Rockin' Regus offers recession-hit start-ups a leg-up

Profits at serviced office provider Regus are up 25%, and it's giving away free space, too.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

What’s more Regus’s founder Mark Dixon has also pledged to give free office space to any entrepreneurs trying to get a fledgling business off the ground in the teeth of recession.  Apparently the scheme, which has been running for a month or two already, has already notched up 150 deserving takers. So if you think your start-up would qualify, why not get in touch with Regus?

Sales also rose by the same amount to £1.1bn, so the firm seems to be one of the few businesses which is managing to grow without cutting its margins. Not bad given the state of the economy at present.

It’s success is apparently all down to corporate cost control. Not only are serviced offices more financially flexible – they can be rented by the day – but they can also be used on an ad hoc basis, allowing firms to dispense with their less-used corporate outposts altogether.

The firm also claims to be increasingly popular with mobile workers, and even with those who habitually work from home but need a city-centre office from time to time. Admirably practical we must admit, if a little sad. We can’t help picturing an army of Gareth Cheeseman (see this week's YouTube round-up) style road-warriors all swinging their Ford Probes off the ring road and dropping in, in a rather desperate attempt to find someone – anyone – to talk to. I’m a Tiger!

Dixon himself is an interesting character who knows plenty about the ups and downs of business, so his offer to help out start-ups is very much in character. He made his first fortune baking burger buns, and when Regus floated in 2000 it was valued at £1.1bn. But a mere six months later it was down to only £280m. And his US subsidiary filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2003.

But now the firm operates 171,277 workstations (we think this means desks) globally – 30,899 of them in the UK – and has also put its dividend up by 80% to 1.8p. Which just goes to show that bad times can be survived. As Winston Churchill said ‘If you’re going through hell – keep going.’

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