Sharing visionary insights and experiences to help our listeners explore fresh perspectives on business, lifestyle, and new ways of working.
Keep The World Working Campaign – https://tmapart.com/ktww
03:25 – Who is Frank, background information
05:40 – State of remote work/future of work
07:45 – Evolution of work — “global comfort”
11:20 – Be who you are, where you are
11:45 – Why work remote — from home, coworking, etc.
14:20 – Value of community
16:00 – Community for social good
21:00 – The maturation of the remote working industry
23:45 – Why companies choose co-working
29:30 – The evolution of co-working from executive suites and business centers to facilities as we know them today
34:00 – The quandary of unoccupied space
36:45 – What’s next?
38:20 – How would you advise companies to leverage remote-work strategies
42:00 – Employer responsibilities when allowing remote work
46:00 – Where to find Frank and how to get involved
48:30 – Social responsibility
About Teammate/ Apart
Designed to teach those who work remotely and those who hire them how to work better together, the Teammate Apart Podcast features one-on-one interviews with the best and brightest experts and thought leaders in the remote work space. The inaugural season of the series premiered March 23, 2020 and will drop new episodes each week for 12-weeks. Chock full of interesting and actionable insights, listen in each week as host Ryan Roghaar interviews the most influential people in remote work and shares their stories, tips, and practical advice in snackable one-hour blocks.
Teammate Apart Podcast: https://www.teammateapart.com/podcast
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Ryan Rogard [00:00:06] All right. Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Teammate/ Apart podcast. The podcast designed to teach those who work remotely and those who hire them how to work better together. I’m your host, Ryan Rogard. Before we get started, as always, today’s show is brought to you by Teammate/ Apart team, made a part, features articles, tools and resources designed to teach remote workers and those who hire them how to work better together. A community for owners, managers, leaders, freelancers, contractors and all variety of remote worker Teammate/ Apart is also a terrific resource for companies interested in implementing remote work policies and otherwise co-located environments, or for those planning to build fully distributed organizations from the jump. Listeners of this podcast have an exciting opportunity to get involved in the remote work revolution in light of current events related to the Coronavirus pandemic and the sudden worldwide shift to remote work. We’re offering a free remote work best practices guide for leaders who find themselves struggling to create a remote work policy in a pinch now and for the duration of the crisis. Visit Teammate/ Apart slash crisis to not only download your free Teammate/ Apart remote policy primer, how to write remote work policies that don’t suck, but to find other tools and resources to help you weather the storm. Great working relationships make for great remote work experiences, and with this free guide, you’ll be better equipped to do your part in creating and maintaining a happy and sustainable remote life. Once again, to take advantage of this collection of useful resources, please visit Teammate/ Apart dot com slash crisis that is Teammate/ Apart slash crisis to download your free. Best Practices Guide. One more thing before we kick off the show now and for the foreseeable future. Teammate/ Apart is offering free support and advice to remote workers and remote leaders alike through Teammate/ Apart OpenOffice from noon to two p.m. Mountain Time Monday through Friday. You can visit teammateapart.com and navigate to the bottom left-hand corner of the page where you’ll find a chat icon. Simply click it and you’ll be connected to a real remote work expert who is happy to help you solve problems in real-time at no charge to you. Of course, you can use the same tool 24/7, 365 to ask questions or request services. But during open office hours, you’ve got a direct line of communication to people who care and people who can help. Once again, from noon to two p.m. Mountain Time, Monday through Friday. Simply navigate to teammateapart.com find our chat icon in the bottom left-hand corner of the page, then click, for instance, support when you need it at no cost to you. Take advantage of this special program while it lasts. And now back to the show.
Ryan Rogard [00:02:45] Today we have a special guest Frank Cottle, a timeless futurist with primary expertise on the future of work. He is the founder of Alliance Virtual Offices, a company focused on building flexible workspace since 1992, Frank has dedicated his life to empowering new ways of working that unite three pivotal elements of the modern entrepreneur. People, place and technology here to share his visionary insights and experiences to help our listeners explore fresh perspectives on business, lifestyle and new ways of working. Joining us today from Newport Beach, California, please welcome to the show, Frank Cottle.
Ryan Rogard [00:03:18] Hey, Frank, welcome to the show. First, let’s get right into it and talk a little bit about who you are, where you come from and what you’re doing in this space.
