Richard Morris of Regus UK
Richard Morris, chief executive of the UK’s leading provider of flexible workspace, Regus UK, explains why demand for its services is soaring.
“For a country to sustain a vibrant diverse population of businesses from start-ups to SMEs and fast-growing businesses, it needs infrastructure,” says Richard.
And he isn’t wrong either. Much has been made of the rising demand for office space in the UK’s major cities over the past few years with more and more companies looking to invest and grow in the UK.
However, for many business leaders, investing in commercial property can be quite a gamble. With high rents and long lease agreements, it can be a huge risk for businesses to invest in property when the economy looks so uncertain.
This has proved a huge boon however for flexible workspace provider Regus UK, which provides fully serviced office spaces, virtual offices, coworking spaces and meeting rooms to businesses across the country.
Richard explains: “Over the past year we grew both revenues and profitability in line with our expectations and have opened a number of new locations which reflects the fact that we continue to see demand for our services grow.
“We’re pleased that the demand has continued to grow in spite of the economic uncertainty that has prevailed since the middle of last year. It doesn’t seem to be putting businesses off in terms of looking to continue to grow and expand which is good for us.
“In some respect, the whole Brexit thing and the uncertainty has helped boost demand for our products and services as businesses more than ever want to remain agile and not have to sign up to long-term commitments when they aren’t sure where things are going to go as we leave the European Union. We’re seeing the flexibility that we offer become very attractive and appealing. More so now as the economic climate looks so uncertain.”
And it isn’t just short-term leases and cheaper rates which are driving companies towards flexible workspace providers such as Regus but also technological advancements and the determination of British entrepreneurs to scale their busiensses and contninue growing.
As Richard points out: “The demand for what we do, the demand for flexible workspace, is driven by a number of things. Firstly, technology means people are more mobile now than ever before. That’s really the advent of the fast adoption of everything being in the cloud.
“Being in the cloud means that desktop computers in our offices can now be used to operate and access corporate and company IT systems from anywhere in the UK. It’s allowing companies of all sizes to be more flexible in terms of where they have people working from.
“We are also seeing companies adopt more flexible working arrangements from a point of view of where people work. The other driver of growth is the increased number of small companies, freelancers and entrepreneurs we’ve seen emerge in the UK over the past 5-10 years’ post-recession.
“A big part of the economic recovery was characterised by a huge increase in the number of self-employed people and small businesses. The UK is the third easiest country in the world to start-up a new business.
“The internet also means starting up a new business is a lot more in the reach of people than ever before. This all leads to an increased population of SMEs that would much prefer to consume workspace on a flexible basis as opposed to being tied down to long-term commitments.”
This rising demand for flexible working helped Regus UK report record revenues last year of £2.2m up from £1.927m in 2015 with the company opening 231 new locations throughout the year.
And it isn’t just small businesses who are benefiting from the flexible workspace boom either. Thousands of regional, national and even international businesses are now operating from Regus’ centres across the UK.
One success story in particular, which you could say is the newest poster boy for Regus, is Uber. “If you take a company coming into the UK wanting to expand very very quickly like Uber, they started their whole UK operation using our network and now have 45 locations with us in the UK,” says Richard.
“What they said was ‘right we need a branch network and need to move very quickly and scale up rapidly.’ Using the Regus network they were able to underpin their operational infrastructure and achieve this. They’re a great example of a well-known business coming into the UK and growing through using flexible workspace.
“And it’s not just major corporates either. We also have lots of UK companies who have built their national presence by opening up new offices in Regus locations. Global businesses, national businesses, regional businesses, we have so many success stories.”
So after years of rapid growth, increasing demand for its services and having already expanded across the UK, what’s next?
Richard concluded: “Looking forward we see ourselves growing through the increased use of our network by medium and larger companies.
“More and more bigger companies are now deciding to close their own branches and offices and instead outsource the fulfilment of their space requirements to Regus by using our network instead of having their own branch network.
“We see more big companies doing that over the coming year as it’s more cost efficient for big companies and at the same time it plays into larger companies transforming the way in which they configure their workforces through the introduction of more agile and flexible working practices.
“With flexible working, location doesn’t mean everyone converging on a single head office anymore. It’s more about giving employees more choice and more flexibility regarding where they work from.”