“You don’t have to have an ‘office’ in the traditional sense to do well in business. That said, any business needs to have the tools available to get their business done – and they need to be the best tools, tech and otherwise, to maintain a competitive edge.”
Brian Monteith is the CEO of Intelligent Office (IO) Canada. As the master franchisee for the company, he has experience in all aspects of franchise operation as well as knowing what makes a franchisee the right match for the IO model. A graduate of Ryerson University in Business and Enterprise Development, Monteith worked in the telecom and IT industry before launching the first Intelligent Office in Canada in June 2005. He is a key driver in Intelligent Office's current expansion across Canada.
Intelligent Office Canada provides virtual office and staffing services as well as office space by the hour to businesses of all sizes. By pricing its services based on usage, Intelligent Office enables clients to present a professional profile while keeping overhead costs low. Intelligent Office Canada consistently experiences steady and major growth in a growing industry (Shared Office and Administrative Services) and is used by some of Canada’s most high profile companies. There are currently 16 offices and more under development for 2013-14.
We spoke with Brian recently about how IO works, why it works and new prospects in markets across Canada.
BeTheBoss: Tell us about the Intelligent Office concept.
Brian Monteith: The Intelligent Office business model allows business people to work from anywhere and still maintain the benefits of a traditional office. Clients like it because the services are customizable… scalable, and they can work from home or on the road. It’s environmentally friendly and flexible; people want that. And price is a big factor. We estimate that for a typical client, it’s about 10 per cent of the cost of maintaining a traditional office.
Intelligent Office does everything the traditional office does and more, without the overhead costs and capital expenses. The [Intelligent Office] receptionists answers and connects client calls. Clients choose which calls they want to answer. And the meeting spaces exceed the quality that most businesses could afford. All the support services you would get from a big company are available. No small business could afford to support that on their own, and a lot of larger businesses are choosing to use our a la carte services too, as a way to keep their expenses down.
BTB: How did you become involved with Intelligent Office?
BM:I discovered Intelligent Office when I was working in the United States. I had plans to move back to Canada and start my own business at that time and it felt like the perfect fit. It was 2005.
BTB: What are some of the advantages of being an IO Franchisee?
BM:There are several. One of the big challenges facing entrepreneurs and small to medium sized businesses is marketing. Intelligent Office takes care of the marketing for franchisees, and the brand is strong already.Also, comparatively, there is more training for franchisees and their staff: two weeks’ training on average and more if needed. Franchisees go into it knowing what they are doing. We place a lot of value on the quality of our support for franchisees, which is on-going…
Tech support for IT and operations support in general. Intelligent Office offers franchisees cloud based phone services for teleworkers on the go, also introducing new telecommunication and virtual office revenue services to increase franchisees growth quicker. Also, we have a lot of experience in choosing the right location for new franchisees. In this business, location is very important. And we’re selective in who we choose to be franchisees, because we want to protect the brand.
BTB: How would you describe the ideal franchisee?
BM:A background in the office services industry is helpful, and financial security is obviously essential for any potential franchisee. We look for successful team players who have the ability and interest in following the Intelligent Office system of doing business.
BTB: What is the Virtual Office market like today?
BM:It’s robust. It’s becoming the norm in North America as our economy and culture has shifted. More and more people are starting up their own businesses, and existing businesses need the flexibility and savings as well. The climate has really changed in the last 15 years, in part due to economic factors and also due to the influence of startups on corporate culture. You don’t have to have an “office” in the traditional sense to do well in business.
That said, any business needs to have the tools available to get their business done – and they need to be the best tools, tech and otherwise, to maintain a competitive edge. No one is getting rich by sending out pitches from the dot matrix printer in their basement…
The expectations of doing business have risen at the same time that costs have risen. Intelligent Office is the solution to that.
BTB: Can you give an example?
BM:Our meeting spaces are a good example. No matter what your business is, you need to have it together for your meetings: to get a beautiful and tech-friendly meeting space to meet with clients, potential investors and potential employees and partners. Our users come to us with stories about how our meeting spaces helped them to seal the deal and move forward, grow as a business. Impressions count. Attention to detail still matters and it always will.
BTB: What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned since 2005?
BM:One: franchisees have to have the right business experience and acumen to run a successful location. We know what to look for in franchisees based on our experience. Also, location is key in opening an Intelligent Office franchise. We get that piece of the puzzle solved before we even bring the franchisee in. So we have leveraged our networks to make sure we get the right locations, and it has been successful.
BTB: What advise do you have for someone looking to acquire a franchise?
BM:Make sure it is the right fit for you. This is something you are going to be doing from 8:30 to 5:00 every day of the work week, so you need to have passion for the services you’re offering. Also, you need the ability and desire to follow a franchise system. It is a system that has been designed and tested. It works when it is done according to plan. And you need to work well with others as a team, the whole Intelligent Office team. Being a team player is essential for operating any type of franchise.
BTB: What does Intelligent Office have to offer for franchisees?
BM:It offers a good work/life balance. It runs from 8:30 to 5pm, without much need to work evenings and weekends. Also, the training is exceptional, something we place great value on. The franchise staff are well trained to perform all duties, so that owners can focus on other aspects of the business and not worry about putting out fires all day long. And it’s a growing market. More and more people are teleworking… it is a trend that’s becoming the norm and there’s really no going back to the traditional office model. Luckily, Intelligent Office has established itself as a leader, early on, in this market.
BTB: Thanks, Brian. It was great talking to you.
BM:You too, thanks.