Frank Cottle [00:03:26] Well, Ryan, thank you very much. I’m really glad to be here. Who I am, I’m a 70 year old serial entrepreneur that’s been in business for more than 50 years. I started as a commercial diver doing what was referred to as interesting work during the Vietnam era for agencies moved on from black to racing yachts and building a yacht brokerage for about a decade. So in the late 70s, early 80s, restored my position and started into commercial property development. In commercial property, I always specialized in things relating to a flexible workplace and we started our first company developing projects specifically to host them out what were then called executive suites. So we came up with the concept back in the backyard that he talked about community in the name of our first company was the College 79 80. So we started thinking through those processes. Back then, particularly on the technology side, we did joint ventures with Bell Labs creating the first incident. So transcending winning both voice and data over a single for peer twisted cable as well before things like Cat five came along. We actually created the hardware to do that with Bell lab well, so we were the first incidents back to the very early 80s, the first commercial application, and installation of ISDN and the joint venture with JTE. So we’ve always felt the combination of people, place and technology were critical elements to building a flexible workplace, and we’ve studiously pursued that in the industry for the last 40 years.
Ryan Rogard [00:05:16] Well, Frank, and I think that’s what impresses me so much about your backstory, is just how like ahead of the curve you seem in some of this stuff. I mean, you know, now you hear all about that we works and the different, you know, coworking places and things like that. But, you know, you’ve been doing this for 30 years. Like this is old hat.
Frank Cottle [00:05:31] 40 years.
Ryan Rogard [00:05:34] It is incredible.
Frank Cottle [00:05:34] Give me credit.
Ryan Rogard [00:05:36] Well, cool. So tell me a little bit about sort of the state of work as you see it and how you see distributed teams, you know, working and working environments or co-located environments and what you think all that sort of does, you know, in or as contributing to the future of work.
Frank Cottle [00:05:51] Well, you know, as we look at the future of work, which happens every day, we looked a lot. What we refer to the pebble in a pond theory, all activities start somewhere and then radiate outwards. So when we look at activities, we say, well, what is impacting work? Well, we have societal issues, we have cultural issues, we have economic issues, we have technology issues. And each one of those issues is like dropping a pebble in a pond and then watching the waves radiating outward at the entrance of that pond are never perfect. There is a point sticking into the pond a bay and the pond. So the impact hits different places at different times and with different force. So as we look at the changes, we look at societal changes. I work Mondays and Fridays out of my home. Back to you may be lucky enough to hear my dog bark, they love my dog. So that wasn’t acceptable 10, 20 years ago for a senior executive in the company. Our executive team is distributed globally. We don’t believe you should have to move somebody, they should have to uproot their family in order to come to have a job with us. We think the best people live where they are, they’re established where they are, their family to where they are. Why do you want to explain to some executives and his family why kids have to leave their friends at school? Maybe they have to have major lifestyle changes, etc just to get the job. Technology allows us to do that today and we’re very comfortable with that, we’re also comfortable on see this as a phenomena the more and more people are comfortable with.
Ryan Rogard [00:07:42] Well, and what do you think that is? Frank, do you think there’s sort of like an evolution in the way? I mean, it seems like there’s a lot more… I mean, you used to put on a suit to get on an airplane. We used to do a lot of things like…
Frank Cottle [00:07:53] Wait, wait. Don’t you?
Ryan Rogard [00:07:54] Well, you know, birthday suit usually. Yes, I get so. But, you know, I mean, there seems to be a little bit of slipping. And I think some people, you know, sort of the contrarians out there might say, you know, things are slipping or getting worse in some way or another. But I think it’s actually lending to this flexibility. You know, it’s putting people in positions they might not have had before. What do you think is sort of happening there? And what is that shift mean to you?.
Frank Cottle [00:08:21] I think the shift really is a global comfort. You might have used to put on a suit to get on an airplane or someone in my generation might have, I never did because I come from a beach town and I always work casually even when I’m in Europe. Years ago, I was giving a presentation in front of the Boom District Bond Business Group in Germany, we were in Dusseldorf and I had this big group, maybe a thousand five hundred to a thousand I remember now German executives there and they wanted to talk about the future work. And this was 25 years ago, 20 years ago, and so I was a keynote speaker and I looked across the sea of gray sit in front of me. My mate made my presentation was ok, and the very first question I got was, how come do you come dressed in such leap to speak to us? Because I was wearing khakis and a Hawaiian shirt. It was summertime, you know, and I thought for just a moment, no one wanted to honor them by wearing my native attire.
Frank Cottle [00:09:38] Well, they all look guilty.
Frank Cottle [00:09:40] Oh, yes, yes, yes well, that makes sense. So cultural differences, geographically driven in a lot of cases have held us back and we tried to normalize. You go to Germany, you wear a great suit. You go to London to wear a red tie, you do that sort of thing. But today, it’s production, it’s how much can you create? That’s important. And you say that you still want to dress nicely and civilly and not be sloppy in anything you do. You know, I don’t want to have those easy top cut beard, ok. So just by mentioning that. But what matters is your ability to create and produce. And I think people have gotten much better at listening and much more concerned with looking.
Ryan Rogard [00:10:33] Yeah.
