Posted on Wednesday 5 June 2019 by Ulster Business

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High-end flexible office company Glandore has expanded rapidly into an all-island family business with further growth on the horizon. Ulster Business speaks to director Clare Kelly about a burgeoning firm which is leading the way in more than just business, but connectivity, co-working and wellness for its members

Eighteen years ago and in its early stages of infancy, Glandore began its life in one building at Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin – capable of hosting just 75 members.

Fast forward to the present day and it’s an all-island business with an 80-strong workforce across nine locations in Belfast, Dublin and Cork – playing host to as many as 3,000 people.

And it’s very much a family-owned and run business, led by founder Michael Kelly with daughters Clare, Fiona and Rebecca each as directors within the company.

Glandore’s high-end flexible working spaces have been up-and-running in Belfast for 13
years – with capacity for 700 members across its two locations here. However, the family’s connection to the city dates back to 1998, when Michael first bought 24-26 Arthur Street, now Arthur Place.

It’s been at the forefront of attracting some of the leading international foreign direct investment (FDI) to Belfast, working closely alongside Invest NI to bring in cyber-security and technology firms from the US and beyond – first setting up here in 2006.

Glandore offers its members a wide variety of flexible office space, co-working and hot-desking – designed so companies can grow organically. But it’s also focused on bringing its members together, connecting indigenous and international firms, while also considering wellness in the workplace, and improving its green credentials.

Clare Kelly is a director of the family business – a qualified occupational therapist and Trinity College graduate, who joined Glandore in 2008.

She’s now tasked with focusing on the key marketing and business development elements of the burgeoning company – attracting and retaining members, and ensuring there remains a strong pipeline of clients.

“We offer our members a diverse range of services,” Clare tells Ulster Business. That includes short-term hot-desking for small businesses with just a handful of employees, to providing flexible high-end office space for companies with dozens, or hundreds of workers.”

And while the flexibility allows firms to scale from small numbers to a larger workforce – taking short-term space for as little as just three months – Clare says many of the companies stay for several years, or return to Glandore further down the line in their own business journey.

“We also host a range of events, and can bring everyone together through the network of our members. That has allowed us to cater from very early start-ups, right through to the largest multi-national company, or scaling FDI business,” Clare says.

“The difference with Glandore is the flexibility. A company may wish to bring in one or two people, and then concentrate on recruitment – but they can then scale with their growth, from say 10 to 40 people.

“That flexibility and scale is key. In terms of Glandore, we are offering high quality space, but also offering a range of business services to our members.”

Across its two Belfast city centre flexible workspace buildings, Glandore’s expanding network means it can now host around 700 members – with locations at Arthur House and the nearby Arthur Place.

It has six locations in Dublin, including the Silicon Docks and Central Business District, and has boasted a long list of foreign direct investment firms, including Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox and Smartbox, and has also opened its newest office space building in Cork city.

Glandore has forged strong relationships with Invest NI – helping provide high-end working environments for rapidly expanding FDI businesses – along with Belfast City Council, the Belfast Chamber and Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Some of its high profile international current, or former members, include cyber-security experts Rapid 7, digital marketing firm Bazaarvoice and global payments giant Cayan – a company which has now expanded into its Belfast headquarters at City Quays.

The quality and bespoke nature of the offices are part of what helps Glandore stand out from the crowd. Clare says firms are able to specify exactly what they want, with a top-end design and fit-out team on hand to develop a specific working environment for each business.

“When Glandore was set up by Michael in 2001, he always focused on a high quality working environment,” Clare says. “We take premium office space in premium locations, and there is no expense spared in fit-out.

“We provide a bespoke set up – whether they need a co-working space or a virtual office, for example. We can tailor that for each business. It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.”

And while she says design and the aesthetics are important, behind the decor is the IT and security infrastructure to ensure that guests have the very best available to them.

“We have always invested heavily in our network, and have our own on-site IT. We have an IT director, manager and team – so there is support even before day one. All of these things are important to firms of all sizes.”

For Glandore, it’s not simply about putting guests on seats – there’s much more to the offering. “We have such a diverse mixture of companies in the network and community, and we are able to mix the indigenous firms with the international companies, and actively, facilitate connections between our members.”

That includes an alumni programme, which sees members past and present returning to celebrate their successful partnerships.

“We bring back customers from the last 10 years, and representatives from Invest NI and Belfast City Council. It’s about making the connections between the current scaling members and those which have come before,” Clare says.

“That support is invaluable. It can be very isolating in the those days when you are setting up, so it’s great to have someone you can bounce ideas off.”

Glandore goes further still, with the introduction of both the Glandore Wellness Programme and Glandore Green Initiative – the latter focused on creating a greener and more sustainable office space.

“We have been working with these companies for several years, and we get a bird’s-eye view,” Clare says. “One thing we have been very mindful of is the need for us to support from a wellness perspective.

“We offer a complimentary wellness programme, which started in 2017, long before it became a buzzword. It offers a way for our members to connect with each other, and help in retaining talent.”

And while almost every business has experienced some Brexit-related impact, Clare says Glandore has reached its highest occupancy rate in its history – rising to 95% in Belfast.

“It has been a very uncertain time and that has impacted businesses across Northern Ireland. There have been some delays in regards to FDI, but our hats go off to Invest NI which still attracting businesses into Northern Ireland.”

And while there’s also scope for further growth in Belfast, there’s potential for that demand to move outside Belfast, with a potential to grow into the North West.

“The hope is to continue our expansion as an all-island business, having operated on both sides of the border for 13 years, with capacity to grow the businesses in Belfast.

“With the likes of Derry, that would be something on the agenda for Invest NI as part of its remit to win investment for outside Belfast. We will take the lead from the councils and from Invest NI, and we will look to see where we can add. If there isn’t space for a business to land, people will go elsewhere.”

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