15/02/2012 - 10:20

Vine at Liberty to challenge major players

15/02/2012 - 10:20

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Vine at Liberty to challenge major players

FOR some businesses, timing really is everything.

When entrepreneur Jamie Vine established Liberty Executive Offices as the new player in serviced office space in Perth midway through last year, it was in the hope the market would accept a challenger to established international giants Regus and Servcorp.

“I was certainly a little nervous starting a business at the time, given the economic climate,” Mr Vine told WA Business News.

“But one of my mentors once said to me: ‘In uncertain times people don’t want to commit to something long term, so the demand for flexibility should always be there’.”

Just over six months later, Liberty has doubled in size, adding 840 square metres of spare space at Governor Stirling Tower to its two floors at Allendale Square for an investment of $9 million.

The Governor Stirling Tower space is currently undergoing interior fit-out and will be open for business from May 1.

The expansion has been funded through a combination of landlord incentives and current cash flow.

Mr Vine said Liberty’s rapid growth was the result of Perth’s ever-dwindling office vacancy rate, which dipped from 7.8 per cent to 3.3 per cent in the six months to January, according to official statistics, and large resources-focused firms requiring project-based facilities and bigger in-house teams.  

“Demand for general offices, specifically in Perth, is bringing people to the serviced office market that perhaps wouldn’t be users,” Mr Vine said.

“Probably 50 per cent of my clients at the moment wouldn’t normally be in a serviced office, but they are in a serviced office because of their inability to find something that suits.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Mr Vine has ambitious plans for future growth. 

With little opportunity for accelerated growth in Perth because of the shrinking vacancy rate, Mr Vine is examining interstate or international expansion, with the resources-rich state of Queensland at the top of his list.

Other potential expansion destinations, Mr Vine said, include Singapore, Hong Kong and Sydney.

“What Governor Stirling Tower does is demonstrate first of all, that we are scaleable,” he said.

“Secondly, it allows us to demonstrate we can manage a multi-site business, so the next step for me is to demonstrate that we can manage an interstate or international business, hence Brisbane being high on the agenda.”

Ultimately, Mr Vine said he planned to list Liberty on the ASX within five years, growing to six business centres in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Any future listing would be based around accelerated growth, and the only way to get the level of investment that we’d need would be to demonstrate a scaleable business model and to demonstrate that we can make that work,” he said.

In order to take market share from Regus and ServCorp, Mr Vine said providing a local-operated, differentiated service was a focus for the business.

Liberty offices would be unbranded, fit-outs would be of a very high standard, and office management would be extremely client-focused, he said.

“I went to networking events where ex-clients of both Regus and Servcorp told me they were glad somebody had come to shake it up a bit,” he said.

To challenge that duopoly and ensure quality service, Mr Vine said he specifically targeted hospitality professionals to manage Liberty’s offices.

“It’s all about the people, anybody can build the walls,” he said.

“What we do is not an office job. The people that use our space have got an office job, what we do is service the clients.

“Getting the right people is paramount and that culture is the differentiator. 

“I can change my pricing and give away free stuff, but anybody can copy that.

“What they can’t do is get hold of my staff and they can’t follow my recruitment processes.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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