Find out what this German franchise partner and astute investor thinks of his successful arrangement with IWG
When Ralph Altenburger signed a franchise agreement with IWG in June 2019, he drew a circle around Munich and chose four of the largest cities within that area – Regensburg, Augsburg, Ingolstadt and Ulm. He decided it was there that he would open the eight centres he had committed to develop.
Why? Because with many small businesses eschewing the expensive Bavarian capital for more affordable locations outside the city limits, these regional hubs offered huge potential for growth and a customer base that would likely continue to increase.
So in October 2019, he took over an existing Regus centre in Augsburg. Located conveniently next to the train station and within a shopping complex, the 1,460sqm Regus Viktoriastrasse 3B includes 160 workstations, 35 offices, meeting room facilities and even a rooftop terrace. Its customers are mainly SMEs and startups, ranging from marketing agencies to asset managers.
He is currently working on plans to open a second centre in Regensburg, but admits the franchising and flexspace industry was completely new to him prior to the partnership. His background is in the insurance industry, where he worked as a CEO for a major corporation. He then became an entrepreneur and it was while searching for investment opportunities that he heard IWG was offering franchise partnerships in Germany.
It seemed to tick all the boxes for Altenburger, who was looking to invest in a sector that was socially relevant while also having the freedom to pursue other business ventures at the same time.
“For me, it’s an investment,” he says. “Of course, I’m involved in the important decisions such as negotiations and sales with larger clients, but I have an excellent manager at the centre and I very much rely on her when it comes to its operation. This is one of the advantages of the IWG partnership: when the setup is right and you have the right people in place, you don’t have to be involved in the day to day process.”
Supporting entrepreneurial spirit
Another benefit of partnering with IWG is the brand’s reputation as a global leader in the flexspace industry. Altenburger says that brand recognition has been a huge boost for him when growing the business.
“The brand helps a lot,” he says. “If I compare what I have now with smaller competitors, you just can’t beat it. IWG stands out in terms of its international network, the professionalism around the infrastructure, and the IT tools.”
He adds that the support from IWG throughout the partnership has been invaluable. “I don’t have the real estate knowledge, but IWG has given me its full support along the entire value chain,” he says.
From assessing a location, to the negotiations, to providing all the IT infrastructure, “they provide an off-the-shelf business model,” explains Altenburger. “You need the entrepreneurial spirit, and it’s good to have a management background, but IWG gives you all the support you could need.”
His advice for someone considering becoming an IWG franchise partner is to “choose the locations well and find the right staff. They are the ones facing the customers in the centre and that’s really important.”
So what are Altenburger’s ambitions for the future? For now, he says he’s happy to concentrate on opening the remaining centres over the next five years and seeing them succeed. However, if he sees potential beyond that and has the means to finance them, he would consider opening other centres in other cities.