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With three decades at Regus under his belt, Michael Berretta looks back at a career spent in the world of flexible workspace
The world of commerce has evolved massively in the last thirty years. And while the concept of “flexible workspaces” is understood by pretty much everyone in the business world today, there was a time when potential clients didn’t have a clue what it all meant.
That was the experience of a young Michael Berretta – now Vice President of Network Development for Regus, a serviced-office provider and the global leader in the category. “When I started in the ‘executive suites’ business in 1989, I remember making presentations to groups of real-estate brokers and trying to explain that I was not selling office furniture, and it wasn’t a timeshare,” he says.
The 80s was a decade defined by excess when people wore their wealth for all to see. It was a time when being bold and maybe even a little cocky was seen as an intrinsic part of being successful. “Customers did not want to give the impression they were in shared space,” says Berretta. “It was all about image and appearing bigger than they were.”
Decades later, thanks to the need for flexspace and the desire to work from anywhere, things have come full circle for businesses of all sizes, from sole traders to large corporations. Adopting a more agile business model, working smart and keeping expenses to a minimum are now guiding principles for companies.
“The industry has absolutely morphed into being widespread as a household name, and is now considered an asset to the building owner and an amenity versus being competitive,” he says. “Our customers actually publicize their agreements with us and it is seen as a necessary part of a corporation’s real-estate strategy in order to be nimble and responsive to swift market changes or customer demand.”
This 180-degree turnaround in culture is something Berretta says he never expected to see. “I certainly did not see it coming,” he says with a smile. “I wish I had – I would probably be investing in vineyards today if so!”
Having been with Regus from the early days, he still vividly remembers how a chance encounter with the company’s founder Mark Dixon would change the course of his career.
“Back then, I was cold-calling companies from Atlanta to build a corporate-accounts database in its infancy. My boss called me in one day and asked if I could go pick up ‘a British guy’ from the airport that he was negotiating a deal with,” he says.
A great business relationship flourished, with Berretta saying that – to this day – he’s still never met anyone as ‘intense’ as Dixon.
“I remember several years ago when Mark lived in the US, I went up for a chat to talk about how to set a business plan for our expansion. That chat ended up being a 15-hour day that started and ended at a fevered pitch,” he says.
It was a day of activity too: “We spent the day in a flurry of competitive activities and serious debate, all while traversing all along the Long Island Sound by boat, by car and by foot,” he recalls. “At the end of it, we had sketched out a business plan and I was completely exhausted and had lost most of the contests we had that day.”
It was this competitive spirit that has resulted in the company’s success, Berretta says. “Now, 15 years later, we have 26 million square feet under lease in the USA. That is how the Mark Dixon school of business works. It’s a reflection of the energy and excitement that Mark inspires in people to be the absolute best at what we do.”
Today, Berretta is relishing the strides made by the flexible-workspace market. Charged with developing IWG’s operations across North America, he says the last few years have seen some hugely exciting strides. “We have introduced new brands in the US and Canada with SPACES, No18 and Signature. In my 30-year career, it has never been as dynamic and exciting as it is now.”