We sat down with Jane Sartin, Executive Director of the Flexible Space Association (FlexSA) to discuss the state of flexible space, a new direction for FlexSA, what key industry pain points there are to overcome and what trends to be aware of.
Nearing in on a year in the industry, how has your experience been and has anything stood out?
What’s stood out more than anything is the diversity of workspaces within the sector. From the ultra-modern and sleek to the more traditional spaces, it’s been great to see the wide variety available which are all uniquely designed to cater to different needs in our fast-growing sector.
Additionally, seeing first-hand the wide array of services and technologies that are available has been really promising. With providers such as essensys focusing on serving the industry and helping to contribute to its continued success highlights to me the potential our sector has to not only grow but also improve and adapt.
The BCA is now the Flexible Space Association (FlexSA) – When did you decide that it was time for a rebrand and what were your main objectives?
As the sector has continued to adapt, it quickly became clear that we needed a new name to reflect the dramatic shifts the industry has gone through. Our new name is far more inclusive, and we’re excited to welcome everyone to be a part of our family which includes flexible space across the nation. Also it’s important to note that business centres are still a big part of our sector and have been very positive about our new all-encompassing name.
Is the rebrand going to change the shape of the national conference?
Absolutely! I think with our previous brand, members who didn’t fit under the business centre umbrella may have felt like the conference wasn’t built specifically for them. I think with the rebrand the conferences are not only going to feel more inclusive, but also more exciting for attendees no matter what area of the sector they specialise in.
What should we be most excited for from the newly branded FlexSA?
While previously it may have felt like we were talking with a very narrow scope, with a rebrand a new far more inclusive platform, FlexSA have an opportunity to go out into the wider world and better represent this exciting and fast-growing industry. Whether that’s through providing a platform for our members to enable conversations with government and authority bodies or highlighting the contribution our sector makes on the UK economy; this is a key opportunity for FlexSA to better serve this sector and help contribute to its growth.
With the sector going through some dramatic changes over the past few years, are there any key opportunities that you feel aren’t being utilised correctly yet?
Since getting started in this sector nearly a year ago, I’ve visited many different workspaces to see what different providers are doing. I think a key opportunity that could be missed is to really embrace the services your workspace provides. If you’ve incorporated networking days into your calendars, make sure it’s done properly and it’s providing the right benefits to your members.
More broadly, it’s become increasingly clear that flexible space really isn’t just about start-ups and small businesses. All types and sizes of companies are realising the advantages of flexible space, so it’s important to make sure that your space is prepared to secure these key business opportunities.
Commercial Real Estate players are starting to take strides into the sector. How well equipped do you think operators are to face a changing industry?
First of all, it’s important to note that this is a real endorsement of the strength of our industry. Companies with a vast amount of expertise are taking notice and they want to be involved. I don’t think that CREs entering the sector is a threat, but I do think that everyone is going to have to step up their games to maintain a competitive edge, and those who’ve been in the industry for a while are going to be well equipped for identifying opportunities to stay those few steps ahead.
Technology was the main theme of this year’s conference, why did you decide it had to be a key focus?
It’s relevant to everybody in the industry, that’s the key thing about technology. Everyone has to keep on top of it in order to provide the best quality service to their customers. So, when planning a topic for this year’s conference, we felt that it can sometimes be tricky to keep abreast of all the changes in tech. So this conference theme was designed to give everyone the opportunity to really enhance their tech knowledge in order to ensure their businesses are excelling.
What aspects of technology are you most excited for and think will bring most value to the sector over the coming years?
Cloud based technology which empowers people to be able to do whatever they need to do, no matter where they are, especially for operators who have workspace across the country or globe. But for this to really be the game changer it needs to be, it’s going to be vital for operators to have the key fundamentals nailed down. That means impeccable Wi-Fi and always on, reliable networks and faultless security.
In an increasingly competive market, what do you think is the biggest challenge flexible workspace operators face from a technology standpoint?
Making the right decisions on what technologies they should be adopting. It’s a big investment and there are lots of options out there. Be really clear about what it is and how it’s going to serve your business. The success of your spaces is contingent of the success of your technology so make sure you choose the right partner who can match your ambitions.
What do you see on the horizon for FlexSA?
Lots more shouting about what our members are doing. Previously I feel like we’ve been more internally focused within the industry in our communications. Now we really want to focus more on what the industry and our members are doing, and ensuring that we’re helping them to flourish.
We also want to work closely with other bodies, government, authorities, legislative, financial and beyond to make sure we’re doing all we can to create an environment which fosters growth for all members that fit under into our FlexSA family.
Lastly, and most importantly… What takes the number one spot as your favourite meal?!
Easy, my mum’s roast dinners. Beef with Yorkshire pudding. The Yorkshire pudding has to be homemade and has to be made by my mum!