Tags – Jonstar Energy Brokers – In-Synq
This blog features the story of Ben Stocking and his business roles in Jonstar Energy Brokers and In-Synq. Let’s checkout his experience of running a business through his office, in this feature of “My Office Experience”.
Right now, I am delighted to work from a lovely office that is a beautiful space and a short walk from home. But, it wasn’t always this way at Jonstar Energy Brokers!
‘The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry’ is a well used proverb and no matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it. Equally, this proverb equally applies to choosing an office as it does to a career!
I have spent most of my career in a wide range of offices. However, this was not how I planned it!
I moved to Leicester to study Biological Sciences at the University Of Leicester, specialising in Environmental Sciences. During the time, as an 18 year old, the internet was still quite young and my limited career planning was crystallised by a dream to be travelling the world working on environmental projects. Then, I was somewhat seduced by the trappings of freedom in a ‘big’ city.
Four years later, after achieving a 1st in partying and a 2:2 in my degree, and with significant student debts, an opportunity to earn a great income in a telesales role for a mortgage broker was more attractive than struggling on a small wage working as a lab technician, cleaning Petri dishes. This was back in 1999, leading to my first flavour of a true office environment.
Our office was great for the business. Loads of space, based in the city – great for recruiting and transport links along with a fair sized car park. All this is quite rare for Leicester.
It was also great for the business to have c50 telemarketers crammed into half of the ground floor with MDF banks of 10. Whilst this wasn’t the most luxurious for the telesales agents, it did afford a close knit camaraderie and atmosphere.
In particular, this office was open plan and had a couple of areas partitioned off. At the time, this structure provided flexibility and space; big positives for the business. Surely, this setup paved the way for what we achieved – unprecedented growth during the pre credit crunch housing boom, becoming one of the largest in the UK. The other floors in the office were later taken up when incumbent tenants moved on.
The office in question currently sits dormant on Welford Road – Reynard House. It is sad to see but it also points to different market conditions and with a rental investment required of c£230k, not many businesses are fishing in this pond.
In fairness, not all plans come to fruition. In any case, one doesn’t want to over-commit in the first place. Equally, the opportunity to grow may come sooner and the last thing a business needs when contemplating an opportunity is an anchor around their budget in the form of a lengthy tenancy in the wrong place.
You need to ask yourself:
After the mortgage broker gig ran its course, 10 years on, I was a seasoned recruiter, sales trainer, coach and team builder.
In addition, I got the opportunity to co-found a new business operating in the financial claim sector. At the time, I had enough to focus on and gladly nothing to do with choosing the office. The office of our choice was in Regus at Grove Business Park – a serviced office and a very different animal.
All choices have pros and cons. However, this was a special case.
The main ‘con’ was a premium price. On the other hand, pros included Comms & IT support, flexibility, no utility bills and the capacity to quickly move to a bigger space within the same premises if growth permits or dictates. This flexibility came in handy.
We started with an office for 8, quickly needing one for 15, then 25; all within a space of 9 months. From here on, we then needed to look for something bigger. This was because the plan was to treble the team within the next 6 months.
All in all, this was a great first experience of an all inclusive serviced office – others exist and provide various similar benefits to differing standards and differing pricing levels.
The next office was quite special.
A prestigious grade 2 listed Desford Hall, set in 10 acres of landscaped gardens. As you can expect, this provided a real feel good factor for the staff, not to mention a wow factor when interviewing.
It is important to remember that your office is an investment and not a cost. Therefore, providing a great environment for yourself and your team will typically pay for itself in terms of increased premiums by way of greater morale and productivity. And, as a result, the growth did not stop here.
When we outgrew this space, we took a second smaller office at the same site. But, this smaller office was in the adjacent complex; a modern addon close to the hall. The administration and customer service teams were placed here, with the sales team staying in the large open plan space we had at the hall. The latter highlights another consideration: managing the differing dynamics of a growing team and whether the office space has capacity for segmentation or not.
Choosing the right office is a strategic decision and it is always worth seeking advice and aligning with your business plan, ensuring you factor in growth and also mitigate for a curve ball requiring a downsize – not always easy.
When the claims business ran its course in 2015, I set up as a business consultant and In-SynQ Solutions was born. Like for many of you, my first office for this business was my spare room.
I also utilised shared working solutions, which there are a few really good ones. At this point, one of my first clients had developed the ingredients of an awesome business – Jonstar Energy Brokers. Jonstar became a pillar of my business and I have spent the last few years growing this, whilst nurturing other elements of mine – they work In-SynQ!
Luckily, Jonstar had the capacity and market opportunity to grow. So, we came back to choosing an office. Again, the first choice was a small Regus office. Afterwards, we moved to a slightly larger one and when we needed something bigger, we entered a minefield.
After looking around a number of unsuitable premises came good fortune. One of the other businesses in our Regus building told us about a lovely place that was a little too big for his businesses’ next step. We are now based there and into our 3rd year.
Let me correct that last statement – as you make your own luck in business – one of the reasons I advised Jonstar to choose Regus as the first office, was because we would be mixing and networking with other businesses. Indeed, one contact became a client and quite a valuable one.
The last part of our story highlights the need to take a strategic look, while also thinking of the bigger picture. Moving to this office and acquiring that client more than made up the difference, in terms of the office being at the higher end of the cost per square meter.
Given the multiple factors to account for, as stated above, we are likely to outgrow the beautiful office we enjoy at Jonstar Energy Brokers very soon.
However, it is not yet clear when we will find another office. We may as well keep this as a head office and get a second.
In terms of this flexibility, we are quite ‘fortunate’ to have break clauses and a great relationship with our landlord. The reality is, you make your own luck in business. Therefore, where we are now is more due to my experience and learning from the successes and failures of others when it comes to choosing the right office.
I hope you enjoyed reading my experience and hope it provides some inspiration or food for thought, good luck with your next office.
Director Jonstar Energy Brokers Limited
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