In a world where flexspace is poised to enter mainstream consideration for businesses around the world, it’s hard to imagine a time when the market didn’t exist. Yet 30 years ago the network of flexible workspaces belonging to Regus, part of IWG’s portfolio of operational brands, was nothing more than a vision.
The growth of the company since is in part down to its network of brokers, and the strong mutual understanding and trust that has developed between the company and its valuable partners over the years. With this in mind, real estate specialist Vincent Lottefier – who was there when Regus first started to grow – reflects on the 30-year trusted business relationship that has lasted through the decades, and looks set to weather the recent pandemic, too.
In the beginning
Today, IWG operates more than 3,000 flexspace locations across the globe, but in 1991, there was simply one Regus Centre in Brussels. At the time, Vincent Lottefier was a director of Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) in Luxembourg. Together with IWG CEO Mark Dixon and Paulo Dias, who is now IWG’s CEO for Southern & Western Europe, Northern Africa, Middle East & Brazil, Lottefier was responsible for securing the deal for the second-ever Regus Centre.
“I helped find the office and location in Luxembourg and negotiated the deal for Regus,” says Lottefier. “Back then, it was a big deal – a brand-new development from a large Swedish investor and landlord called Aranas. We negotiated a deal, and I helped place customers in that Centre once it was up and running.”
Regus Luxembourg 46 JFK still exists today, offering a modern, professional workspace near the nation’s international airport. “Regus was one of the first tenants, taking up a whole floor of the building,” says Lottefier. “It was one of the first non-city centre office projects. Now, up to 80% of office stock is outside the city centre but, three decades ago, it was actually the first proper office complex that was built next to the airport.”
Lottefier’s business relationship did not end with this one deal. For the past three decades, wherever his career has taken him – and that includes China, Hong Kong, India, Australia, France and the US – he has continued to champion Regus as a flexspace operator, maintaining a trusted working relationship with Mark Dixon.
Together, they have expanded Regus’s footprint in many markets across the world – and shown how the company and brokers can maintain mutually beneficial relationships that last. “I’ve known Mark for 30 years and, depending on the type of role I’ve had, I’ve helped Regus negotiate big expansions – such as in Beijing in 1997, when we launched one of the first profit-shared lease structures in China,” says Lottefier.
“In Hong Kong, I helped Mark expand Regus’s presence, and in Shanghai as well in the late 1990s and the early 2000s,” he adds. “Later, I helped expand Regus quite a bit across Indian cities, and I also helped in Sydney in 1996, when I was based in JLL’s Sydney office. From 2011 to 2017, I was responsible among many things at JLL for the Middle East and Africa, and we used Regus as a platform for JLL in those markets.”
Lottefier recalls how, by the 1990s, while many property developers and corporations still needed educating about the benefits of leasing flexspace rather than traditional office space, Regus was becoming a well-known brand. “It took a little bit more hard work sometimes to get landlords to understand why they should choose Regus as tenant, but Mark had done a phenomenal job and the brand awareness was second-to-none,” he says.
A particularly fruitful collaboration with Regus and Lottefier came during this time, when the conditions were ripe for expanding the Regus network across Asia. “After the Asian financial crisis in 1997, there were a lot of markets – such as Bangkok and Manila – that were depressed, with many new developments with high vacancies,” says Lottefier. “The time to grow in those markets was perfect – landlords were much more willing to enter into partnership deals with Regus in terms of profit-sharing transactions. We’d say to them: ‘If you put Regus in your building, smaller tenants or customers will become big customers and the likelihood is they’ll start taking up a full floor.’ So, we continued selling the model across Asia to some of those landlords.”
Lottefier feels it is Mark Dixon’s leadership that has steered Regus to success for 30 years, as well as his ability to see opportunities for growth in the flexspace sector during challenging times. “Mark knows how to take advantage of those market cycles, and potentially we’re going to see that again over the coming months,” says Lottefier. “In these times, what Regus and Mark have been very successful at is building long-term partnerships with landlords. Conventional leases and traditional companies want to shrink their footprint and get out of some of their workspace commitments, because they’re reducing staff headcount, and Regus can come in at that time.”
Today, Lottefier is an independent real-estate consultant and owns his own company – Co-working Future – but the collaboration with IWG and Regus continues. “Today, my involvement with Mark is helping IWG to leverage the global brokerage firms and make them more efficient, successful partners, bringing enterprise customers to the firm.
And it’s been very successful over the past three years. Although our relationship has lasted 30 years, I hope there’s at least another ten to go!” For Lottefier, it’s a state of affairs he’s extremely comfortable with: “I have a hunch that my business relationship with IWG is nowhere near finished,” he concludes.
To become part of a long-term journey that values trusted business relationships, contact IWG today