Frank Cottle [00:10:33] Now, I think about that in business today. I think that’s a skill set that has evolved. We listen to each other much better today and we look at each other a lot less.
Ryan Rogard [00:10:44] Yeah, I think that’s true. So I think it’s a really great distinction you make this idea of sort of I mean, your joke about being, you know, your native attire. But I think it’s sort of maybe symbolic of, you know, sort of a worldwide temporary thing or, you know, a coming to terms with people have their differences and, you know, embracing those. And that that’s that’s ok. It’s all right for you to not be the same as us in Germany or whatever, and I think that that sort of added seemed symbolic of sort of the kind of acceptance you would need to really advance remote work as a career.
Frank Cottle [00:11:18] You let people be who they are, where they are, and that’s a very important thing to consider as you’re as you believe. If that’s what they’ll do.
Ryan Rogard [00:11:28] Yeah, that makes sense. So one of the big missions or big objectives of team made apart is this idea of, you know, sort of advocating both on behalf of the workers, but also on behalf of the employers. And so I’d like to try and ask a couple of questions from each side of that coin. First, I wanted to get into some of these worker questions. So in your mind, how does coworking stand up against simply working from home or your coffee shop? Like why would you choose to go to a coworking facility versus just, you know, somewhere you can go work for free or cheap?
Frank Cottle [00:11:55] Well, number one, working let’s take working from home does dimension two or three examples. Let’s take working from home. I can work from home because I have a dedicated library and office just for that purpose, I’ve got… We’re talking about bandwidth a bit earlier. I’ve got about half a gigabyte of bandwidth just for me, selfishly in my one laptop. So I’ve got tons of power, lots of come for a proper work environment. But I’m here with my dog and I’m here with my dog.
Ryan Rogard [00:12:34] Yeah, nothing wrong with that.
Frank Cottle [00:12:35] So unless you and I are interacting as we are right now, it can get lonely. A lot of people don’t have the comfort that they live in Manhattan, there are a young, small family. The Kitchen table it’s the only place for the laptop and the kids go streaming by, that’s not a good working bar. Ok, so then you go to… You go to your next example, you migrate over to Starbucks. Starbucks does not want you there working. Their bandwidth isn’t particularly good and finding plug It’s hard. They want you buying coffee there, and it’s very disruptive to work in that environment. And if you work on anything that has any sensitivity, intellectual property, contract management, heaven forbid you you’re a primary contractor for our U.S. federal government and someone way you’ve lost all your security. You’re on the open network, you have no security, ok. And you’ve got the disruption of this Melley old guy that sits next to you, ok. And then migrate on from that freebie cafe-hopping structure to a proper coworking center or a group of coworking centers is what my preference would be.
Frank Cottle [00:13:54] Get a business or a coworking center, you have all the people, place and technology facility, and hopefully you’ve got some good relationships there, not just with the staff that runs the place, but with some of your peers that are doing just what you’re doing, and it becomes a very collegial and friendly environment. The term community is used a lot, I’d like it some ways. But, you know, community is kind of what, good sex? Everybody has a different definition, ok?. So what community means to one group is entirely different to another, what might mean to you is entirely different from what it might mean to me, the concept of community is very much like the concept of family. A community can be equally productive or dysfunctional, It just depends on the communities.
Ryan Rogard [00:14:48] Yeah, I think that’s true.
Ryan Rogard [00:14:49] And I think you are right, you know that, you know, you mentioned relationships, and I think that you know, for whether you’re conquering sort of loneliness or independence or whether you’re trying to even further a career or grow a business or whatever, like relationships are kind of the whole thing. So being in a situation where you’re surrounded by people from different walks of life doing different things, you know, who are I guess, generally speaking, you know, assuming you’ve got a good community, you know, all working towards some objective or something, you know, you’ve got a lot of driven people around you. You know, it can be really good for you to develop these kinds of relationships.
Frank Cottle [00:15:22] Well, you know, community is interesting because if you take a business community and let’s take a coworking facility that uses community as part of its structure, welcomes people into the center actively introduces people throughout the center, actively helps people to network structurally, etc. There are real community advocates versus somebody that uses community the other Web site uses it for MCO purposes or doesn’t care. So somebody literally an advocate to one of the things that we’re seeing pop up is that those communities or the manager of those types of facilities oftentimes have taken a big step into corporate social responsibility as well. So that community with that particular center actually hosts a nonprofit or a charity as part of their value system for the community, and then those community members, naturally, because they’re interacting and interacting together, gravitate toward the support of that charity or nonprofit as well, in many cases. So there is an example. Look, using a community, not just for business purposes, but for social responsibility purposes that improves the broader community of the neighborhood where the center is located.
Ryan Rogard [00:16:52] And I think that’s true. Well, and because of the aforementioned technology and other things like that, they can actually have a reach far beyond that local center.
