Robert R. Bukvić of rent24 tells us how the company offers flexible workspace solutions.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Robert R. Bukvić: Our lives have changed tremendously in recent weeks. We have seen our focus shift to managing new challenges and reacting to ever-changing circumstances, but we grew stronger together.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded rent24.
Robert R. Bukvić: I am a former professional athlete, passionate entrepreneur, and founder of various internet and technology companies such as rent24. While studying in the U.S., I founded my first company 1000papers.com, which I later successfully sold. Further company foundations such as GetDeal and Miet24 followed. My team and I pass on this accumulated experience and know-how from over 17 years in the technology and real estate industry to young startups and aspiring companies through the coworking provider rent24. With the successful implementation of innovative concepts, my intention is to clear the way for the working environment of tomorrow.
How does rent24 innovate?
Robert R. Bukvić: As the new normal takes shape, innovative initiatives are needed more than ever before to meet the challenges facing us. Our company’s innovation ecosystem is a network of individuals, entities, resources, and structures that join forces in a way that catalyzes new products, ideas, methods, systems, and even ways of life. The power team of diverse backgrounds and perspectives we have built since rent24’s inception in 2015 hails from upper-level management to external consultants. In the current situation, we have to react to the fact that companies are diversifying their rented office spaces. They discover now that coworking spaces can be a key factor in times of crisis due to their flexible renting conditions and adaptable infrastructure. I would even go so far in saying that coworking spaces have proven themselves internationally as incubators for new forms of work.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Robert R. Bukvić: In contrast to the current circumstances, 2019 was a year of stability and growth, which will serve us as a solid foundation for rent24’s prosperity in the future. In view of the corona pandemic, rent24 is in a corporate phase of qualitative expansion, which means that we are upgrading existing coworking spaces. In fact, we did not only enhance our health and safety standards but also adapted our highly specialized work environments, products, services, and flexible conditions to meet the emerging needs of decision-makers, employees, and self-employed. At the same time, we are experiencing a growing demand for flexible workspace solutions due to the changed attitude towards work. The corona crisis acts like an accelerator for the transformation of the world of work. The megatrend New Work is no longer a vision of the future but the present.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Robert R. Bukvić: The global rent24 family has resisted these unforeseen circumstances, and we are lucky to continue to work among long-standing and dear team members. In particular, we learned about the fundamental importance of our coworking space managers on-site during a crisis like this. Trustful and continuous communication with our community members has never been more important than during the past couple of months.
How did your customer relationship management evolve?
Robert R. Bukvić: Do you use any specific tools to be efficient? The loyalty of our tenants was overwhelming; there were hardly any contract cancellations. One of our first initiatives was to work on a coherent hygiene concept that our employees and our tenants could rely on. In addition, we changed the setup of desks in the open coworking area, and we started offering virtual tours. Moreover, we have established a “Pandemic Support” initiative for all members and non-members who operate early-stage businesses and are facing a revenue shortfall right now. These companies can get credit towards membership fees as well as legal and financial advice on topics such as short-time work allowance, liquidity loans, tax deferrals, and special government programs. Furthermore, we currently offer free office space for businesses operating in health care, life sciences, and pharma.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Robert R. Bukvić: When Covid-19 and the associated restrictions threatened our economic growth in the spring of 2020, we carefully evaluated the emergency aid of the German government. Then we got in touch with our landlords to find an agreement for the upcoming months. Finally, it became clear that coworking spaces were allowed to remain open throughout the pandemic, and while we were able to adjust our business model to the new economic conditions quickly, we could already see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Your final thoughts?
Robert R. Bukvić: rent24, like many of our community members, is a startup that was founded in Berlin just six years ago. Over the coming years, rent24 will undoubtedly play an even bigger role in the global coworking industry while we navigate through the changing economic landscape. However, many young businesses are forced to pivot due to the worldwide economic pause, but as discouraging as the recent developments are, I am confident we can grow out of this stronger together.
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