With more South African companies looking to meet employees’ expectations for a hybrid work environment, the physical office space stands to go through a significant reimagining. In fact, a global survey has found that nearly 8 in 10 CEOs say their organisations will need less space in the post-COVID world.
Like all business owners, David Seinker, CEO of flex space solution, The Business Exchange (TBE), knows the challenges of starting and growing a business all too well, not to mention navigating a pandemic that directly affects your industry.
We chat to Seinker about his business journey, lessons learnt and managing growth.
Q. What made you decide to start your own business, and why the office space business?
I worked at a property group before starting my own entrepreneurial journey. I was one of the first employees, but we grew the business to over 200 staff managing over a billion rand of property assets. I eventually broke away from the firm and I started my own company connecting entrepreneurs to my network of investors. Whilst doing so, I had an office at a business centre, and I saw a gap to continue doing what I did, together with providing office space for startups and growing companies.
Q. Tell us a bit about your startup journey, and did you get your first tenants on board?
I launched TBE in 2014, together with our funding partners Raizcorp, who have been instrumental in our growth. Our first tenants came through our networks which we leveraged given my background, but we also gained great traction through our strong digital advertising platforms.
Q. Can you share some of the hardest startup lessons you learnt?
Managing cash flow, expectations and people – these were my greatest challenges when starting out. However, these had nothing on what we experienced with frustrations relating to the Covid pandemic.
Q. What impact did Covid have?
For 2 years we were in limbo, and we were seriously concerned in 2020 as there were so many unknowns. However, we started gaining confidence last year as the new trend topic was “hybrid working”. 2022 has been our most successful year yet as we have signed up new sites, launched in Cape Town and Mauritius, and have three new major corporate clients totaling 200 seats.
Q. What’s your top tip for managing growth?
We are now approaching eight sites, and we will be scaling to 20 throughout the continent. You need great people and great partners to share your vision and help you grow. Processes are of paramount importance.
Q. What would be your top 3 pieces of advice to share with fellow entrepreneurs.
1. Partner with people and who have the same values as you do.
2. Don’t try grow too quickly, rather learn first.
3. Listen. Don’t think you know it all.
Q. What are your top growth goals for the next few years, and how are you planning to achieve them?
Our main goal is to have 20 sites by 2025, throughout Africa. There is a lot of focus on my management team to help achieve this, and processes in the business.