Frank Cottle [00:17:00] They can, they really can they do? I think you have to rethink, too. When you talk about flexible workspace, everything. Even today, I was just speaking at the Future Officers Summit in New York last week, and in speaking with some of the large global Fortune 1000, one hundred companies that were there, they still referred to the people that sit in desks and in offices and even in coworking centers working remotely as occupiers. Well, we have 100000 occupiers.
Frank Cottle [00:17:39] You know, that’s how they used to call them users, and I also, if that had to do with drug deals. But they call them occupier’s and they want to know what their total allocable overhead cost per occupier’s makes sense. Ok, but they use the term occupier’s, I try to explain to them that they needed to stop thinking of occupier’s and start thinking of travelers today we don’t go to the office. We move from the office to the Starbucks for half an hour, before are meeting across town with a person in their office and then we go back to the coworking center, etc. And I also want people to stop and think that individuals co-work. Companies do not. Companies need privacy. They set forth their own culture, so if you and I as sort of gig economy people are maybe just independently employed by a large company as individuals, we would want to go and become part of that larger community in a coworking center, very, very supportive. But if we started the company and hired 10 people, and we’re developing the newest magic technology, which we’ve had intellectual property to protect. We wouldn’t necessarily want to be working out in the open, we have our own corporate culture to create and we might be a little bit noisy and clickish. So we don’t fit into that community anymore.
Ryan Rogard [00:19:06] And one of the things that you bring that up there is I just recently left a coworking facility that I was working out of. And the reason was like, I can understand their perspective and mine. But, you know, I’m a solo entrepreneur individual that was coming in and working much like you’ve described. And then, what was happening is they were filling their space with these little San Francisco or Bay Area companies that were looking for like off off site offices here in Seattle. And so what happened to the community in terms of the networking and the relationship building and all that stuff, was that you write all these bigger companies siloed themselves into their little rooms and hung out together and they all did their things, and you and all that networking sort of dried up in the earlier stages at the same facility when it was a lot of, you know, solo workers or a little small two or three people, startups, you know, that the community was much stronger. Everybody was looking out for each other and it was much more colloquial. Then later, as these larger companies moved in. I mean, it’s exactly as you describe.
Frank Cottle [00:20:04] Well, if you look at employment bases most people work for a company. We all talk about solar converts and that sort of thing the turns been around for decades and decades, but the reality is in the 06 07 period, as our economy went into a slide, started going into a slide. There were a lot of people coming out of college. They could get jobs. And you know what? I’ll tell you, if I’m a 24 year old and I’m going into the bar and trying to hustle up a date or something, I’m not going to tell you I’m unemployed. I’m over at the really cool little coworking center down the street. And I’m building to do is the app that I’m against Sharlto. I’m just I’m an entrepreneur. I’m doing this I’m doing that. You can cloak yourselves in positively not negative, but positively in a coworking environment and do that. But, you know, the four or five years later, I was pretty successful. That dating thing a lot found the right one and we got married we have a kid. The economy’s pretty good now and google offered me a great job.
Frank Cottle [00:21:25] Just what?
Frank Cottle [00:21:27] I’m that young, millennial, unemployed, solopreneur, enterpreneur, and now 30 years old, I’ve got a great job with Google or Symantec or somebody, and I’ve just moved to the Silicon Slope where you are in Salt Lake City. Wow. I’ve made it. I need a different environment. I have matured. Yeah. So the market of customers, if you will, for the coworking industry is maturing. Well, we forecast this back in those seven oh, wait. So this is what’s going to happen, guys. I almost got thrown out one of the very first coworking meetings. We’re talking about design. Everybody is saying, oh, open office, open office. Copy this, copy that so, is that so? Got to have the community all talking to each other and I said guys, each year for the next five or six years you’re going to convert 10 percent of your space to private offices. It’s going to migrate about at about that pace to get about 70 percent private, about 30 percent total reflects open hot-desking, etc.. Boos, hisses, Throw the old guy out of the room, that sort of thing. But that’s what’s happened. Coworking is maturing as a product, not just the community is maturing. We’re a very active industry. People need things we create them and fulfill the need. And right now, we have more company builders than pure independent entrepreneurs. The design is changing. The services are changing. A lot more sophisticated, a lot more company oriented.
Ryan Rogard [00:23:16] Yeah. Well, anything that makes sense. I mean, you know, even in my experience in the coworking facilities down here, you know, there’s a large audience of a large swath of these people that are startup founders, people who are trying to get businesses going. And it seems like a lot of them, just as they’ve grown and exploded in different categories, they start in the coworking space and to get things off the ground. And then, like you said, they have to eventually go on and start forming their own corporate culture and all this other stuff. So eventually they move on to their own suite and then ultimately their own building or something. And and so it almost seems like this coworking for them, at least the way they’re using it as sort of the stepping stone.
