It was 2009 when Scott.Weber started. Where did the whole idea come from? What inspired you? Did you see the potential in shared offices back when it was standard to spend eight hours a day in a regular corporate office?
Looking back to 2009, when the traditional corporate office world clearly ruled with an emphasis on structure, uniformity and time card punching for work from nine to five, I already perceived shared offices as much more than just places with nice furniture and fast Internet. I saw them as the future of work, where it’s not only about physical space, but also about an environment that stimulates creativity and allows people to encounter innovative ideas. At that time, I already had ten years of experience actually in the operation of shared offices. I was there as a provider, but also as a customer, and I knew how to outsource the work environment and other services. But most of all, I saw how interesting it was as an alternative to the then-common style of work. Compared to today, however, it was mainly about impressing customers, getting into great buildings where no one smaller could go, and also about saving on investment costs.
Did you feel that thanks to your rich experience, you would be able to do it better, in your own way?
It was probably a combination of different things. The role of a corporate employee really wasn’t for me because I had my own opinion on things, I was headstrong, and yes, gradually the idea of how to do it better, following the example of world players, was already forming in my mind. In addition, my colleagues told me that if I was so smart, let me try it, so I did. (laughs)
How would you describe what serviced offices and coworking spaces actually are? In other words, what is Scott.Weber today?
If you don’t mind, I would like to start with a piece of history. It was only around 2000 that the offer of coworking services stabilized in our country. Back then it was practically only intended for start-ups or digital nomads and freelancers, with the aim of creating a community and sharing know-how. There were also fully equipped offices for rent on the side, but they did not offer anything too interesting. It was only in 2009, with the arrival of WeWork, which at the time of this interview is unfortunately struggling with serious existential problems, that the product of serviced offices and coworking as we know them began to be created in the Czech Republic. And this product became synonymous with flexibility and innovation in the work environment and a solution for companies of all sizes.
Scott.Weber Workspace can be considered a pioneer in the evolution of modern workspaces, combining first-class comfort, flexibility and an inspiring environment. Our portfolio includes spaces and services for companies of all sizes, from individual flexidesks for freelancers, through private offices, meeting rooms and event spaces, to entire floors or buildings for large corporations, all with the high standard of hospitality and service you would expect in top hotels.
However, we are more than just a space provider, we are a partner that actively contributes to the growth and development of our clients’ businesses, as well as the personal and professional growth of their employees. Today, our solution offers two strategic values in one.
Firstly, we reduce the total cost of running offices and related services, and secondly, we offer an attractive way to attract, retain and engage key talent. A big topic for many companies now is the return of employees from remote to a hybrid or full-time model, when they are trying to offer something more than just a chair and a table. Thanks to Scott.Weber, companies can provide them with an extra experience instead of a “job only” experience. It is no longer just about the professional, but also about the personal side of things, for individuals and teams alike. It’s no longer just the furnishing of one particular room you sit in that matters, but everything on your floor, building, or campus. People are looking for what they don’t usually have at home. It is a place where they spend the whole day meaningfully thanks to zones for cooperation, inspiration, relaxation or concentration.
We come to the old familiar work-life balance, and we all know how important it is. Can flexible offices help us maintain the right balance between free time and work?
Work-life balance is a concept that changes over generations. While my generation and I considered it the pinnacle of work balance to disconnect the work phone on weekends, turn off the computer after working hours and then devote ourselves to our family and hobbies, millennials are already looking for “work-life integration” where work blends with personal life throughout the day. And the youngest ones who have already grown up with a cell phone in their hands, on the contrary, choose a job depending on where they will be able to spend their day “most purposefully”. They don’t perceive the boundary between personal life and work anymore, and they can perfectly fuse both areas together. Our flexible offices and centers are designed with the idea of enabling everyone to find the right ratio that suits their individual lifestyle and work.
According to surveys, most members of Generation Z no longer see any point in going to the office to work. Do you think that this approach can also affect the product of flexible offices in the future?
These people bring a fresh breeze to the work process. Usually they have never experienced the nine-to-five work model, a rigid organizational structure and working hours, a plan looking three years ahead... They are highly productive and effective when they are interested in something, and they sincerely express themselves when they don’t see the point in something. They are much more focused on healthy productivity than on the “former” toxic one. We can see that they really know how to have fun and work at the same time, but they are very autonomous. Surveys show that they really don’t see the need to go to the office every day, which may indeed also affect the concept of the flexible ones in the future.
My current effort is to adapt the environment for this generation. Whether it succeeds, only time will tell. This generation is not looking for an office in order to handle an e-mail there, because they can do that anywhere, but on the contrary, because of the community of like-minded people and the possibilities of cooperation, inspiration, creativity and access to technology.
So it can be said that the younger generations motivate you to develop your business and push the bar higher and higher...
