How flex models can drive customer-centric success

Simon Rowley, director of flex workspaces, GPE

At GPE, there’s a symbiotic relationship between HQ and flex. The HQ business adds a lot to the flex side of the business: credibility, reputation and the infrastructure of a sustainably conscious owner of central London property.

In many ways, HQ represents the “grown-up” side of the business and flex the “youngsters”, who can still teach the grown-ups a thing or two: things like customer centricity, service provision, the value of data, and amenity, as we’re working with shorter leases and retention is everything. As the owner and provider of both, we can deliver the modern occupier with everything they need, which helps us to be a leading, customer-centric business.

Our flex journey has ultimately changed the way we are talking to our customers. The majority of our portfolio of fitted and fully managed spaces are 2,000-5,000 sq ft in terms of floor size and, pre-Covid, there was a shift in mindset, driven by WeWork’s approach and by the fact that people wanted immediacy and a hassle-free experience.

As a result, more and more of our customers wanted the owner of their asset, which already managed the building, to ensure better delivery of all the services, so that they could concentrate on running their own business.

Property costs are generally sub 10% of the overall costs to run a business, whereas the majority cost is always people. If you give your staff a really great experience, you’re going to drive better productivity. We have tapped into an exciting growth area – the majority of sub 5,000 sq ft transactions in the West End in the last year have been flex in one form or another. But the strength of having that HQ side and having the reliability that goes with it, granting leases not “licences” to give comfort and security to our customers, is proving to be a powerful differentiator.

Simon Rowley is director of flex workspaces at GPE.