How and why did you start your own business?
Way back in 2000 I was working in the West End acquiring office space for clients. The internet frenzy was in full swing and there were lots of requirements from new start-up businesses needing comparatively small spaces. At the time the firm I was working for and the real estate industry in general was focused on much larger lettings with bigger fees. However, I worked out that if you could process the customer’s requirements relatively quickly - placing the companies in serviced offices - then all the little fees would add up. I managed to find a niche dealing with the requirements that no one else was paying attention to. Now we have over 2000 enquires each month from companies looking for relatively small office spaces.
I funded the business myself by taking out a home improvement loan from the bank, which I was fortunate enough to be able to do at the time. It was enough money to get a website built and cover some advertising whilst I continued to develop the business for the next 6 months. Obviously there are a lot more financing opportunities available for start-ups now, so I would encourage people to do their research and consider what kind of funding is best for them.
There are always new challenges. I think one of the most important things is developing your online presence: get yourself established digitally and make sure your website is visible using Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that potential customers can find your service. Our website allows people to search thousands of properties by postcode, street, town, stations, airports, for example, and is at the core of the business.
We have been in business for 13 years, and now a large part of our business revenue is referral and repeat business. Our clients include big British organisations such as the BBC, Princes Trust and Transport for London, and I think our .co.uk website has played an important part in attracting these clients. It also helps from an SEO point of view as it makes Flexioffices stand out in the search results. Potential clients often prefer and feel more inclined to click on websites with .co.uk URLs if they are British and are looking for a UK based business.
Britain and especially London is like a magnet for start-ups and entrepreneurs that want to grow their business quickly. When a huge pool of creative entrepreneurs has access to funding, the result is a huge rise in exciting start-ups. In addition, world renowned universities and cutting edge research institutions have helped create market leading innovations. The UK government has also helped businesses by reducing the corporation tax from 24% to 21% this year and to 20% next year.
We do have both .co.uk and .com domain names, but we use the .co.uk in all our marketing and branding as it gives potential clients a good idea of the market we are operating in and it really highlights the fact that we are a British company. We have a broad range of clients, many of which include British charities, councils and public sector organisations, many of whom have their own UK-based domains. I think the level of trust associated with .co.uk helps to show them that we are a reputable British business that understands their values and needs.
SEO is really important and we invest heavily to make sure that we show on the first page of results so that potential customers can find us online. Once we’ve got the business, we always ensure the best quality customer service to make sure clients keep coming back and recommend us to others.
It’s great to grow the company and see staff fulfil their potential. It’s also fun helping companies such as Spotify find their first office and see them grow into a household name!
I am always open to suggestions! After the initial loan we have grown organically using our own positive cash flow. This has meant that our growth has been steady rather than exponential, and it has meant that we have been able to weather any lean times.
Keep an eye on your cash flow and consider where you should be spending your budget and where you could cut back. For example, instead of renting large premises you don’t need, you could rent a serviced office space which includes bills, broadband and furniture etc., and use the money saved on SEO services.