That’s it. Just as I founded Scott.Weber years ago because the existing office system did not suit me, people are again the engine of all changes today. Previously, everyone was used to their own room or office, from which they maybe went to the kitchen once a day for coffee, and they had no choice. However, professional society has evolved and in order for our business to remain successful, we must try to satisfy those who simply did not like this system, whether we call it different generations or something else... Of course, I do not mean that we put a living room, a beer tap and a ping pong table in the middle of the office center and claim that we are suddenly a “family”, it really does not work like that in the Czech Republic.
Scott.Weber is based on flexibility, productivity and choice. Of course, this is a prerequisite for successful work for every generation, to be productive – and in order to be productive, we need an environment that inspires us, that we like aesthetically and suits us functionally.
For example, buildings at DOCK are clearly designed to enhance people’s productivity. They are technologically well equipped, have plenty of natural light, air and temperature control, and there are a lot of greenery, terraces, relaxation corners... And when we add the parameters that we can set ourselves, i.e., the right division of zones or the right approach towards clients, we can say that everything is taken care of quite well.
Some of us have never encountered the term serviced office. What is meant by this? What do serviced offices have over “standard” ones, even if perfectly equipped?
You can think of it as a hotel: it is a service prepared entirely on a turnkey basis so that the customer can devote himself primarily to his business, and the other things that are not key to him, but are needed for the operation of the company, he can leave to the professionals. At its core, serviced offices concern three important things.
Firstly, it will enable a faster business start-up thanks to already prepared spaces and services, as well as lower initial costs, which in practice means the ability to take care of profitable business instead of dealing with designers, architects, buyers, cleaners, equipment, the Internet and the like.
Secondly, they are flexible, which is so precious nowadays when the company can hardly predict where it will be in a year or a quarter, what will happen to the economy or in politics, or how costs, inflation and everything else will develop. Flexibility allows you to reduce or increase the use, start or end in serviced offices very much right then and there. In addition, as I mentioned, the key is for individual employees and teams to be able to choose when and where they will work today, which activities will be better for them in the office and which at home, and a correctly set hybrid model facilitates these choices.
And thirdly, Scott.Weber’s serviced offices offer an important thing: a focus on human relationships and needs. Especially after that recent turbulent time, people have realized that they simply want to feel good – even at work. They want to feel cared for, taken seriously, engaged, and for someone to pay attention to them. We are currently investing a large part of the budget in the hospitality division, which deals with these intangible matters. We focus on the emotions that our premises leave in people. It’s in this and more that we see the future of working with people.
How will our other tenants also benefit from your Dock branch?
Our long-term goal is definitely to join forces with Crestyle itself and take advantage of the synergy of this building, a great place and already established services, with our own innovations, some specific offers such as the possibility of using our premises, a podcast studio or our own baristas and chefs, so to speak: to make 1 + 1 equal 3.
But when I take it from the ground up, Scott.Weber stands on three pillars: renting event spaces, whether for professional or personal meetings up to 100 people, coworking, i.e., perfectly designed and technologically equipped spaces available to anyone for just an hour or a day in 13 locations in Prague, and of course physical offices for rent. We have small, ready-to-go offices for one to ten people, as well as so-called office suites with their own meeting rooms, call boxes and kitchenette, and finally we can offer so-called private floors for the most demanding and largest clients with requirements for a specific selection of services, their own branding, special levels of security and privacy, the highest guarantee of SLA conditions for contractual services, etc. We design and implement spaces completely from architecture to unique services. It is worth mentioning that anyone can try our products for free, they just come, we will settle them in, and they can get right to work.
Of course, all this will also be available to all Dock companies. Whether it is a one-time event, or a company needs to start working on a larger project and temporarily settle an extended part of the team, or would like to be inspired by short-term renting somewhere else, change the view of established processes, increase productivity... We call it swing spaces, and from our experience, it is mainly a very popular service in larger campuses, because it allows companies the flexibility I mentioned without having to leave their “home” environment.
You are a Czech company, yet you have an English-sounding name. What does Scott.Weber actually mean?
When I founded the company, I had a vision of expanding throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and therefore an internationally understandable name was needed. “Zvada and sons” would not sound global enough... (laughs) The trend in real estate was a combination of names such as Cushman & Wakefield, Jones Lang LaSalle or Knight Frank, so I wanted the company name to reflect this convention. However, the economic crisis of 2009 thwarted our original plans, so we stayed only in the Czech Republic. The name Scott.Weber arose quite accidentally when I rode home one evening on a Scott bike, my wife was barbecuing on our Weber grill in the garden, and Scott.Weber was born... (laughs) It really was just like that.
You currently have 13 branches, all in Prague. Are you planning to expand into new markets? And if so, somewhere outside the capital?
We are definitely planning to expand. We have 40,000 m2 of space, 30% of the market and we are heading towards 50%. Besides the opening of the Dock premises, however, no further expansion is planned for 2024. Next year’s priority will be to develop our existing services and team, as we aim to be the best, not the biggest. I realize that if you want happy customers, you have to have happy employees, and my team that has come this far with me certainly deserves it.
