Article updated in August 2020.
For more than 25 years, Cologne-based Oliver Bossmann has spearheaded sales and marketing strategies in Germany and Europe for an array of blue-chip companies in the food and beverage, beauty and adhesive sectors. He drove the sales efforts for brands such as Coca-Cola, Wella, Procter & Gamble, and Henkel – for the latter, he was responsible for the European, Russian and Ukrainian markets, handling up to $1bn in turnover.
However, the time came for Bossmann to apply his experience to forging his own entrepreneurial path – and started thinking whether franchising might be the answer. “Somebody in my network gave me a call saying: ‘Did you know IWG is looking for franchise partners in Germany?’” says Bossmann. “So I sought more information. I got introduced to Marco Wild – IWG’s Franchise Director in Germany – and we entered into a discussion.”
The more Bossmann learned about the growing opportunities in flexspace, the more he realised it was the right franchise opportunity for his transferrable business skills. “I’m someone who is very much in figures, sales, and driving business and cost efficiencies, so the rationale is pretty obvious to me,” says Bossmann. “The flexspace market is very positive, it has a future, and I clearly see the trends for more flexible workspace – coworking and virtual offices are being driven by young people and bigger corporations. And IWG has 30 years of experience in this sector – it’s a company that’s been in the business long-term.”
Investing in a flexspace provider with a sizeable international network –between its various brands, IWG has 3,400 flexible office locations worldwide – also made sense to Bossmann, as he saw how this global network would benefit corporations in different ways. “With Regus, for example, members can book a meeting room in London, Paris or wherever, which is very attractive for people who have a hub, but who may want to use Regus as a supporting element for their business travel activities,” says Bossmann.
All of these elements drove Bossmann to sign the contract with IWG. And now, he has begun the onboarding phase of the franchise programme. “The set-up is exactly what I’m looking for,” says Bossmann. “It’s a well-structured company, there’s a clear ambition to grow, and a clear strategy on how to deliver that. But most importantly, IWG has a competitive advantage in terms of costing, go-to-market and segmentation. And there’s the opportunity to scale up – I signed a contract with IWG for not just one office but for a cluster within a region.”
Together, IWG and Bossmann will launch five Regus Centres across Germany’s North Rhine-Westphalia region over the next four years. “I’m the second franchisee in the country, which gives me the opportunity to make an even stronger contribution and be part of the first wave – I very much like the idea of being one of the first movers in the system for Germany,” he says.
Bossmann’s decision to invest in flexspace and join the Regus franchise programme will help IWG expand its footprint outside of major German cities, focusing instead on so-called secondary cities such as Neuss or Aachen. “Due to my background, I have good connections in these cities and I’m using that network to drive incremental awareness, giving more opportunity to tap the full potential of each city,” the businessman says. “In smaller cities, it’s important to have these kind of ‘local heroes’, who can drive it from that perspective – who have been there for a longer period of time. I do feel that the very professional system of Regus, combined with the professional networks I have in the small German cities, is a good fit.”
Despite a challenging climate, Bossmann sees flexspace as part of the eventual solution – when companies will need workspace they can upscale or downsize in line with their business outlook. Flexspace is an industry that supports businesses as they find their feet during uncertainty, offering them a low-commitment, low-risk way to lease offices. “There may be a postponement of companies signing certain flexspace contracts,” he says, “but the overarching principles are still valid. I do believe that, after we have figured out the current circumstances, we will see that IWG will be a big winner out of the overall transformation we are seeing in our world.”
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