I recently had the pleasure to represent 8th Light (an astonishingly clever firm of US custom software crafters) and acquired their brilliant new office at Suncourt House on Essex Road by Islington Green.
The deal was fantastic (well, I would say that wouldn’t I?) but the space was unbelievable including two exclusive decked terraces – one was so large it could host the BAFTA’s !
The point is that my sphere of influence is stretching far beyond my traditional haunts of Mayfair, Noho, Soho and the West End. It’s now all about Shoreditch, Aldgate, the South Bank and yes, The Angel.
In fact, parts of Shoreditch now command a higher Grade A rent than St Paul’s, Bank and Liverpool Street in the City core.
So for my clients (and remember we only advise tenant’s and buyers) London is their oyster. They can choose to go all ‘co-working’ on a flexible term (and 1 in 4 do) or stick to a more conventional lease where landlords are fighting back against the WeWork’s by offering phenomenal rent free incentives and turnkey fit-out packages.
It’s all pretty exciting so call me on 020 7409 5213 and we’ll talk office space … or football if you prefer.”
Paul’s piece resonated with me as a fellow ‘small but beautiful’ business owner, as I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve been asked ‘why have you never scaled up and taken on external funding ?’
Personally, being successful doesn’t necessarily translate to new hires, mergers or take-overs. In fact I’m a great fan of truly effective alliances, collaborations and consultancies – just as I did 16 years ago when I joined ITRA Global, one of the world’s leading commercial real estate alliances dedicated exclusively to representing corporate occupiers.
So what is ‘business success’ ? It’s certainly not worrying how can I afford to pay dozens of staff, training younger talent or enduring sleepless nights over hikes in business rates and escalating office rents. As Paul Jarvis eloquently observes ‘investor interests won’t always align with what’s best for the end customers’.
I’m proud to have been in the commercial office market for over 40 years and have run a successful, profitable, sustainable international business for more than 25 of them and based everything I’ve accomplished on three words, ‘trust, value and respect’.
I don’t need to transact 100 deals a year to justify a percentage of market share – I’m far happier working with a select few clients at a time who get the very best of me and everyone I know that will benefit them.
Believe me I work hard and occasionally some ridiculously long hours (global time differences tend to do that) which can be disruptive to a happy home life but I love running a small, agile business that’s devoted to my clients and one that can slip into top gear in a heartbeat and is not mired in committees, procedures, protocols, corporate structures and complex cash flow forecasts.
If I want to do something I do it virtually immediately.
Over time I think I’ve made one or two really good decisions but equally have the humility to recognise where I’ve made mistakes and where I’ve needed to adapt, accept and embrace change especially when it comes to technology and the importance of social media.
To be honest, I’ve also probably overpaid for some services – my website for one but I’m really proud of it (www.thelevygroup.london) and enjoyed working with a richly creative team who I’d known for years and who ‘got’ me.
I’ve had my ups and downs like all business owners do and certainly don’t profess to have all the answers but 40 odd years staying small and independent has worked successfully for me plus I’m blessed with 4 brilliant lieutenants who are simply great at all the things that aren’t particularly my areas of professional expertise. We’ve developed a real esprit de corps, covering for each other whether it’s a vacation, maternity leave or a bereavement but always happily dipping into each other’s experience pool to the benefits of our clients.
We’re proud to advise a myriad number of start-ups, charities, associations, Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 companies and since I travel abroad for business a lot – probably 2-3 months of the year one way and another – I take time to personally meet potential new and established clients face-to-face, to learn about their business, what inspired them to start in the first place, what’s changed and where they want to go, way before we’re invited to present Terms of Engagement.
Staying small and beautiful hasn’t hindered us in any way and we consistently punch well above our weight and enjoy the freedom of choice in who we’re delighted to represent as well as reluctantly accepting that on very rare occasions we’re probably just not the best fit for everyone.
I’m more than happy being the Master of my own Universe and to coin Paul Jarvis our clients also seem to enjoy the ‘Company of One’.
Did you know that we’ve completed a total of 18 London office deals over the past 12 months, delivering over 70,000 sq ft of new business space to corporate occupiers?
What’s surprised us is that almost 23% were established clients moving from conventional leased offices to more efficient, centrally serviced co-working or managed space and that’s a trend we haven’t seen before.
With shorter lease terms and 3 and 5 year tenant breaks, more of our clients are asking ‘what’s all the fuss about ?’ Even British Land and Landsec are slowly turning the juggernaut around and launching their own versions to remain competitive with the more agile propco’s who were among the first to recognise the attraction of a bespoke build-out and instant fibre connectivity.
3 out of 4 of our new clients arrive from the US and are loving the new landscape as Knotel, Spaces, Convene and Fora join the elite providers by offering an array of fabulously stylish, community based facilities with open kitchens and coffee bars, terraces and break-outs.
We’ve seen that our clients are happier paying a premium all-in monthly rent for ‘turnkey’ space, robust instant broadband, leasing flexibility and scalable growth potential.
Co-working is not a panacea but we love what it’s done to disrupt the ‘cosy landlord’s clubs’ that had tenants queuing ‘cap and excessive security deposit in hand’ and that’s great news for tenants.
It’s a reality that the WeWorks of this shiny new world are now 21st century landlords but just another attractive option for our clients. It’s down to us to present the right balance on costs (including deposits and fit-out contributions) so come and talk to us about your office space needs and we’ll show you the very best range of options that’ll help retain your talent, keep them happy, engaged, motivated and profitable.