Interview with: Jim Venables, Managing Director of officebroker.com
Where did the idea for officebroker.com come from, and how did you know there was a market for it?
Andy Haywood and I ran our own recruitment business. When we tried to find office space for our company, we realized that no-one wanted to deal with such a small amount of office space – we now know that this was due to the small commissions available. We found out about serviced offices and started talking to serviced office providers – that’s when we got the idea to start officebroker.com.
When we decided to start the new business, we wanted to take the recruitment business model and transfer the skill set to the new market. We investigated the strengths and weaknesses, and saw a gap in the level of good customer service in the market. We realized it was lacking a consultancy element, and so based on our own experiences we decided to make this the focus of officebroker.com.
What made you want to start your own business?
I’ve always been obsessed with opportunity and making money. I’ve been starting businesses from a very early age – I used to take the apples from my mate’s garden and try to sell them to the neighbours!
Jim Venables, MD officebroker.com
What did you do before officebroker.com?
I failed a lot. Through lots of business failures I learnt plenty of lessons, which I now know have been extremely helpful along the way. They were very important lessons to learn from an early age.
After the failures, I went to work for a publishing company where I sold advertising space and ran the sales team. Then I became a recruitment consultant, and following on from this I set up a recruitment company with Andy.
How did you fund your new business?
It’s completely self-funded. Andy and I used our salary and savings to fund the early stages of officebroker.com. There were no bank loans – we did what we could. There was also no business plan – we just saw an opportunity and went for it, backed 100% by our own money.
How did you first start to promote your business?
Through the internet – what a wonderful thing!
What were the most challenging parts of your start-up, how did you deal with these, and what have you learnt from the experience?
Managing cash flow was the most challenging part of starting up, and making sure we had enough money to survive. Keeping all the cash flow plates spinning can be difficult.
The truth is that you can’t taste the sweet until you’ve had the sour, but we learnt those lessons and it’s nice to know that our business is completely self-generated from scratch.
That sort of knowledge, along with the learning curves and challenges associated with setting up a new business venture gives you a real confidence boost.
Have you felt any impact from the recession?
I would be lying if I said no! The buying model has changed – our clients are more budget conscious and price led, so as a result our sales revenue has dropped. But interestingly the amount of people searching and enquiring for serviced offices are up year on year.
How have you adapted to cope with the recession?
We’ve cut costs and are tightly managing our cost base.
What advice would you give to other start-ups and businesses who are trying to cope in a difficult economy?
Keep it real and do whatever it takes to survive. Look at the worst case scenario and make sure you protect it. Your core product is critical – don’t try to expand in a difficult economy, instead, focus on your most important product or service and work to sustain and protect it.
What tips or words of advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Don’t assume that getting funding from banks will be easy – it’s anything but. Stay focused on your core product and primary objective.