Alex Wohl looks out from his fourth floor Scarsdale office suite and sees a new sunrise peeking over the economic gloom. These days the important thing to remember is opportunity comes in strange packages. With a healthy dose of foresight, talent, experience, and good business sense, many executives who have been laid off and entrepreneurs seeking a new approach to saving money are finding that office business centers offer the right medicine for a healthy recovery.
“Office suites such as these are the perfect answer for firms such as mine,” explained Wohl, the CEO of Woodlawn Advisors, a new boutique financial brokerage firm that moved in February into the Overhill Road Stark Business Solutions (SBS) facility across from the Scarsdale train station in the heart of the village.
“It’s less time and money spent on the logistics of office equipment, furniture, and reception area amenities like a staff receptionist and coffee and snacks. It’s all here so we can concentrate on the business, not the space it’s in.”
While surveys are ferreting out a number of small businesses doing well across the country — bakeries who have downsized by making smaller, lower cost cookies and cakes and specialty stores that supply necessities such as batteries for everything from cellphones to electronic mousetraps — the major growth of these office suites, or office business centers (OBC) as they are generally known, has been significant. Flexible occupancy has been the key to their success.
SBS has been a fixture in Westchester for 20 years. Founder and President Adam Stark created a company environment “supporting the business of business.” Besides giving small business a place of its own among the giant corporations making their mark on the county’s skyline, office business centers take out the distraction of supplying budget-busting necessities such as furniture, equipment and extra staff. With three office spaces in White Plains, Mount Kisco and Scarsdale, SBS has experienced a steady upward climb on the business charts and Stark’s long-term goal includes more growth. Opened in January, the Scarsdale office, a notably high-end facility in an envious location, has already reached one-third its capacity and continues to generate interest.
Some of the amenities, including
“A lot of people today are making pro-active choices in their careers and in the way they do business,” Stark said. “Turnkey offices take the pressure off. You make your own schedule and rent an office full or part time.”
Laura Kozelouzek, founder and CEO of Synergy Workplaces in 2004 and based in New York, grew up in Westchester and has been in the industry since 1991. With a background in hotel management, hospitality and real estate, she saw the needed niche for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow unencumbered by logistical and space concerns. The result? Synergy’s outreach since its inception in 2004 has grown to include California and Florida, and a close-knit staff of 80.
“This office space industry doesn’t have the peaks and troughs that others do,” she recently noted from her headquarters in Manhattan. “We have actually seen a rise in business around the country. Our client base is extremely diverse, including lawyers and therapists. In fact, we’ve seen an increase in therapists taking space as this recession deepens.”
With its “work happy, achieve more,” philosophy, Synergy was created, according to its website, “to revolutionize the workplace and establish a thriving community providing service and value.” Office services and amenities (they’ll even pick up your dry cleaning) can be packaged into one monthly, all-inclusive fee. Synergy’s success is allowing Kozelouzek to envision opportunities to expand within the next 12 months.
“If you look at the growth of a business you see that patience and discipline are key,” she said. “We’re a smaller, more agile company. That makes it feasible and easier for us to make quicker decisions. When we know something is right, we can put it into practice immediately.”
Synergy opened its Westchester branch, a 24,000-square-foot business center at 600 Mamaroneck Ave. in Harrison, in January of 2005. In addition to its office-related services, the company offers stress reduction amenities, including Dot.Calm rooms for relaxing and programs of massages, wine-tasting and seasonal fresh squeezed lemonade delivered to your office door.
“Our mission is to make a positive impact on the workplace and help create a dynamic community,” said Kozelouzek. “Even in such challenging times when many are pushed to their limits, people find a way to survive. We’re seeing definite interest
top: A fully furnished apartment at the AKA Westchester in White Plains
in this market as people reinvent their careers or downsize to suit a corrected budget.”
Getting down to serious business is what The Private Office in Rye Brook offers, with 26,500 square feet at 800 Westchester Ave., providing clients with sophisticated IT infrastructure, a 150-seat amphitheater for meetings and presentations, video conferencing and full staff support. Owner and President George Russell founded the original company in 1985, becoming independent in 2003. Two years later he re-incorporated as The Private Office. Russell, who prefers the name office business centers or, as the British christened them, serviced office, offers motivational newsletters with professional information and advice on the company website and is currently offering an incentive package for 2009 clients – sign a contract for at least six months and you have the option of opting out within the first 30 days (clients are urged to read the legal contract for exact terms), similar to a money-back guarantee.
Russell noted in a recent e-newsletter that adapting a business model is important for the serviced office, noting in his e-newsletter that “…a smaller firm of under 50 employees might shed all of its conventional office space and establish a management center of three-to-five persons in an OBC while having the balance of the staff productively contributing as a mobile workforce,”
“Your ability to meet unique client needs is what makes the difference in this business at the end of the day,” Russell noted in a recent phone interview. “Stay away from fixed cost commitments. We stand at a point where changes are imminent in office needs. People want flexibility.”
