A New Beginning
New Leadership, New Vision has Serviced-Office Franchisor YourOffice USA
Well-Positioned to Take Advantage of Explosive Growth in Emerging Industry
December 05, 2007 // Franchising.com // (Orlando, FL)---BusinessWeek calls them "location-independent" and "office-agnostic." They are part of what demographers and futurists term the "distributed workforce," employees who have no permanent office at their companies. Their numbers represented 40 percent of the workforce at IBM and nearly 50 percent of employees at Sun Microsystems, the magazine reported.
The Work Design Collaborative estimates that by 2012, 40 percent of the American workforce will be distributed. How and where people work – whether as a corporate employee, home-based professional, entrepreneur, consultant, mobile worker or sales representative – has changed forever and that delights Scott Rae Buono, president and CEO of YourOffice USA.
"The way the world works is changing dramatically," Buono said. "It's creating a huge demand from both corporations and even home-based businesses for remote workplaces. People now have choices in how they work."
Three years after purchasing the franchisor of serviced office centers and having already doubled the size and revenue of the company, Buono, a longtime industry veteran, is using new leadership, a new vision and a controlled expansion strategy to position YourOffice as the emerging brand and cost-effective leader in premier-quality virtual and fully serviced office centers, meeting and workplaces.
"What we have to offer franchisees is phenomenal," says David L. "Larry" Barton, vice president and director of operations for YourOffice. "We are on the cusp of an industry that is going to expand explosively over the next 10 years and beyond."
YourOffice is uniquely positioned to lead the tremendous shift in the work environment by providing adaptable, affordably priced business centers featuring the technological sophistication that today's "information age" workforce demands. Clients gain access to all the benefits of a full-service office environment without the capital costs associated with traditional offices, sometimes trimming costs by 50 to 70 percent. Clients can simply walk in, sit down and get to work.
At the same time, YourOffice provides small and home-based businesses cost-effective and efficient support through "virtual" offices that are available by the hour, day or month – "as they need it, when they need it" – while also supplying necessary tools such as a professional business address, personalized telephone answering, private mailbox service and more that support clients who want to look, act and operate with an advanced business image.
Current YourOffice locations include a flagship 19,000-square-foot new corporate headquarters and executive office suite facility in "The Plaza," downtown Orlando's new premier mixed-use development, along with business centers in Charlotte (three locations), Denver, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Raleigh, N.C. and Birmingham, Ala.
Projections call for more than 100 new business centers to open during the next five years in Florida, the Southeast and other targeted U.S. cities, including those where YourOffice has existing locations.
YourOffice is the only franchisor of large-scale serviced offices, with its centers typically occupying 10,000 to 30,000 square feet. It's a shift from the company's previous business model when the concept was introduced to the U.S. from Europe, launching its first franchise in Denver in 1998. The focus was on smaller centers occupying 8,000 square feet of space or less.
Expanding the size of its business centers allows YourOffice to provide a much higher level of service to its clients because of the efficiencies of scale of the larger footprint, while at the same time generating much stronger revenues and profit. Combining that strategy with the commitment of dedicated owner-operators at each business center who are deeply invested in providing a great working environment for their clients, results in a win-win environment for business.
The insight and expertise that guides YourOffice comes from the decades-long industry experience of the 45-year-old Buono and the other members of his executive team – Norman Fox, Christopher Willingham and Barton – who have collectively developed, opened or operated more than 100 business centers under other brands during the past 20 years. Buono is the co-founder of two other serviced-office companies.
"I'm a big believer in the franchise model. The scope of management really works if it is distributed with vested owners," Buono said. "The office footprint that YourOffice previously used was too small. I knew we would be successful if we changed the model and also brought some depth of experience to the company's core."
Located in central business districts as well as secondary, suburban and rural communities, YourOffice offers investment opportunities for single-site operators, but the majority of growth is expected to come from area developers who will typically operate three to five business centers or "market clusters" in exclusive metropolitan territories.
"We would like to strategically grow around a cluster program where every market that we enter would grow into a cluster of three to five locations instead of an isolated center," Buono said. "You really build synergy from that local network as well as the national network that we are building."
YourOffice franchisees typically have strong professional backgrounds, but have ambitions for a more fulfilling career that lets them control their own destiny while continuing to work with a professional clientele. The mid-level estimated initial investment of $107,200 to $506,650 not only affords them the opportunity for top-level returns, but also gives them the satisfaction of growing a business that helps other professionals grow theirs. YourOffice owner-operators employ a small number of professional employees – usually three to five – and work regular business hours.
"I believe the lifestyle afforded by owning a YourOffice franchise is unique when compared to the spectrum of other franchise opportunities that are available," said Buono, who added that the concept would be a good fit for investors interested in restaurant and hotel opportunities. "This is an executive's franchise. It's a very clean, professional office franchise that's pretty much 9 to 6, Monday through Friday. There really aren't that many franchises that fit the same bill while also providing a strong return on your investment."
YourOffice business owners are typically hands-on operators who handle both day-to-day operations and marketing responsibilities until the business matures and they are able to hire managers for those areas. A program is also available for investors who prefer to have a vested manager handle operations under the tutelage and guidance of the franchisor.
Barton, YourOffice director of operations, is co-owner of the YourOffice business center in Birmingham, Ala., along with wife, Maleah. She handles day-to-day operations while Larry handles sales and marketing, in addition to his responsibilities as a member of the corporate management team.
"This is a great business for couples and women, too, since we work banker's hours," Barton said. "A single mother can successfully run the business and still have time for her children when compared to being a hands-on owner in the restaurant business where the hours can be brutal."
With the exception of one major international brand, the serviced-office industry is highly fragmented and comprised primarily of independent operators. However, Buono foresees tremendous consolidation and says YourOffice is well positioned for long-term success.
"Right now we are a small, early-stage concept but one that is run by deeply experienced veterans of the industry," Buono said. "We think there will be tremendous consolidation within this industry and it is ultimately going to grow up under a unified brand and unified operating system that gives clients a consistent package of quality services they can count on. A franchise proposition is perfectly situated in that type of environment and our local, vested ownership will make a big difference."