An interview with Richard Taylor, Marketing and Communications Director The Office Group

Why bespoke, not boilerplate is the best approach

An interview with Richard Taylor, Marketing and Communications Director The Office Group

The Office Group logo

Why bespoke, not boilerplate is the best approach

This founder-led company invests more time and resource because they know the results are worth it.

Key points
  • The Office Group doesn’t believe in brand values but have a manifesto instead which helps them to continue to carve out a distinct position in a highly competitive shared workplace market.
  • This momentum has been achieved by continually thinking up new ideas and designing inspiring spaces, from their customers point of view not their own.
  • So that members, as they call their customers, feel it is their permanent place of work not a temporary one. In short, their philosophy is ‘bespoke not boilerplate’.

 

Arguably, it may appear to be a matter of semantics, but ‘values’ is not a word that sits well with The Office Group. “When we talked about this last year,” says Richard Taylor, their marketing and communications director, “we felt that word was the language of business, not of people. The language of a brand has to be about people.” With that in mind, the shared workplace provider made a decision: “We would be a company without any defining values, articulating what we are through a manifesto that would bring to life what the business stands for, an articulation of everything we do.”

The ‘manifesto’, revealed in a short video featuring the founders, Olly Olsen and Charlie Green, is essentially: ‘There’s no one-size- (or style) fits-all approach. It’s about our clients’ aims, not ours’. “In a sense,” says Taylor, “the buildings are viewed as belonging not to the company but to the members (occupiers). “We want people to feel like it’s their permanent place of work, not somewhere temporary.

Olly Olsen and Charlie Green founders of The Office Group

 

Olly Olsen and Charlie Green
founders of The Office Group

“What would elsewhere be called values, is the product itself. Some companies have a great set of values and great marketing story but there’s a mismatch with the customer experience.”

So-called values, muses Taylor, can be used in some organisations as a substitute for a figurehead. “In a faceless company you need something for people to group around,” he suggests. “And that typically a set of often generic values rather than a person. But in a founder-led business you can galvanise people through leadership. So we don’t have any values written on the wall.

“When you’re a service company, talking with one voice is important. It sets the tone and the language. In a founder-led business it’s in your being, but reinforcing it and making sure it can be articulated in a clear way is an ongoing challenge.”

Richard Taylor,
Marketing and communications director

“For our brand to work, we all have to be very passionate about the business and have a natural interest in talking to members and visiting competitors’ buildings; in how offices are evolving and what’s happening in the market and how we can apply that to our business. There is a thirst for constant evolution and to think about new ideas.”

The Office Group vision was to create distinctively designed buildings with a wide variety of spaces, and to offer tenants progressive membership schemes and short-term leases at a range of prices (from £375 a month per person for hot-desking for example) to allow for growth and change.

The average stay is for thirty months. The founders, who had a background in the serviced office sector, felt that other providers had a “vanilla” approach to interior design, so they set out to create spaces from the customer’s point of view. “For example, we have a lot of communal areas - lounge space for people who want a place that is sociable, where they can meet and interact – but also private booths to fill the need for peace and quiet,” says Taylor.

“The vision was to create inspiring, buildings which get people together, with a range of facilities and vibrant communal areas to foster an open, collaborative working culture.

The Office Group - Why bespoke, not boilerplate is the best approach

These are ideas that fifteen years ago no-one else had come up with.” The market will continue to get more competitive though, he adds. “So the key thing is to be clear about what makes us different. It’s very powerful and enabling once you understand as a brand where you are and what you do.”

One key point of difference is that each of the buildings (thirty-three at time of writing, most of which are in London, with seven more opening in 2019) has its own individual name and unique identity. “This is something that structurally sets us apart. Other brands in our sector find a design that represents their business and then roll it out to each building but we think bespoke, not boilerplate.

We take each building on its merits depending on its architecture and location. It means whether you’re a media or technology company or a hedge fund, you can choose the environment as well as the location that best suits you.” The long and narrow Tintagel House in Vauxhall in London, for example, which is the business home to 1100 people, is a case in point. Taylor observes that it resembles a boutique hotel more than an office block.

Indeed, it even has a penthouse suite with a double bed and sunken bath, which members can rent for £200 a night. “A brand has to constantly evolve in terms of its audience,” says Taylor. “I wouldn’t say that’s the same as being disruptive though; that’s a word which tends to be used to make a brand appear different when it really isn’t. We believe in being distinctive; we have to stand out. But having something relevant is more important than being disruptive.”

And the way to ensure continuing relevance? “Some companies say they listen to customers but they do it in a regimented way, which means they are listening here but not listening over there. It has to be a natural part of the culture.

We believe in being distinctive; we have to stand out. But having something relevant is more important than being disruptive.

Richard Taylor, Marketing and communications director

Researched and written by Decision Magazine as part of a special report commissioned by Greenfisher, called ‘Business As Unusual - Secure the Future of your Brand’.

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