A £150 Million Happy Coworking Accident
Chris Davies and the founding team at Uncommon had their eyes set on residential real estate, and before they knew it, they embarked on the Coworking venture of a lifetime. Call it a happy accident that the first office building they purchased in the London suburb of Highbury & Islington – with the intent of developing residential units – became their first Coworking location. Within three months they were at maximum capacity. Three years later they boast two open locations, three on deck and £150m investment by global asset manager firm The Carlyle Group.
Standing out from the Crowd
Naturally, with the success of their first location, Davies and the team moved away from residential and decided to grow the commercial side of the business. Unlike the majority of operators in London, Uncommon buys every single asset, enabling them to change everything about the property and maintain the individuality of their brand by focusing on the details. For this reason, you won’t find Uncommon in the city of London or a high-rise building. You also won’t have to endure a three-step ID verification process to get to your workstation or office. Despite being a shared workspace, Uncommon’s goal is for their members to work from a place that feels like their own home office.
By owning their buildings, Uncommon differentiates their brand, on one hand, by selecting the location, and on the other, by customizing the nature of each building. They strategically purchase buildings in urban fringe areas and transport hubs, delivering office-as-a-service to an underserved group of commuters, helping them save precious time otherwise spent commuting into Central London. “It’s a much more enjoyable life without having to travel each way,” explains Davies. Ownership also allows them to curate each building and create the desired effect on their members; an offering that is unconventional, above the ordinary, neighborhood-driven and community-focused.
“The essensys platform is applied with confidence to any Uncommon location, scaling-up quickly and integrating the business through fast growth, staying one step ahead of the competition.”
Brand Ethos: Helping You Thrive
Aside from convenient locations, Uncommon differentiates their brand by focusing on three key pillars that are aimed at helping their customers thrive. For starters, service and taking care of their members. Their top priority is to identify members’ needs and exceed their expectations with precise yet relaxed service. Uncommon offers their members the ability to focus on their businesses and removes the burden that comes along with traditional leasing or owning your own property.
Uncommon’s Chris Davies questions, “do businesses today really need the daily drain on their time and resources to manage items like business rates, cleaners or utility bills?” In addition to these factors, businesses would need to consider everything from the whole life cost of a lease to furniture and dilapidation costs. “Fundamentally, office-as-a-service is a far more cost effective, flexible and logical solution for the modern business,” Davies affirms.
The second Uncommon brand pillar is focused on environment and investing in creative surroundings that make work better. From greenery and landscapes to tailored scents throughout the space and ergonomic furnishing, Uncommon members find comfort and concentration in the workspace.
The third brand pillar is around wellbeing and prioritizing a mindset that enables their members to thrive by boosting efficiency and reducing stress. Events are meant to be useful, not forced or redundant, and rooftop yoga and gym passes are fringe perks, not distractions. The Uncommon brand in and of itself alludes to a practical yet experiential workspace environment that delivers beyond the traditional serviced office or commercial real estate property, creating a welcoming atmosphere where members are at home.
Arms Race to Scale
When it comes to managing their workspace, the leadership team at Uncommon quickly discovered that Excel spreadsheets just wouldn’t cut it. With the success of their first workspace property, following second site expansion, and now three locations in the works and multi-million-pound investment from The Carlyle Group, scalability plays a vital role in their strategy. The essensys platform plays a key role in underpinning the Uncommon brand across multiple locations, giving key managers access to oversee their part of the business, while allowing the leadership team to have constant visibility into reporting, CRM, and service provisioning.
Chris Davies and his partners at Uncommon found an affinity with the core values of the essensys platform: a focus on service. Once implemented, the essensys platform is applied with confidence to any Uncommon location in a cookie cutter approach, scaling-up quickly and integrating the businesses through fast growth, staying one step ahead of the competition. When it comes to the competition, however, Uncommon don’t view other Coworking or serviced office providers as a threat, rather the traditional office. When it comes to opportunity, however, the market is not slowing down and neither are they.
Uncommon: The Market is their Oyster
Uncommon is no longer home to just startups and entrepreneurs, but is increasingly housing companies of 50 to 240 people. The trend of larger corporate companies consuming office-as-a-service assets is on the rise and this accounts for the majority of growth we’ve seen. We can expect Uncommon locations to pop up around transfer hubs in London and later down the line in Europe. For now, however, the focus for Davies and the team is to invest in the right assets and to grow as quickly as possible without compromising their core brand values.