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When you can’t work from home, Part 9

Jul 20, 20043 mins

* SuiteWorks breaks ground on telework center, maps strategy

Remember SuiteWorks – the Ontario start-up that inspired this incessant series back in December? (See editorial link below).

The company’s ambitious plan – to build telework centers outside major metro areas in Canada and the U.S.  – is right on schedule. Construction on the first center, in Barrie, Ontario, north of Toronto, is beginning this week; 25% of the center’s 120 seats have been leased; and two-thirds of the space is expected to be occupied on opening day, planned for September. 

Companies that have leased space in advance include Mailboxes, Etc.; PR firm Webber Shandwick; and technology partners Nortel and Compugen; as well as a number of small businesses in Barrie. 

“The business has taken a couple directions we didn’t expect,” says SuiteWorks President John Cameron. Initially, the company figured small businesses would comprise only one-tenth of its clients. But now it’s doubled that projection to 20%.

“Small businesses love this concept because it’s turnkey, flexible and scalable,” Cameron says. SuiteWorks also figured all its clients would be Toronto businesses, but several firms right in Barrie have signed up. And some Toronto firms plan to open a branch office in Barrie by renting space in the SuiteWorks center. 

SuiteWorks will be showcasing various technologies, including  electronic whiteboards (or “smartboards”) and a VoIP network built on Nortel’s Succession 1000 switch. Cameron has also learned a lot about the furniture business in the past few months, too. 

“You wouldn’t expect furniture to be a tech-driven business, but it is,” he says. “Everything’s changing. Companies like Steelcase and Herman Miller are putting a healthy percentage of their overall profits into research to see where the future of work and officing is going. They’re looking for complimentary technologies to fit with the furniture, like room reservation systems and smartboard technology. And they’re keenly interested in us because we take the whole thing another step by assembling all the pieces – network, applications, furniture, space and conferencing.” 

Future plans include ringing the top ten metro areas with four centers each. Toronto is first, debuting with Barrie to the north. Next, SuiteWorks will open centers in Ajax to the east, Cambridge to the west and Burlington to the south.

SuiteWorks is the only company I know that addresses the need for firms to optimize and reduce existing real estate by moving employees out of expensive downtown locations and into homes and suburban satellite offices. If you know of anything similar, please let me know.