Tech has become an integral aspect of our business
Our approach to technology began as DIY. We built our own systems, software and maintenance protocols. But technology has become an ever more integral aspect of business — both our own and those of our members. It needs to be thought of as a specialism. We are a flexible workspace company, and our focus is as much on services and hospitality as real-estate. About a year and a half ago we took a step back and realized that we, ultimately, are not a technology company. By attempting to do it all, we were not offering the best services possible to our members. That is when we made the decision to switch all of our phones, software platforms and tech support to essensys.
We are headquartered in Washington DC but have locations across America. Founded 15 years ago, the company is wholly owned by Oliver Carr — a DC real-estate legend. I started with the company 10 years ago and worked my way up from an account manager. Now I oversee all 28 of our nationwide locations as Chief Operating Officer. The question Mr Carr, myself and others ended up asking was — how much more efficiently can we run our business and serve our customers if we focus on our strengths?
More time with our community
Following the transition to essensys, we retained all of our staff, redirecting our IT team to focus their time on helping our clients. Their priority became improving the technology portfolio of our members, enabling them to take on more advanced services within our technology platform powered by essensys.
This transition was a brave decision for us, but it was not a fast one. I met David, Managing Director of essensys North America, following an introduction from my General Manager. IT can be both complicated and dull, but the vision and passion David had was a spark that started us down this road.
The Essensys team stayed in contact with us and took the time to get to know our business — making it clear that their intention was to strike up a partnership rather than a quick sale. That commitment is really what allowed this project to work. The phones and data are just one piece of a larger technology picture that we need to provide to our clients. We use Essensys for our billing platform and our sales CRM system, all of which integrates with different vendors that operate with them for key systems — it is a holistic, streamlined process.
Our clients want an IT system that works. They want to be able to come in and do their job and then go home to their families. That is what we have been able to get from Essensys — a system that is reliable and does exactly what we need it to do without having to worry if the phones or internet will go down.
“We can now focus on our core competencies and grow the company. They enable us in the same way in which we enable our clients.”
Taking things to the next level
More than anything, essensys has enabled us to focus on our core competencies and grow the company. In a sense, they enable us in the same way in which we enable our own clients. Our partnership with essensys has also allowed us to expand our service package. This includes flexible eFax services, conference bridges and dedicated bandwidth. We now have digital systems that allow clients to go on and request something as simple as another phone or as complex and human oriented as planning travel, walking their dog or arranging a gift.
There are pretty low barriers to entry when starting a coworking company. There are a lot of small businesses entering the marketplace and a lot of others entering with big funding behind them. But, we have been here for a while and have done well because our focus is not just on the space, but also on services.
The question became — how do we take that up to the next notch? The answer was to deliver, in a fundamental way, excellent service from both the technology and people standpoint. Service has always been a focus of Carr Workplaces, and this has become ever more the case as the nature of the office has changed. People now spend more and more time at the workplace — it is becoming a second home. We work to make it comfortable. We want our clients, of any size, to be able to come in and not have to worry about anything. One of the main reasons we chose to go on this journey with essensys was to differentiate ourselves in an increasingly competitive industry.
“We chose to go on this journey with essensys to differentiate ourselves in an increasingly competitive industry.”
Our new buildings have a mixed approach to flexible office space. There are areas designated as flexible touch-down spaces. Then there are smaller suites that people can grow into with a degree of brand identity, along with conventional full-floor users. All of this is augmented by meeting rooms and hospitality elements such as concierge services, catering and technology services. Bringing this fully serviced building concept to essensys felt like a lightbulb moment for both of us — something we knew we could enable each other to do. We have now fully implemented this vision in two of our buildings and are looking to continue this partnership in the future.
Technology at the heart
At the heart of what we have been able to achieve is our technology platform. It has been an exciting development. Not only are we providing cream of the crop services that make our members happy, we are also increasing our own value to that membership pool.
The flexible workspace aspect of the business has long been the piece that Mr Carr feels the most passionate about. I think that we can continue to find different differentiations and continue to press the box of normal without being silly. We will continue to provide professional workspaces that evolve in tandem to the changing nature of how people chose to work. I am very optimistic about the adaptability of our company and the support that we now have from the technology platform that is enabling us to do that. The certainty and reliability of essensys has allowed us to focus on the things that we excel at — making member experiences and building beautiful spaces.
When I see our service numbers go up, across the board, that not only means satisfied customers and increased revenue, it means that our members are continuing to get more involved in what we can offer. Ultimately, it means that they are here for good because we are becoming part of their everyday — we can become a piece that they cannot do without.