Frank Cottle [00:23:53] What you reference in your own neighborhood of seeing companies come in, you’re referencing tech companies for the Bay Area. Sorry. Like an open branch office and stuff. That’s the flip side of the phenomena. Why are those tech companies using coworking and business center type space? First war for talent. They can not recruit effectively unless the H.R. department coordinated with the facility’s management department has a good, flexible workplace program. People to want to come into ours to the headquarters. They want more flexibility so, the creation of flexible workplace programs as a requirement to even be in the game of the war for talent is one side of it. The other side of it is large corporations have a lot of pressures for performance, for their stock value, and they have realized that they get rewarded more for cleaning the debt off of their balance sheet than they do even for more earnings. So there is a huge color rake’s also a migration of all companies to balance the cyclicality of their workforce with the cyclicality of the debt for their facilities and leases are debt. So if your average employee lifecycle is seven years, you want your average lease life cycle to be seven years, not 10 or 15 like it was previously. And if you can shed that excess debt from your balance sheet, you materially improve your stock value and your stock performance so that the combination of you’ve got to win the war for talent and you’ve got to ship debt sold off your balance sheet is critical. And our industry is known for one year service agreements.
Frank Cottle [00:25:53] So no debt, yeah, no debt, but every occupier that you move out of, a 10 year lease property and into a one year service agreement property that represents probably 20 thousand dollars worth of debt that comes off your balance sheet.
Ryan Rogard [00:26:11] Interesting.
Frank Cottle [00:26:13] That’s a big driver.
Ryan Rogard [00:26:15] Yeah, that makes sense that that would be a large motivator. I mean, some of it, you know, seems, you know, cost based in the first place. I mean, obviously, it’s cheaper to start this way. So it makes sense that these younger companies are less mature. Companies are starting in this way.
Frank Cottle [00:26:27] But for all companies, for that, for that matter, I mean, if let’s assume that you and I are each Starbucks that we each want to borrow a million dollars. So we want to get a million dollars invested from a venture capitalist, Ok. I’ve got a good idea, and you’ve got a good idea. Our ideas are equal arcs. Everything’s equal between us we go and we pitch the v.c. And what we pitch to be seeing, the first thing they’re going to have to do with this money. And I say, well, I’m going to open an office. I’ve got to hire a receptionist to buy some furniture and stuff to sign a lease. And I’ve got to get my computer, my Wi-Fi system, and go get some photocopiers, etc, etc. and then I’m a go hire some engineers and we’re good to coding. And you walk in and you said, oh, what are you gonna do with the money? Well, I’m moving into this little coworking center down the street to hire engineers. Who’s going to get the money?
Frank Cottle [00:27:29] Yeah. Now, it makes perfect sense. It’s funny when you put it that way because, yeah, it’s you don’t think of all that blow, you know, that sort of was part of traditionally founding a business, you know? Well, it worked.
Frank Cottle [00:27:41] No, I’m the CEO of that company ourselves to be getting my vision across to the coders, programmers or for the little tech company of some sort. Well, what am I doing? I’m administrating receptionists and I’m making sure we have a phone system that I’m overseeing the contract on the photocopier. These are things that no entrepreneur or no visionary, no one should have to do. So the whole concept of business centers, coworking centers, incubators, accelerators removes that entire administrative layer and allows you to focus on the work that’s productive, and that in itself is a huge advantage to companies huge advantage of all layers. If you’re a branch office of a big Silicon Valley tech company and your job is to go open a branch and hire six people to do your tech work.
Ryan Rogard [00:28:38] Yeah.
Frank Cottle [00:28:39] It’s the same thing, the same thing. So, people are shedding these layers and we talk about outsourcing and we think of outsourcing, we think of call centers in India right, but they’re really they’re outsourcing the non-essential services to companies that do them faster, cheaper, better. Or as they say in the U.K., it’s cheap and cheerful.
Ryan Rogard [00:29:05] OK. Well, so let’s kind of circle back around and talk a little bit about your company alliance, virtual offices. Well, one of many companies, but this particular group of companies, one of the things I mean, in these last 40 years working in the space, I mean, certainly you’ve seen the category evolve a little bit. How do you think it’s I mean, can you talk a little bit about sort of that evolution, you know, where it began as executive suites and how it sort of worked its way into coworking or as with coworking as we know it? And you know where you think it’s going from here?
