Modern companies need to learn to provide flexibility
Even before the working world was transformed by the new habits brought about by the pandemic, Alain and his team had envisaged a collaborative work space that could provide a more flexible way of working—a welcoming, spacious office equipped with the latest technology and a convivial ambience, located in the downtown core of the country’s biggest cities. As a visionary in the world of work, Alain’s strength lay in his ability to listen and reinvent himself. Since he was also an entrepreneur, he had enough experience to both understand and anticipate the needs of modern entrepreneurs. Here’s an interview with a flexibility professional.
Rogers Business: Could you briefly explain the DNA of @Workbase?
Alain: It’s a company we founded in 2018 and launched a year later in 2019, a co-working space in downtown Montreal that offers possibilities in collaborative working. Our mission at the pre-pandemic launch was to fulfill a need for flexible, full-time work spaces, which we later adapted to this new era, offering spaces corresponding to new needs and the transition we’re currently undergoing. Our goal pre-pandemic was to expand into a range of big cities in other provinces, and we’ll pursue that phase next year.
Rogers Business: What led to the creation of this business concept?
Alain: I got the idea from my main business, which is a personnel agency for the technology sector. We often did business with big companies providing temporary staff. There was an increasing need for space by the teams that were growing within the different buildings occupied by these companies. For us there was synergy between our company and the independent needs of our clients. So we wanted to offer them new spaces so they could grow their teams and where they could work, have access to a video-conferencing room, large collaborative spaces, a huge lounge so you could take a break and then keep working. So we recreated the environment you would find at a big company, but within a collaborative space.
Rogers Business: How has your company changed since you founded it?
Alain: The last two years have been really transitional. The pandemic obviously completely changed our ways of thinking and experiencing work. People suddenly had to work from home. New habits were created, so unfortunately office spaces emptied out. Then as of this fall we’ve noticed a desire to return to the office. People don’t necessarily want to go back to work five days a week, but they’d like at least one or two days so they can collaborate with other people and feel that synergy you can have between co-workers at the office. So demand for space has once again become very high, but it’s different than what you find with At Workbase. Today, our key to success is in what we offer, which is flexibility. That’s what’s different now. Being able to offer flexibility in terms of the number of days a week, use of spaces, maybe a smaller space so you can leave some materials at the office, but a flexibility in terms of collaborative use that needs to be adaptable, where one day you have only three employees but the next you might have twenty. Basically, right after we invented the concept we reinvented ourselves.
Rogers Business: How did you select your location?
Alain: We chose our location for two reasons. First, the space. We have close to fifteen thousand square feet, which is very big. It’s rare to find such a big location that is also well positioned on St-Catherine in the middle of downtown Montreal. Then the second reason was because my other business had been located in the same building for 10 years. So that allowed us to visit the premises regularly, to create relationships with the companies there and help them grow.
Rogers Business: What was your biggest source of support when you launched your company?
Alain: Our partners. Both financial institutions and the owners of the building, Rogers being one. Our biggest conference room was set up and decorated with Rogers branding. I think it was thanks to the help from all these partners that our launch was such a big success. For nine months after the launch, we were at full capacity.
Rogers Business: What are your strategies for getting the word out about your business?
Alain: Social networks is if course one of our preferred strategies. So we created a great team for online marketing. But otherwise, it’s a lot of word of mouth. People talking about us, holding events at our space. The lounge and presentation room is huge, it’s close to four thousand square feet with a giant screen, it’s a really beautiful space. So that helps with networking, bringing people together creates excitement about our business and what we offer. It makes people want to join this new way of working.
Rogers Business: What is the biggest challenge your company has faced?
Alain: Regaining our pre-pandemic capacity while trying to find a way to adapt to the new needs of every entrepreneur we work with.
Rogers Business: What other strategies have helped you build your company?
Alain: I’m an entrepreneur that helps other entrepreneurs. So it’s very easy for me to understand my clients’ needs and predict them in advance. I’m experiencing the same challenges they are, so for us adapting and ensuring that entrepreneurs arriving at our site find all the latest tools they’ll need comes naturally to us.
Rogers Business: What’s the biggest reward for your work?
Alain: Smiles. Seeing people happy. I love walking from one office to another and watching the hives of activity within these companies and seeing people smiling. For me, making people happy at work is vital.
Rogers Business: Where can we find your company online?
Facebook: At Workbase