How we cre­ated a busi­ness on our own terms

The days when work­ers were ex­pected to stay at their desks are long gone as cham­pi­ons of flex­i­ble work­ing, artist Kathryn Cal­laghan and Gar­rett O’hare, tell Lisa Smyth

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Small Business Can -

GONE are the days when work­ers were slaves to their desk. Now it is pos­si­ble to meet an im­por­tant dead­line while sit­ting on the beach, or even ly­ing in bed.

And most em­ploy­ees now favour a job that gives them the op­tion of flex­i­ble work sched­ules. Yes, there’s no doubt the busi­ness world has changed dra­mat­i­cally in the last decade.

Gar­rett O’hare recog­nised the change in the land­scape and set up Flexi Work Space, which opened its doors in May in Newry city cen­tre.

The fa­cil­ity pro­vides a range of ser­vices — busi­nesses can rent a fully ser­viced pri­vate of­fice space or there are op­tions to rent ded­i­cated desks, float­ing desks or the plug ‘n play ser­vice which al­lows users to ac­cess the space as re­quired.

The busi­ness has al­ready en­joyed suc­cess, with 52 mem­bers now us­ing the fa­cil­i­ties.

“There has been re­ally good up­take,” says Gar­rett.

The busi­ness was in the plan­ning for a year be­fore it fi­nally opened its doors.

Gar­rett ex­plains: “I have two busi­nesses: Flexi Work Space and Bradley NI, which is a com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial prop­erty agency.

“Bradley NI has three of­fices, in Newry, War­ren­point and Rostrevor, and is re­ally an amal­ga­ma­tion of three busi­nesses.

“It all came about be­cause I’d been work­ing in the fam­ily busi­ness, which was pri­mar­ily con­cerned with the man­age­ment of shop­ping cen­tres and of­fice spa­ces.

“We wanted to di­ver­sify into the res­i­den­tial mar­ket, es­pe­cially as we moved away from that in the re­ces­sion years.

“We had an op­por­tu­nity to ac­quire the other two prop­erty agen­cies which is what we did and we now have our flag­ship of­fice in Newry.

“I sup­pose we’ve al­ways felt that it’s im­por­tant to keep in-

I re­ally did have this feel­ing that ‘If you build it, they will come’

no­vat­ing. Tra­di­tion­ally our fo­cus would have been on re­tail but that sec­tor has changed so much.

“Over the last 10 years we have seen a large pro­por­tion of sales move on­line which has meant it is more dif­fi­cult for re­tail­ers to trade in the tra­di­tional brick-and­mor­tar ap­proach.

“At the same time, busi­nesses want a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to their of­fice space, they want more flex­i­bil­ity.

“A lot of busi­nesses don’t want to plan long-term, they are maybe look­ing at the next three to five years.

“All of these things made us con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of set­ting up premises to try and cater to those needs — so, for ex­am­ple, we can of­fer a short-term lease but at a re­ally high quality.”

Gar­rett started out in the busi­ness world in a long-es­tab­lished fam­ily firm — his fa­ther Ger­ard’s com­pany Parker Green In­ter­na­tional was best known for own­ing Newry’s The Quays Shop­ping Cen­tre un­til its dis­posal ear­lier this year.

But set­ting up Flexi Work Space was his first ex­pe­ri­ence of start­ing up a busi­ness from scratch.

It has been an ex­pe­ri­ence that Gar­rett has rel­ished.

“I re­ally did have this feel­ing that ‘If you build it, they will come,’” he says.

“I sup­pose that’s re­ally im­por­tant for any en­tre­pre­neur, that you’re pas­sion­ate about what you’re do­ing, that you feel like it’s go­ing to be a suc­cess.

“I’m turn­ing 30 at the end of De­cem­ber and I just got mar­ried in the sum­mer. I’ve been work­ing for 10 years but I feel like I am re­ally start­ing out in my ca­reer.

“I have so much time left to de­velop and I’m re­ally ex­cited to grow the busi­ness, both Bradley NI and Flexi Work Space, over the com­ing years.”

There is no doubt that Gar­rett, who did a de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tions and mar­ket­ing and spent sev­eral years work­ing in mar­ket­ing be­fore join­ing the fam­ily busi­ness, be­lieves ut­terly in his prod­uct.

He has plans to take stock in May 2019 with the hope of de­vel­op­ing the brand and ex­pand­ing fur­ther.

“I want to give Flexi Work Space a year and then I will start look­ing at other lo­ca­tions,” he says.

“For now we are just work­ing with the busi­nesses and en­trepreneurs who are us­ing the space in Newry to make sure that we meet their needs and pro­vide the best ser­vice pos­si­ble.

“We want to pro­vide as flex­i­ble a ser­vice as pos­si­ble. If a busi­ness needs the space set up in a cer­tain way or re­quires cer­tain ser­vices, we are will­ing to do that to meet their ex­pec­ta­tions.

“Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is so im­por­tant in busi­ness. Ob­vi­ously ev­ery day I am learn­ing some­thing new and we’re still adapt­ing the prod­uct.”

So, why did Gar­rett choose to lo­cate the first of­fice space in Newry?

The an­swer lies in is his passion for the city.

“I am from the Newry and Mourne area and it re­ally is a great place for busi­ness,” he says.

“We have some re­ally suc­cess­ful firms op­er­at­ing here, for ex­am­ple we have First De­riv­a­tives. Newry has so much to of­fer the world of busi­ness.

“From a ge­og­ra­phy per­spec­tive, it’s half-way be­tween Dublin and Belfast so we pro­vide the per­fect so­lu­tion for any­one trav­el­ling be­tween the cities.

“And then there is the area it­self. When you aren’t work­ing you have the Mournes nearby, you have an end­less list of ac­tiv­i­ties, so it of­fers a great work-life bal­ance.”

“I just re­ally be­lieve in Newry and ev­ery­thing it has to of­fer.”

‘It’s al­ways been im­por­tant to me to keep in­no­vat­ing in prop­erty’

Cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion is so im­por­tant. Ev­ery day I learn some­thing new

Gar­rett O’hare at Flexi Work Space in Newry, which pro­vides a va­ri­ety of short-term lets for lo­cal busi­nesses

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