|GARY NYLANDER/The Okanagan Saturday|
Chris Ashburn, general manager of Regus in Kelowna holds a plan for the new business centre offices.
Regus isn't yet a familiar name in Kelowna, but it is the world's largest provider of "turn-key flexible work spaces," said Western Canada director Aaren Terrett.
The company, founded in the United Kingdom 27 years ago, has 1,500 locations in 85 countries. Fifty of those are in Canada, and Kelowna's location, which opens April 22 in the Landmark 6 tower, will be the 13th in British Columbia. Seven of them are in Vancouver.
The concept is remarkably simple: Regus offers fully outfitted, customizable office space, including reception services and IT support, for small and growing companies, from by-the-hour rates for one-off meetings and presentations, to weekly, monthly or longer rentals.
With what's called a world card membership, a business owner can come and go from any Regus location in the world, swipe their card for access, and use the office space as their own - any time, anywhere.
"All our locations are outfitted the same, so it's like
working in your own office," said Terrett.
He uses the example of a member having to deal with a company crisis while on vacation in Mexico or Europe. They can check in, use the resources to deal with the situation and
resume their holiday without having to fly home.
They can also download a Regus app to their smartphone, which allows them to book space while on the go.
Those spaces can be as small as individual "Thinkpods" - funky, Ikea-ish mini-cubicles, kind of like an airport laptop station - to fully serviced meeting rooms for up
to 25 people, with video conferencing facilities.
All locations also have full kitchens, lounge areas and catering can be provided.
"It really allows small businesses to compete with bigger companies," said Terrett.
"A home business owner may be a one-man operation run out of a corner of a basement, but if they have a big presentation to make, they can use our space for as little as an hour and really impress prospective clients."
There are no signs that identify the space as not their own, and staff at reception have a computerized system that identifies incoming calls so they can answer the phone with your own company's name.
"Companies starting out don't have to sign five- or 10-year leases and often can't afford to. We've had clients stay from one hour to seven years, everything from single meetings to six-month projects to full-time office space."
Regus sites offer fully functioning business environments that allow several companies at once to come in and use the space, creating a dynamic energy where people who may ordinarily never meet rub elbows in the lounge or kitchen and exchange ideas or network with the "business thinktrust."
Terrett says all sites are outfitted with Fortune 500-level amenities at a fraction of the cost it would take individual businesses to equip themselves.
Those costs start as low as just $29 a month and provide complete 24/7 access. Members can also access preferred customer deals on everything from hotels to couriers to
computers through Regus's buying power.
Clients include Google, Twitter, provincial governments and even big banks like CIBC, as well as consultants, lawyers and start-ups.
In Kelowna, Regus will occupy the
11th floor of Landmark 6, with 13,000 square feet of space.
General manager Chris Ashburn said things are currently at the painting stage, and construction should be complete by
April 8, followed by move-in and opening on the 22nd.
"I've been doing a lot of tours, making connections and educating people on what Regus is," said Ashburn, who comes to the company via his time as a manager with Visions Electronics. A fellow Visions alumnus lured him over to the company.
"We should open with a couple of clients
already," he said.
Ashburn said when he describes the Regus concept, many people don't fully comprehend it until they see it. "And when they do see it, they think it's remarkable."
Terrett said the company is bullish on Kelowna, noting Disney/Club Penguin's presence, and he hopes the flexibility Regus offers can lure more firms to the Okanagan.
"We're excited to Help Kelowna grow ... our members have the flexibility to transfer to any of our locations, so you could see a business move from Calgary to Kelowna, for example, to test the market. It would be exactly like their office in any of our locations."
The bottom line, Terrett said, is business owners can focus on driving their own companies.
"We will look after the rest."