The second priority will be the already mentioned extraordinary customer service at the level of operation excellence and service as in a hotel, where the ambition is not to meet, but to anticipate the client’s expectations. We are engaged in the implementation of many new digital solutions, the involvement of AI and greater use of client feedback.
Regarding expansion, we expect further organic and acquisition growth, it has a strong pipeline at least three years in advance. We are constantly looking for opportunities in other cities, not only in Brno or Ostrava, and in other sectors, such as coliving and rental housing. We are always waiting for the market and understanding of our concept to mature.
How are you creating the new branch here at Dock? Is it inspired by something, will it have something unique? And why DOCK precisely?
The selection, design and construction of our new office here at Dock is a challenging and complex matter that takes many factors into account. The modern building complex and location have excellent prerequisites for another successful Scott.Weber Workspace center, thanks to its strategic location near the center, which fit into the concept of work-life balance due to the presence of water and a campus with civic amenities, and the way we use this potential is up to us.
Every new location pushes our boundaries. We always work on it longer than in the previous case, we engage the best architects, we turn every square meter into concepts, into ideas, and we apply to it the feedback of clients and my team... The center in Dock is built in line with our corporate mission, it will meet our expectations about the best connection between productivity and wellbeing, i.e., mental, physical and social well-being, and will of course have the right zones and services. In the first phase, the chef will organize culinary courses or prepare catering for teams in the form of experiential breakfasts, there will be meetups, educational training and social events. In the second phase, people will be able to stretch their bodies, have a lesson with fitness or yoga instructors or play foosball or billiards, and the third will focus on mental well-being: relaxation corners, quiet rooms, a masseur, massage chairs, sleeping spaces... Speaking of this approach, it might seem that company bosses would be worried about the productivity of their team. I am convinced that the opposite is true today, and such an environment will lead to higher satisfaction and thus higher productivity.
And as for inspiration, with my head architect Ivana Ludvíková and the Chapman & Taylor studio, we chose for DOCK the concept of the four elements – fire, water, air and earth – which will permeate our entire floor. We perceive that it starts with design, but it must not end there, so at the same time, I am very much looking forward to the intangible, emotional part.
Can you tell what your favorite place in the new center in Dock will be?
It follows from the nature of my work that the most interesting part for me is focused on social bonds, networking and support for personal and professional growth. I don’t go to the office to work on a laptop, but to meet, motivate others and get inspired, so I prefer the large lounge. There, in addition to the display with the program of interesting events that we organize, photos and videos, you will also find a perfectly equipped kitchen with fresh herbs, our F&B team of baristas and chefs, with excellent coffee and tea that I can drink on the private terrace. This is where I am productive with my team or business partners, feeling satisfied, fulfilled and cared for. I am convinced that our environment will bring similar feelings to our fantastic clients.
You are involved in the development of a large company, and you certainly have many work responsibilities. Can you also turn off, not work and just relax? Whether inside or outside one of your centers.
The answer is quite simple, and not exactly satisfactory. When my phone light turns off, sometimes even the computer, then I turn off. (laughs) But seriously, relaxation for me means especially relaxing with my family and traveling, whether domestically or abroad. I believe in the importance of active rest, I play tennis, I ride a bike, and if it ever snows again in the Czech Republic, I plan to enjoy cross-country skiing. Although building a company and expanding it is a real challenge, I try to trust my team to allow me to find time to regenerate outside of work.
We already know that Scott.Weber workspaces are in many respects exceptional in terms of design, pleasing to the eye. Are beauty and aesthetics important to you in your personal life? Is form or function more important to you?
Even in my personal life, I look for a balance between beauty and functionality, just as it is important in all aspects of Scott.Weber Workspace that design and function are in balance. But to be completely specific, even if design plays a key role, I believe function should take precedence, because today’s environment in flexible offices must be above all agile and adaptable to different needs and uses.
However, as with the coexistence of hardware and software, body and soul, it is the same for me in the design of spaces and services offered in them. As someone who has been involved in selling services all his professional career, today rather in selling experiences, I know that true value is often hidden under the surface and it is not, strange as it may seem, about the design at all. It will be attractive to the client on the first few visits, but if we realize that will have spent in our lifetimes an average of 10,000 days at work, what really delights the senses of a person and the soul are the services, the other people around, meaning the community, warm human words and the interest and care for the person as such. We say for a good reason that we catch people on the amenities, but they stay for the community... So you have to experience the service so that you can say that there is something behind it that you did not perceive at first glance. I love to look at things through the eyes of a client, and the energy of my team is exactly the same. My biggest pleasure is a center full of satisfied clients and satisfied employees. I think that in the future, design will change at the expense of function and especially the content of the services.
Already today, every room must be agile and multifunctional, furniture easily reconfigurable, and I am not talking about the fact that the requirement of the next generations will be not 8, but 24 hours at work...
Thank you for the interview.