Nowadays, for many start-up companies, serviced offices are a much more practical option than dealing with all the hassles of trying to rent an office. Serviced offices present a much more attractive option because they are a furnished and fully functional office facility that accommodates multiple companies of different sizes and provides administrative services, modern office equipment and conference meeting facilities on demand.
The industry leader in Japan is Regus which has more than 2,500 locations in 900 cities in 120 countries. In Japan, the company has two brands – Regus Business Centre and Openoffice – and has more than 80 offices, covering the country from Sapporo to Okinawa. Regus can provide offices for one person or 100, from one day to one year, offering the workplace flexibility clients demand.
Virtual offices are especially popular. You get a prominent business address and telephone number, enabling you to work from home or in another country. Regus takes any phone calls and transfers them to wherever their clients are, as well as helping them with secretarial tasks, such as taking orders, creating documents, translations and so on. It is an important service to help small businesses get established with a small budget, yet offer them the infrastructure of a multinational.
Overseeing operations in Japan is Shingo Nishioka who has been Regus Regional Vice President since 2010. Japan Today visits him at the Regus Center in Aoyama to hear more about the business. What is Regus’ history in Japan?
Regus was incorporated in 1988 and first came to Japan in 1998. Prior to that, the company had only done business in Europe. Then they moved to Asia-Pacific, North and South America. Right now in Japan, we have 82 locations.
How do you market the company?
Most inquiries – 60-70% -- come in through our website and other digital means. We also advertise in magazines and on posters at train stations.
What are Regus’ strengths?
Our global and domestic networks which are larger than our competitors. Globally we have 2,500 locations. In Japan, we are adding around 30 locations in 2015, from Okinawa to Sapporo. Every city where the shinkansen stops, for example, you’ll find a Regus Center. But we are not just in high-end office buildings in premium business district. We go anywhere there is demand, even in residential areas where we operate lower budget centers.
Another strength is our Businessworld program which is an exclusive membership scheme for clients. For 3,000 yen a month, you can receive a card to access our business lounges, which cane be your temporary office. You can hold meetings, print, email and more in professional surroundings and with business support from our center teams; stay productive wherever you are. This is important today because many mobile workers are looking for more flexibility. They have devices like smartphones, iPads, and while Wi-Fi is available in a lot of places such as Starbucks or McDonald’s, they may not be ideal places to work because you might require a quieter atmosphere to focus, or you need to print something confidential. Our Businessworld card offers a professional environment for mobile workers.
What is your second brand, Openoffice?
We acquired Openoffice in 2012. It is an unmanned serviced furnished office with no receptionists, so customers enter via an access card. It offers clients a cheaper option.
Overall, what is your occupancy rate?
It varies but on average, it is in the mid-80 to 90%. Sometimes, it might only be a one-person office; in other cases, it could be for up to 100 people.
For example, a big company might have a special project, which requires many people to be in one office for three months. They need to set up an office in a hurry, so it makes sense to use us. There are all sorts of reasons. Prior to the soccer World Cup in 2002, ticket agencies used our offices for just a month before the tournament. In other cases, major corporations used our offices as a classroom for English conversation classes for employees being posted abroad for 2-3 months. After the 2011 disaster, we didn’t lose any customers but many moved to our offices in Kansai, Fukuoka and others. I expect we will see a big demand for short-term use as the 2020 Olympics approach.
What is the minimum length of stay?
It can be one day but in most cases it is from three months to one year.
Are virtual offices popular?
They are our second largest revenue stream. They can be used in many ways. For example, one customer from overseas took multi-locations in one month from Sapporo to Fukuoka buying local telephone numbers and local addresses. That is much cheaper than physically going into the market.
What is the ratio of foreign to domestic clients?
About 20% of our clients are multinational and 80% domestic. We have roughly over 5,000 Japanese customers. Your first thought is probably why don’t they just rent an office for their company. But in Japan, you have to pay one year deposit for rent, then hire staff, which is a huge outlay for small companies and start-ups. They don’t know how much space they will need in six months’ time because they don’t know how their business will go. So it makes sense for them to start off with a serviced office and then when they grow to a point where they can expand, they move out into an office of their own.
How can you prevent clients from engaging in illegal activities?
When you sign a contract, we need your ID which we check. We also ask for your home address. After that, we send you a certified letter that only you can receive. The postman must confirm your ID before giving it to you. Then we check your company background, who are your main shareholders and so on. Anyone involved in anything illegal drops out fairly quickly.
Tell us about your team.
We get staff from HR agencies, our job board and temp agencies. We get a lot of applications, especially from young ladies because we of our company growth, challenge of a new business model and advanced working environment. Most are bilingual.
How do you spend your time?
I travel about twice a month domestically, looking at new locations. We have teams out in the field every day and we have agents working on our behalf.
How do you like to relax when you are not working?
I like travelling and bike riding, playing soccer with my son, reading and listening to music because my dad was a musician.© Japan Today