Clients who have enjoyed the benefits of flexibility at The Private Office include Morgan Stanley, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
Extended Stay Facilities Adapt to Changing Market
While the market for small office space is making a large impact on business, mainstream extended stay hotels are seeing a downturn as corporate groups take a red pencil to their own business travel and related expenses. One exception is AKA Westchester, located in White Plains and boasting four chic addresses in Manhattan that include Sutton Place and Central Park. The fully furnished apartments that proudly note the amenities of a luxury hotel takes a rosy view of the future with nine brand new penthouse suites added to its stable of 123 rooms. The new units have hardwood floors throughout and stainless steel appliances. Putting money into their properties in this economic climate doesn’t seem to daunt the company.
“There’s nothing like us out there in the marketplace now,” said Julie Juergens, general manager of AKA Westchester, a division of Korman Communities based in Pennsylvania and with more than 24 properties. The Washington, D.C. and Arlington, Virginia apartments, as expected, were at full capacity during the Inauguration of President Barak Obama.
“We’re probably best described as fully furnished apartments for temporary living,” she continued. “We saw a niche for upscale temporary living accommodations and we’re successful because we never strayed from our original business model. We’ve been blessed with good steady business from long term clients that lately have included an entertainment company, a major pharmaceutical firm and a company involved in building new Manhattan infrastructure, and of course we still accommodate a variety of sports organizations when they are in the area training and attending events.”
Hotels and extended stay facilities expect to see a decrease in certain profile business, such as the corporate business traveler. Two other extended stay facilities in Westchester, the Springhill Suites and the Hyatt Summerfield Suites both have seen a loss in profile business, although they are maintaining a reasonable stream of business.
“The corporate client is generally down across the country, said Mary Kay Manchin, general manager of Springhill Suites in Tarrytown. “We are holding our own because we are pricing better. Giving good value still brings in business.”
Christopher Powers agreed. The general manager of Hyatt Summerfield Suites in White Plains noted that the approach to booking rooms in general has changed.
“People are more savvy and they are taking more time personally in the prices of their travel,” he said. “There’s more negotiation afoot. People are definitely looking for a discount. Where the old market asked ‘Where can I find a room?’ the new market is asking ‘How much of a break can I get on that room?’ We are aware of the changing mindset of our clients and address those concerns to help them be more comfortable in their choices.”
The good news for Westchester is that the county is a good value for those who are interested in “staycations,” the hot new vocabulary word describing vacations at or close to home.
“We’re (Westchester) a great break from the city, an education for those interested in history and a getaway to an area rich in parks, recreation and historic sites,” added Manchin. “While transient travel is off by about 60 percent, we’re seeing interest in the packages we design for those wanting to experience the beauty and history in our local surroundings.”
EXTENDED STAY SERVICES
RESIDENCE INN BY MARRIOTT
Yonkers, New York | (914) 476-4600 | (914) 476-4606
Located immediately off the Saw Mill River Parkway at exit 9 in Yonkers, NY, this beautiful hotel will open its doors to travelers looking for all the comforts of home during the Summer of 2009. This ideal location is perfect for those relocating, attending training programs, renovating their homes, and the frequent business traveler.
We pride ourselves as the extended-stay hotel that helps you feel connected while away from home and still maintain a balance of work and life. Our comfortable, homelike surroundings invite you to relax and our community atmosphere will surely make everyone feel welcome.
The hotel will feature spacious, pristine and elegantly decorated suites, many with earthy, homelike fireplaces. Full kitchens and separate sleeping areas are warm and relaxing and provide the perfect end to a busy day. Our guest will enjoy a full American buffet breakfast each morning along with an evening social hour four nights per week. A variety of additional complimentary amenities will be enjoyed by all of our guests whether your stay is for one night or many nights.
We are centrally located in Westchester County which makes for easy travel to all areas and attractions throughout the area and New York City. Just minutes from Empire City Casino and Raceway, the Intrepid Museum, Bronx Zoo, and Rye Playland, everyone will find something that peaks their interest.
With current Yonkers development plans underway, the Residence Inn by Marriott will quickly become the hotel of choice to most businesses traveling to the area. For more information visit www.marriott.com or call us (914) 476-4600. We look forward to having you stay with us!
White Plains, New York | (914) 220–5700 | (866) korman9
AKA Westchester offers elegantly-furnished apartments with all the amenities of a luxury hotel – and all the comforts of home. Situated in the heart of downtown White Plains, this deluxe property is conveniently located just blocks from the Westchester Mall, fabulous dining and entertainment. It is only steps away from some of the area’s newest restaurants: BLT Steak, Peniche, Melting Pot and “42” at the Ritz-Carlton.
If New York City is on the agenda for business – or maybe a Broadway show – the Metro-North train station is a block away and will take you to Midtown Manhattan in less than 40 minutes!
AKA Westchester offers beautifully-furnished suites with full kitchens, Sony Wega TVs and DVD players with premium cable, as well as complimentary high-speed wireless Internet service.â€¯ We also serve complimentary club breakfast in our cafe, offering assorted muffins, yogurt, La Columbe coffee and Tazo teas.
For the health-conscious business traveler, aka provides a state-of-the-art health and wellness center with the newest exercise equipment, yoga/pilates studio and massage room featuring hot stone treatment and aromatherapy. Come experience one of our new penthouse floor apartments. These nine newly renovated luxury apartments on a high floor are exclusive to penthouse guests with special key-card access.
For more information or to make a reservation, please call (914) 220-5700 â€¯