Frank Cottle [00:29:34] Well, we started as a property development company and we did land banking. So we bought a piece of dirt on the edge of a large master planned commercial development. Usually we focused with prudential or urban company Trammell Crow, whichever on land, mobile land, really big projects, and we’d buy a little piece out on the edge that wasn’t material that we’d put up a building that was dedicated and they had extra entitlement. So we landbank. We ran the buildings for five to 10 years each and then we sold them all. But we sold because we got a 30, 40 thousand foot building. But we had entitlement for three, four hundred thousand. So we sold that entitlement really. But we learned to run the executive suites or business centers as they became known as we were selling back then. So called out from 80 to 90, from 90 to 2000, myself and a couple of partners, we all joined together and we created the Alliance Company. So the three of us, we call it Alliance, made sense to answer. And we both worked independently under that one brand. We had a fourth company that was our brand company that owned the alliance name business processes, we did all of our contracting, purchasing, H.R. work, etc, through that company that run our independent business centers that we built the aggregate between us about 195 centers across the US, between 90 and 2000. And that at that time we were the largest privately held company in the industry. So, that company got merged and sold into a couple of pieces, but mostly merged into a merged with a company called Frontline Capital that also owned HQ Allwork.space. And what I decided, one of my motivations for wanting to sell out of the operating company is I made a decision in the late 90s that I preferred to own the customer and not the center. I wanted to help technology companies rather than physical space operating companies. I wanted to clean up my balance sheet. And so I came to the conclusion, either have to own the buildings or you should own the customer and technology company to have a better return multiple on a better value model than property companies, so I opted to a technology company. So in 2000, after we’d sold the operating companies, all three of us labor is part, I started restarted the Alliance group as a aggregator. I looked around the world and said, I understand travel. I’d invested in a company called Highmark, which is the largest data aggregation reporting company in the travel industry. So I understood big data. I understood travel very well how that industry worked and. So I decided that I wanted the art to to model something after what was going on track when I looked at Expedia. As it just as it was spinning out of Microsoft because we had another company, full supply chain that we sold to Microsoft. So we got to know some of the guys over there and thought travel and real estate were aligned.
Ryan Rogard [00:33:10] So we created the Alliance Virtual System, which is a aggregator, just like Expedia is. But instead of working with hotel rooms, we work with offices, virtual offices, coworking flams, live reception plans, meeting and conference rooms, call center management, things of that nature. So everything you need. But someone can come to us and say, hey, I need 10 offices in 10 countries, in ten cities and I need all in ten minutes. They can literally just go into our website, book, and open offices globally, same, you get hotel rooms or airlines or things of that nature. So I’ve tried to shape our company around that. We were the first people within our industry globally to do that.
Ryan Rogard [00:34:01] So it’s a great idea. You know, we’ve had a prior conversation. We talked a little bit about this this leftover space or the space that just sitting there unoccupied and how, you know, a system like what you’ve done with alliances made it easier to fill those spots, not unlike the way the hotel business does it with, you know, Priceline and things like that. So, you know, you guys are doing that with my work. And I think what I like about it so much is the flexibility, it allows a person like me who flits around a little bit and is looking for somewhere to work wherever I am. You know, I can land in Amsterdam and jump on alliancevirtualoffices.com and pull up a property or 10 in Amsterdam. Book, book a tour go decide if that’s going to be a place for me, and then I’m set for the next month or two.
Frank Cottle [00:34:44] He is going to actually do that from Salt Lake City. And so when you arrive in Amsterdam, it’s already for you.
Ryan Rogard [00:34:49] Yeah, it’s it is very.
Frank Cottle [00:34:51] So it works out quite well. And we have over a variety of companies like Alliance Virtual that we’re partnered with or invested in the one in the UK based in London called Your City Office, which does exactly the same thing. But based on you take culture, you’re talking about business practices and then another in the Netherlands for Northern Europe called Flex to do the same. Same model. Same back in. Same. Same everything. Just different brands on the front. And we’re invested in those companies as partners. And we’re always looking, we have the Lion’s Capital Group and we look now with a private equity fund, and we look now and invest in companies with the proper tech sector that have to do with flexible work. So that’s a big part of our business model. Ours is we started as a developer, we became an operator. We became a tech company, and now we’re an investor. I see that model, that investmentment model in in the technology of flexible work, of being our next decade of activity.
Ryan Rogard [00:36:05] Yeah. Well, I think it makes sense I mean, that feels like a pretty, you know, like a smart lifecycle of a business to sort of chase each component as your, you know, living the circle or, you know, enduring the circle of life to use linking terms, I guess.
Frank Cottle [00:36:20] I could be perched up on a rock.
Ryan Rogard [00:36:26] Well, see, and then you could go back to your coworking space there.
Frank Cottle [00:36:30] So it would be. Yeah.
Ryan Rogard [00:36:33] So I guess then. So if this is sort of the future of things, I mean, what kinds of things that a you know, if you can talk about it, I’d given up trade secrets or anything. Can you talk a little bit about the types of businesses you’re investing in? Like, What are you seeing as sort of coming down the pipe in terms of companies that are helping out flex work or co-working?
