Donna Scott Talks Flexible Working on Tallahassee Talk Radio [9/26/11 BROADCAST & TRANSCRIPT]
Preston: Donna, good morning; welcome to the program.
Donna: Good morning.
Preston: Let’s talk a little bit about the business climate that Regus decided to enter into, because it’s a very different business model. What was going on when the whole idea of developing these flexible workspaces — what was happening in the market place that sort of birthed this thing?
Donna: Well I have to step back a bit. We’ve been in business since 1989, so while it’s certainly an issue right now, with regards to trying to start businesses in the [current] economic climate … We saw years ago — our founder saw years ago — the need for people to have flexible office solutions. And maybe a bit ahead of his time. But he was meeting in a hotel lobby and realised that that’s not necessarily the place to conduct business. And so 20 years ago he started his first center and flash forward to now where we have over 1200 globally.
Preston: What is it that Regus — let’s go back to [the founder] — he basically took his own personal experience and sort of extrapolated that into a business model. What is it, that sort of — what was the hook for this?
Donna: Well, then — it was much different from now — the need for technology and the need to have a business presence, a solid business presence in a local economy — now I think it’s a lot more about flexibility. Certainly now with the uncertain times that people are facing, the ability to start a business economically and stay flexible and be able to twist and turn as the economy does so.
Preston: You know, circa 1989 when you talk about the technology at the time: I guess you’re right, as we were carrying brick phones in our back pockets and those things cost a fortune. And so it was sort of about martialing resources, right?
Donna: Yes, we had to actually provide a really robust stationary position for somebody. So, when you think of a home office or a corporate office, that’s what we were providing for people, which is much different from now where we have people — what we call the mobile worker — who chooses to work wherever they want to work and every so often needs to come in, perhaps maybe for a meeting to use the meeting facilities, or perhaps to drop in, maybe on more of a social situation, more than a need to get to the actual technology.
Preston: Donna, talk to me for a second about a market like Tallahassee. One of the things that intrigued me about Regus, is that Tallahassee’s kind of a seasonal place. You’ve got a lot of folks who sort of flood in during the session, every spring, but then you’ve got the universities — you’ve got Florida A&M [Agricultural and Mechanical University], you’ve got Florida State, a technological school, TCC [Tallahassee Community College] — and it seems as though it’s a pretty good fit for people who just want a seasonal presence as well.
Donna: I think you touched on a couple of things. A lot of opportunity for us, with regards to the State government nearby and of course the university always provides a base of clientele for us from an entrepreneurial standpoint. But then the seasonality in a city like that lends itself to the flexibility of having an office when you need one, when you need to be close, when government’s in session, when you need to go back to your home — you can literally drop down to maybe a marginal presence in that city to make sure you are accommodating your client base there. But you’re not physically there.
Preston: Well … the one that that is undeniable — Eric [Eggers] and I talk about it on the program — is that the internet has changed the landscape for business, not just in our country but globally. It is — it’s a game changer. And one of the things that that brings about, is that there are a lot of people who have a presence online that’s pretty slick —they look good, the sound good, they’ve got the bells and whistles on their website — but they don’t necessarily have the coin to put that presence in an office, you know, 24/7, 12 months of the year. And that was the other thing about the Regus model that really impressed me. For a lot of startup businesses out there or internet businesses, when they need that presence, they can have it.
Donna: Yeah I think you touched upon a great point which is that people are perhaps sometimes cynical of that online-only presence. And we’re going back to — or maybe we never lost that face-to-face contact. So I think what we’re trying to provide for our clients is a location — a physical location to come, meet with clients, get in front of prospects and really do some business face-to-face, the old fashioned way.
Preston: Do you feel like this is a trend which just continues to move in that same direction? You mentioned that Regus has been around since 1989. When you’re studying … the professional landscape, do you see it being cyclical or, you know what, this is the direction we’re moving in, so the idea of lowering overhead costs is something that, you know what, this is just the way it is — what the business looks like in 2011.
Donna: Absolutely. Everyone’s been concerned with overhead but I think the way people are doing business continues to change and that’s where we — we try to stay ahead of that. So as I mentioned, before, when you flash back to 20 years ago, people were coming into our centers and using them for 9-5. It’s certainly not the case now; they’re dropping in when they need to, they’re plugging in and downloading information and then they’re on their way again or perhaps hopping from center to center, or traveling from city to city and utilizing us in that capacity. So very, very different use of physical office space now than used to be.
Preston: Final question. Just a quick snapshot here. Someone walks into the Alliance Center here in downtown Tallahassee and finds the Regus office center, what are they going to see? You’re going to walk in and be greeted by a receptionist that is the entire center’s receptionist. There is an area for you to drop in — as we’ve been talking about — check mail; a business lounge. There’s meeting rooms, if you need to book a meeting with any of your clients. And of course — as I said, I called them traditional office users — that need a full-time office. It’s there; you literally can walk in with your laptop. We’ve got connectivity. We’ve got all of the furnishings you need and it’s well-appointed. You can just start working and get down to business immediately.
Preston: And of course we know the number … go ahead and send people to the website and the phone number that they should call.
Donna: Regus.com is the easiest way to find us. Or 1-800-OFFICES is also a way you can reach us via telephone.
Preston: Donna, great to visit with you. Thanks very much.