First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Vickey Li: Thank you for asking; my family has been doing great –– they are all back in China now. I am also doing pretty well. I am taking advantage of working remotely to drive across the country this month. I wanted to take this opportunity to see the U.S., have some time in nature, see what it is truly like to work remotely and explore all the challenges it brings. This year has been a tough one; it’s heartbreaking knowing that so many people have lost loved ones, and it’s a reminder to cherish every moment I have with my family, friends, and employees.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded OnePiece Work.
Vickey Li: Initially, I didn’t start OnePiece Work as a flexible office service company. After working in the Real Estate industry for 3 years in China, I decided to move back to California to start my own residential real estate management company. While I was managing many short-term lease residential properties, I was surprised that nearly 85% of my short-term rentals were freelancers, contractors, and project-based teams of corporate companies and global enterprises. We are entering a new era where the future of work is remote. I was inspired to set my sights on the office market. On average, we spend nearly ⅓ of our life working; it’s my goal to enhance that experience as much as possible with safe, innovative workspaces where you and your team are the most productive.
How does OnePiece Work innovate?
Vickey Li: A problem I frequently heard from my clients is their difficulty finding office space for their remote teams. Their options were slim: coworking spaces (often with long term leases), hotels, coffee shops, etc. The issue wasn’t finding a physical place to work, but to find a workplace that remote workers are happy to be in a while also remaining productive. I observed how people work and what they care about the most in a workspace. At OnePiece Work, we provide the best of both worlds –– a flexible office solution not only just in the form of a physical location, but providing certain in-office perks that employees care the most about – for example, freshly brewed coffee, bike racks, access to meeting rooms, and complimentary printing are some of the must-haves for our clientele. Our team has a deep understanding and a strong connection to the local market. We are highly customer-centric and always consider their needs when we open a new location. Each office has a unique design that deeply reflects the local culture. For example, when you visit our S anta Monica office, you will instantly know that you are in LA because the design inspiration came from an old school Hollywood theater; while our San Francisco office has a more industrial design with a mix of traditional styling, something that people in the city gravitate to.
Aside from the design, each location has its own unique access to local resources to help companies land in the local market more efficiently. Our Community Managers have a deep understanding of other locations’ members, so they are able to make business connections if need be. Most importantly, we have established cross-border funds to invest in our members who run early-stage startups.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Vickey Li: The pandemic definitely has caused a drastic drop in demand for our services. Commercial office space in the city has been greatly impacted while the remaining 80% of locations in the secondary market are doing fairly well. Due to the sudden change in the market, we were not able to repeat our success from the past by expanding our services to many more cities in other states. However, we are also taking advantage of the opportunities in the flexible office market, which has been accelerated as we had envisioned the remote working style becoming more favorable in the future. This year, I’ve really been able to focus on OnePiece Work, my employees, and the goals I have for my company:
1. Establishing solid brand awareness in the local market and Commercial Real Estate Industry is an on-going goal that we were really able to set as a priority this year.
2. This includes expanding our business to workspace and property management and partnering with landlords to expand OnePiece Work’s reach in the industry as a whole.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Vickey Li: As an entrepreneur, you are a problem solver, risk-taker, and leader of your employees. I would say nothing is an easy choice, yet nothing is a difficult challenge. The reality is, my daily responsibility is to make decisions that affect more than just myself. It’s all about letting go of non-essential things when it comes to making choices. What’s the priority of that moment is what matters most. The most important lessons I have learned and continue to learn is to maintain curiosity, keep diving deep, and be resilient when things go in different directions. Expect things to go wrong and adapt quickly.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and OnePiece Work in the future?
Vickey Li: This year has been really challenging but quite rewarding for us. I am very glad that all of my employees and their families are healthy, and we are grateful to have trusted clients along the way to support us.
Personally, I meditate, cycle for 45 minutes on my Peloton bike and do intermediate fasting to unwind and keep my brain sharp.
For our company’s near future projection, in the short term, we are expanding our on-demand locations in Northern California to unlock more flexible location choices for enterprise remote teams and our clients. Additionally, we are aggressively looking for vacant sublease office spaces in the market to match our client’s needs.
In the long term, we will continue looking into additional services that we can bring to our clients to best support their remote working experience. Our goal is to continue to grow our clients and partners while offering an innovative, tech-driven flexible workspace for our members to work and grow –– both professionally and personally. Work occupies more than 50% of our lifetime; it’s OnePiece Work’s mission to improve everyone’s working experience.
Another thing I’ve realized this year is that I have a passion for educating – whether that is speaking about workspace trends on webinars, discussing with other industry leaders about the Future of Work through articles, or being able to speak at in-person events once the time allows.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Vickey Li: While many other companies consider themselves a real estate solution, we consider our strength as a service provider in the real estate field.
Providing a move-in ready office solution is not our major focus. The market has many move-in ready options in every major city. Our customer-centric focus is where we like to see our service strength shine.
On the one hand, similar to existing coworking spaces, we have move-in ready office spaces that we call on-demand service, which provides professionals with a safe and inspiring workplace in a pinch. On the other hand, we match our client’s company’s remote team specific office needs with available vacant spaces in the market by providing a turn-key solution space with flexible terms.
Your final thoughts?
Vickey Li: Being a CEO takes a tremendous amount of effort, a lot of patience, and sometimes a little bit of luck to achieve what we want. But ultimately, resilience outweighs them all. As an entrepreneur, we are constantly faced with challenges and obstacles. Whether these challenges are big or small, we must be the captain of the boat and lead our company through the rough waters. We need to take these obstacles, not look at them as failures, and learn from them- continue to be honest, fearless, and trust your team around you. Passion is the driving factor in running a business; if you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, then how is anyone else going to believe in your vision?
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