Frank Cottle [00:36:52] Well, yeah number one: everybody needs to know what’s going on and the more remote you get, the better your data has to be. We have a little monitor inside of the company that should get the data, data becomes information which it turns to knowledge and knowledge, allows action so that, the get the data. You’ve got to have the data. So we like things to collect information. So operating system was put in the reservation systems, things of that nature where we can see you get a picture of what’s going on. We’ve talked about the pebble in the pond where the market’s moving. What kind of products are people buying? What are they paying for it? That sort of thing. So operating systems, data type systems, etc.. We think it’s important things like telephony, things like communications systems that we think is beyond our scope and scale. So we’re very doubtful that we’re looking at.
Ryan Rogard [00:37:56] Yeah. Now, I think that’s awesome. Can you talk about like so if you’re trying to start a you know, maybe you’re going to start a company and you want to try and include some sort of remote operations plan you’re trying to figure out include remote workers in your workforce. How would you, I guess, advise somebody? Is somebody coming from the coworking and the flexible working space and who has experience, you know, a broad swath of experience in that space? How would you advise founders? And, you know, maybe I think I’m thinking more like companies who are sort of co-located now. And, you know, we discussed sort of getting debt off off of balance sheets and things like that as one strategy. But if I was some company, we’ve decided we needed to implement. Remote work strategy is a way to be competitive or retain employees or whatever. Do you have any advice or any thoughts about how that might work, how you would sort of get that going either as it pertains to using flexible workspaces or coworking or just, you know, remote workers in general?
Frank Cottle [00:38:59] Well, I love to run because you always ask twelve questions once. Yeah, I know somebody used to train you on that a little bit. No, you lay the groundwork very, very well. First, I would start by saying today all companies, record companies, not of individuals. Today, all companies are international. I would start with that premise. They either have an employee contract, a customer or somewhere else that’s not in their hometown. That probably not even in their country. So if, you know, you start a company today, it would most likely be international. So certainly global but international, and that means if we have to service customers remotely or we’ve got important contracts remotely, then we probably need a team to handle that remote. So are industry, not just our company, but our entire industry caters to that allows for that to happen much more effectively. If I want to hire someone in another country, the probability is I don’t want them walking out of their house. Well, it’s cheaper for me, but I’m not it’s not going to be productive and they’re not going to feel like they’re part of the team as much. And that’s very important. The further people are away, the more you have to love them ok, you have to bring them in. The further away they are, make them feel as if they’re part of your culture.
Ryan Rogard [00:40:34] I think you’re right, because the only way they can buy into corporate culture or even really give a crap about what you guys are doing for work is, you know, they have to have some skin in the game. They have to feel…
Frank Cottle [00:40:44] They do.. And they have to know that you’ve got skin in their game, too. Yeah. So giving people proper working environments is a huge element to growth on almost being able to scale in a company. So I would be thinking about that issue a lot in terms of other motivators.
Frank Cottle [00:41:08] Again, just taking proper care of people. You shouldn’t hire someone and say, well, you need to work out of your house. You basically need to supply me with your office space stuff center. So give people a proper place to work. That’s convenient to them. So oh, well, you don’t need to go into the office. But hey, guess what? It’s a daycare center right next door or even built into the project. And we have complete flexible work hours. You just have to get the stuff done. But we want you in a proper working farm. That’s that’s so important and engaging element when you’re trying to build the team.
Ryan Rogard [00:41:50] Well, it seems like that’s a topic that I’m seeing a lot in the news lately, is this idea that if you can work from home, should your employer be paying for your Internet or a portion of that? Is that just right?
Frank Cottle [00:42:00] Actually, there have been several low employee related lawsuits over the last decade on just that issue. Hey, I’ve been supplying your office for the last five years. You just fired me. Here’s some suing you for the background you haven’t paid. You know, the other thing comes down a proper work environment from a safety point of view. We’ve seen instances of legal actions where employers were sued by their employees or their families of employees as a result of an accident occurring in or around the office. Kids sticks its finger on the back of a photocopier that’s mounted in the kitchen, etc.. We’ve seen proper work environment issues, and again, these are things that you should burden the team members with.
Frank Cottle [00:42:53] You should not burden them with that. You should be constructive to their lifestyle, but not destructive to it. So that’s part of building just building a good company overall. And if your business model doesn’t allow you enough profit to do things properly, well, you’re not prepared to scale or you need to go to work for somebody else that has enough profit their product. Right. So I think that that’s very.
