can we simplify it, how can we make it easy?’ Here’s what we really want: We want people to come in [who] are at a critical place in their business,” says Souvall. The renovation included eliminating setup fees, slashing down payments and making lease agreements more flexible. They also began including more add-ons, such as office furniture, in their base pricing. The new approach has helped Davinci near capacity in each of its Utah locations. Aaron Zupancic, vice president of software development at Experlogix, has been impressed by how quickly the staff responds to his company’s specific needs. For example, when he moved in, Davinci helped him quickly set up his space and install a virtual private network for Experlogix. Davinci also encourages its tenants to benefit from shared office space through networking. To this end, the company hosts monthly socials for all tenants. Zupancic says, “There is quite a diverse group of companies in the facility, and it’s exciting to be able to interact so closely with the individuals and their various industries.” Souvall models this vision of networking. As he walks the halls, he stops to talk to every tenant with an open door. He explains his expectations for himself and other Davinci team members: “Your role in a couple of hundred people’s lives a day is for them to be the most important person in your life. You’ve been waiting all day to see them.” Davinci is just one of several Utah companies—including Avanti Executive Office Suites, RiverPark Executive Suites and Pyxis Suites—that offer shared professional space. Souvall calls them “partner centers” and refers prospective clients to them when he recognizes a better fit for their specific needs. Regional Director Shauna Holley of Avanti Executive Suites says that she likewise feels comfortable referring clients to Davinci “because they have the same philosophy on the service level that we do. It’s just a win-win for both parties.” However, Avanti’s clientele are more heavily comprised of established businesses and satellites of Fortune 500 companies, Winning in the business of providing shared office space, as defined by Davinci and Avanti, means customer satisfaction, not simply inking lease agreements. “Anybody can sell an office,” Holley says. “What we want to sell is customer service. I’m not here just to make you happy. I’m here to dazzle you.” Shared office space providers supply a professional image and infrastructure for small businesses and satellites. Still, some companies may prefer a location that they can call their own. Others may care less about image and infrastructure and seek a larger space with a better value per square foot. However, for many small businesses needing time and an environment conducive to growth, shared office space is an extremely viable option.
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