A focus on people and property
With the SME economy being so important to the future of Wales, we spoke to Gareth Jones, Commercial Property & Facilities Manager, on the reasons why he joined this extraordinary team; and his experiences to date.
“I first discovered Business in Focus nearly 20 years ago, when I was a Business Manager for one of the commercial banks. As part of my role in helping start-ups and small businesses establish and grow, I used to make presentations to the Business in Focus clients in one of our properties at the southern end of Bute Street, in what we now call Frazer Buildings. Every time I went there, I was struck by how friendly and professional the team was – and the real difference they made to individuals taking on the challenge of running their own enterprise. I enjoyed the fact that they offered the best of both worlds to their team: the opportunity to provide expert and accessible business support, without having to ‘sell-up’ any additional products or services to tenants. So when a role as a Business Advisor on Bute Street came up, I jumped at the chance – and I’ve been enjoying the journey ever since.”
Managing a wide range of flexible office, workshop and industrial space
“Business in Focus has encouraged me to develop with the organisation in every way. When I moved onto managing their business space, they supported me to complete a two-year MSc in Surveying through distance learning – and today that role has evolved to managing a wide range of flexible office, workshop and industrial space, for close to 500 tenants across 23 sites. No two days are the same – one day I could be involved in a multi-million pound property acquisition and the next could see me sorting out a blocked toilet. I love the fact that I can be ‘hands-on’ but also involved in the strategic direction of the business – and the common thread through everything is that the team are making sure our tenants get the service and the working environment they need to succeed.”
Serving and supporting 500 unique businesses across 23 sites
We genuinely don’t think of our customer-base as 500 tenants – we view them as 500 unique, individual businesses, with everything across Financial Services, the Care Sector, the Creative Sector, Catering and many more, going about their working day in the way that suits them best. Our role is to give them the business space and support they need; with the rental revenues being ploughed back into expanding our service still further. It’s a tremendous model – offering anything from 120 to 1000-plus square feet of quality commercial space, with the tenant enjoying the flexibility of one month’s notice. That’s why we enjoy near-full occupancy – and one of the reasons why we’re perfectly placed for a future based on hybrid working, if that turns out to be the new normal.
From zero to 100% occupancy in just eight months
“Getting to this stage has been a 10-year path for me that started back in 2011, when we were given the opportunity to make a ‘closed envelope’ bid for a commercial space in Swansea – our first venture outside South East Wales. It took some courage to do that, especially as the building stood 70% empty – but we took it to full occupancy quickly, which gave us the confidence to invest further and make our next acquisition in the centre of Merthyr Tydfil, where we took occupancy from zero to 100% within eight months. By the time we made our £8 million acquisition of a South Wales Valleys-centred property portfolio in 2019, we had a proven model and, sure enough, that has been a huge success, despite the pandemic.”
Putting our tenants front and centre of everything we do
“Putting our tenants front and centre has been at the heart of all our success. When COVID-19 hit we were very concerned about the impact it would have on both us and our tenants; and I’m proud of the way we acted quickly, deferring rents for our tenants for a three month period and adjusting to having a 120-strong team based in the office on a Monday and then working exclusively at home by the Tuesday. Throughout all of this, we’ve maintained the support our tenants need. I’m so proud of being part of the team that’s performed like that; and it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction to now pull into a car park at one of our sites and see many tenants back in their workplace, having traded through and some even thrived through the pandemic. It also gives me a warm feeling to see many of our tenants outgrow their property with us. Despite the flexibility we offer the average tenancy length with us is six years; and it’s a real sign of success to see us nurture so many enterprises and support them to go on to ‘bigger things’.
“We’re confident and positive about our future, exploring different funding mechanisms, keeping our feet on the floor and our eyes on the horizon. Whatever happens next, we’ll be here to offer the best very business support and business space; and I’m very excited about being part of that.”
Business in Focus is a social enterprise with a mission to be the leading provider of business support in Wales, offering flexible accommodation, affordable finance and expert guidance – the complete package to help businesses start, prosper and grow, giving everyone the chance to turn their aspirations and dreams into a successful enterprise.