Ryan Rogard [00:43:24] Yeah well, I think, you know, it’s interesting. I’m seeing, you know, as we have we’ve kind of run around in this conversation. You know, we keep coming back to these people problems. Right. It’s really about how you treat people. The relationships are developing all those sorts of things and factoring in people from the beginning versus looking at it from the other direction where I’m a company and I’m just trying to save money or I’m a company and, you know, the proper motivation seems to go a long way.
Frank Cottle [00:43:49] Well you know, the old saying that a true leader every once a while needs to look back over their shoulder and make sure everybody is still behind them. That’s very, very important. Not being so conceptual or so visionary, so excited about your growth that you don’t make sure that the entire team is growing along with you. But that’s really, really critical.
Ryan Rogard [00:44:13] Yeah, well, and I think it’s also sort of in parallel with that as you’re not a cool guy. You know, the rising tide raises all ships and. Right. And I think it’s a matter of, you know, making sure that you’re all lifting together. And again, I think comes back to proper motivation.
Frank Cottle [00:44:27] Well no, it is. And also, you’re talking about strategies and tactics and everything. I am a medical guy and graceful about a lot of the also different parts of the world. And, you know, once you leave the dock. You change your course.
Frank Cottle [00:44:45] You know, tides shift, wind shifts, whether it comes in, somebody, a competitor has a different angle of attack on the wind because of a different level of efficiency than you have. And you have to figure out how to do it. So the moment you start a company, you have to change course. And I know that we raced through the years. We found that whoever steers the least with the rudder goes the fastest. OK, so you steer with your sails. You don’t screw with your rudder if you can’t get the rudder as a brake. It puts pressure against the water to give you the course of just that slows you down. But if you can keep the rudder straight and just move your sails relative to the wind is doing. You can still come up, you can still come down. And you can’t do it as quickly, that means you have to have a little better strategy. You have to be thinking a little further ahead in the same business. If you just get a couple with. Stay ahead of yourself in your strategy and stay there all the time, always be thinking, what do I do next year? What do I do today? What do I do 10 years from now? So that you can make those micro adjustments. You will go faster. That’s very important. I think, in business.
Ryan Rogard [00:46:00] Yeah. Frank, you know, I think that is great advice and I don’t know where we’re going to do any better. So before we get out of here, let’s let people know where they can learn more about your products and services also. I mean, you do a lot of other things, like sort of advocacy for remote work and coworking space and through some of your other platforms, feel free to mention anything.
Frank Cottle [00:46:17] Well, I’ll also give you the trinity of the business for the day, if you will, for us. The first would be Alliance Virtual Offices. That’s one of our flagships. And that’s easy to say. Ten countries, ten, ten minutes, ten offices. We can open offices for people anywhere in the world. Large companies, small companies. But our largest single client today, we handle over 11000 accounts. So, you know, our smallest one obviously had one account for her. So alliancevirtualoffices.com. That’s where to reach that that company. And I listed there as well.
Frank Cottle [00:47:04] The next thing I’ll mention is if you just want to know about our industry. If you want to understand what’s going on, the flexible workspace sector, we publish the site as a service to the industry. It’s one of those intentional, unintentional non profits called allwork.space, allwork.space, all work space that publication is by far over one hundred thousand articles read every month a couple million people connected to social media reach, so that is the big resource. That’s a research library there. It’s a daily digest of news articles from all over the world. Here’s our own original content and there. That’s the big sources of that speech subscribe to that. Stay current on flexible workspace. It’s free, so let me say, it’s a service we provide to the industry on that rising tide lifts all ships. And then lastly, we’re very grateful and proud to have established the Good Work Foundation. So all good work, speech foundation. And that can be reached at allgoodwork.org that foundation takes underutilized space throughout the flexible workspace industry and aggregates that space in much the same way we do with alliance virtual but instead of selling it, we use that space to provide support for local non-profits and charities that are in the communities where the centers are located. And we have the exact number of, say, under 50 or so facilities across the U.S. providing space right now, growing constantly. That is something if one is interested in that or one supports a nonprofitable space. Reach out to allgoodwork.org and that’s another activity of art.
Ryan Rogard [00:49:05] Yeah, that’s amazing. Well, and I think, you know, one of the things that I most appreciate, you know, about you, Frank, is not just the time spent in this particular sphere of work, but the advocacy and the hard work that you’ve put in to sort of, you know, just giving back to the community and always being involved in sort of this whole industry. And I think I think the work you’re doing is awesome. And I’m grateful to you.
Frank Cottle [00:49:31] Well, really glad to be here. Happy to help with anything they ever can.
Ryan Rogard [00:49:34] That’s awesome. Thank you so much. Once again, that’s Frank Cottle. It’s you can catch all his links. Everything are in the notes here on this episode, and you can check him out over the Alliancevirtualoffices.com, Frank. Well, thank you so much. Anger on this. I appreciate your time.
Frank Cottle [00:49:51] Take care buddy, bye bye.