Office Evolution – The Evolution of Office Work

written by Business View Magazine January 18, 2017
Office Evolution

Coworking – “The use of an office or other working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.”

 — Oxford Dictionary —

Coworking has become an increasingly attractive option for work-at-home professionals, independent contractors and entrepreneurs, small business owners, and people who travel frequently and generally end up working in relative isolation. Mark Hemmeter, founder and CEO of Office Evolution, a national operator of executive suite, virtual office, and co-working business centers, describes a typical customer of his company: “The local small business owner, who, primarily, used to work out of his house; who needs a professional, private, quiet place to work, but still wants to network with friends and other compatriots. They can’t work in their living room anymore or at a Starbucks. They need a professional place to execute their business.”

Hemmeter started Office Evolution in Boulder, Colorado in 2003. Within ten years, the company had opened eight profitable business centers in the greater Denver area, and in order to grow further, he and his team decided to franchise its proven turnkey business model in 2013. “We expect to have awarded 75- plus franchise locations by the end of 2016 with 26 currently open from Boston to Los Angeles and everywhere in between,” he reports.” Specifically, Office Evolution has centers in California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, and Utah. Franchise locations in development and slated to open in 2017 include Texas, Wisconsin, Kansas, Arizona, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, New York, Connecticut, and Virginia.

Vice President of Marketing Jane McPherson describes the phenomenal growth of the industry over the past several years, with the number of members using coworking spaces, worldwide, predicted to reach over one million by 2018. “The marketplace has grown exponentially since we started the company,” she explains. “Today, about 34 percent of workers work remotely. That number is projected to be 40 percent by the year 2020, and 60 percent by the year 2030. So, we’re in an incredibly dynamic, expanding market. The demand for our offices, our business services, our shared office space, is growing by leaps and bounds and we are significantly out front of those trends. And, because of our franchise distribution model, we’re one of the only companies that is growing and able to satisfy that demand.”

McPherson also points out that Office Evolution has a very consistent brand and delivers a very high-value product to its members in places that are very convenient for them. “And, whenever they’re travelling, they can utilize any of our other locations, 24/7,” she adds. “Two of the largest coworking players in the world – WeWork and Regus – are both multi-billion dollar organizations, however they are corporate entities and lack the locally owned and operated franchise model that Office Evolution members resonate with.”

To meet growing demand, Office Evolution has evolved to offer much more than just a place to work outside of the home or the traditional corporate office setting. “We operated our own centers and built all of our own systems for over ten years before we ever franchised,” Hemmeter explains. In fact, the company still operates seven of its own Denver area locations. “We love the corporate-owned centers,” he says. “They’re very profitable, they’re a great place to test new concepts and ideas, and they’re a great place to train franchisees and their employees.”

The company has invested millions into building corporate-based and operated platforms to support all locations nationwide. Its live answer call center answers all members’ phones, manages their schedules, answers frequently asked questions, runs all their technology, does all of the billing and collections for all of the franchisees, and helps franchisees run their businesses day in and day out. “All of this is unique,” Hemmeter points out. “As far as we know, nobody else does that.”

Hemmeter says that Office Evolution offers its franchisees other advantages, as well. “Number one: our price point is significantly less,” he states. “We build a smaller center that costs a lot less to open and operate– maybe half – of our competitors. And because we have all those centralized services, only one employee is needed at each location, whereas our competitors require many more. In addition, we’re very involved in site acquisition, lease negotiations, and construction design; we hold their hand all the way through the entire process.”

When looking for potential franchisees, Hemmeter says, his company is very selective. “We try to assess ‘fit.’ Do we fit in their lives, and do they fit in our system?” he queries. “There are certain things we are looking for in a franchise candidate and there are certain things that they are looking for. It’s like Match.com. We go on a bunch of ‘dates.’ We ask each other a bunch of questions and if it all connects, we get married at the end.”

“An increasing number of our franchisees started with us as members,” adds Senior Director of Franchise Sales and Marketing, Eileen Proctor. “Also, we work with franchise brokers to help sell our brand nationally, and they have become franchisees as well because as they describe the business model to their clients, they fall in love with it, themselves. We’ve created processes, platforms, and support programs that positions the Office Evolution opportunity as an ‘executive model’ franchise. It’s not full-time for the majority of our owners. It’s ideal as an investment or exit strategy from current employment.”

Hemmeter relates that this past year, the company has gotten a lot of interest from outside of the U.S., and it has its sights on expanding to other countries. “This industry is actually bigger in other parts of the world,” he says. “It’s newer in the U.S. than it is in places like Asia, Latin America, and Europe. London happens to have the highest density of coworking space in the world. We’ve had serious discussions for the U.K., Ireland, and Canada. So, next year, we may dip our toe in the water internationally.”

“My goal is that Office Evolution becomes ubiquitous; that it becomes ingrained in the culture of business owners,” says Hemmeter. “To do that, we have to have between 750 and 1,000 locations throughout the United States, with a presence in Canada, the U.K., and multiple other countries. And we have to be the market-leading type of company. I’m confident we’ve got the team and the system to do that.”

Emily Larson, Vice President of Development agrees. “When people think of franchises, they typically think of haircutting and sandwiches and massages – typical retail-based businesses or small, home-based businesses,” she states. “We are in a different category. We are a technology-enabled service provider that has a brick and mortar component in an emerging, high-growth industry. And because of our footprint and flexibility, we’re able to go into retail lifestyle centers and a lot of locations that are very appealing to members that the other brands don’t go into and can’t make work. We’re growing at a pace that the technology and cell phone industries both grew at in their early years – about 400 percent this year; nobody is growing anywhere near our pace. And we are at the forefront – the market leader in terms of locations, growth rate, and flexibility.”

“Office Evolution is business-to-business, single employee, semi-absentee ownership, Monday to Friday, eight to five, non-food, in a rapidly-growing industry,” says Hemmeter, summing up. “And there are a lot of potential franchisees out there who want just that at a price point that makes sense in their lives.”

AT A GLANCE

WHO: Office Evolution
WHAT: A national operator of executive suite, virtual office, and co-working business centers
WHERE: Headquarters in Louisville, Colorado
WEBSITE: www.officeevolution.com

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January, 2017 Issue

January, 2017 Issue

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