Lisa Gufford was told once to never settle for less and to never sacrifice cost for quality.
She has taken both to heart as the Co-founder/Managing Member of Executive Suite Professionals, a full-service, all-inclusive executive business center located on the 14th floor Downtown’s EverBank Center.
Spacious executive suites overlooking the St. Johns River and the city’s skyline are complete with nine foot cherry wood doors, granite floors and marble. “When you walk in we want you and your client to get the ‘Wow Factor,’” said Gufford, who has more than a decade of experience in the shared office space industry. Shared office facilities like ESP offer businesses turn-key solutions that allow them to reduce overhead expenses, maintain a professional atmosphere and network with a community of professionals. It has been said that having an office at ESP is like living a live “LinkedIn”.
ESP offers all-inclusive furnished executive suites with voice/data, reception service, meeting rooms, client lounges, video conferencing, parking, utilities, janitorial, an equipped kitchen with beverage service, a full service copy mail room and an on-site fitness center. “There are office suites out there. We’re an executive suite,” Gufford said. Gufford spent about 14 years formulating her vision before she opened ESP in July 2013. “It was a dream that led me to a journey and now it’s a reality,” Gufford said. “That commitment to longevity is also evident in Gufford’s team, which includes an operations manager, Katie Dupries, who has worked with her since 2000. She empowers her team members and prepares them for additional responsibilities.
“When you walk in it’s an impressive floor,” said client Brent Shryock, Vice President of business development for Trillium Capital Resources, a commercial real estate finance company. “People do a good job on the first impression scale.” The ESP team greets their clients’ clients as if they were their own. “We truly have a passion for what we do,” Gufford said. “Nothing is too small. The more we can learn the better,” Gufford said. Gufford has used her knowledge of her clients to connect them with prospects and to one another. ESP is a community of professionals.
“She’s hooked us up to two or three clients so far that we’ve run numbers by,” Shryock said. “She seems to always look out for us, and if there’s anybody she needs to introduce us to she’ll do it.”
ESP regularly hosts after-hours networking events and workshops on topics like marketing via social media, so that clients can learn about each other as well as topics that help their businesses. Each client also gets a grand opening, which other clients are invited to attend.
“I love bringing small businesses together,” Gufford said. ““As big as it is, everyone knows everyone by first name.”
Shryock met “people who we may have some synergy with as far as business is concerned,” within his first few days as a client. “There’s evident benefit to having different businesses in an office like this,” he said.
Gufford enjoys watching the networking among clients, who include attorneys, certified public accountants, engineers and financial advisors. ESP also offers “virtual offices” which clients can use for receiving mail, meeting rooms or day offices and other professional functions. These virtual offices have even attracted international clients, like from China, Canada and Brazil.
Since ESP is adjacent the Duval County courthouse, ESP can host attorneys who need space for the day or even by the hour as well. Gufford has also struck a partnership with the Omni hotel to provide space for its guests and is working with Downtown Vision, the JAX Chamber and other downtown boosters. “We thrive on the people of Jacksonville and all the people coming into Jacksonville,” she said.
ESP has brought over 100 new businesses to downtown Jacksonville so far, and is not done adding, Gufford said. “We’re trying to help stimulate the economy Downtown and are doing our part one client at a time.”
Now that ESP has stabilized with a high occupancy rate, Gufford is deliberating expansion plans. “Now I will take a step back, think the next steps through before going forward,” she said.
Gufford is naturally cautious, and refines something until it is perfected. She thinks something through, and then thinks it through again.
She will confirm that her written plans have come to fruition before proceeding, balancing the budgets so that she does not spend a penny more than needed, for example. So, she does not yet know how she will move forward. For example, she could take another floor in her existing building, add a location in Jacksonville or expand to another market.
Regardless of how she eventually expands, she said, “It will be a carbon copy of what we have here because what we have here is working for ESP and all the new small businesses we have with us.”
Trillium Capital Resources explored several options for office space when deciding where to open in Jacksonville.
The Columbus, Ga.-based commercial real estate finance company eventually chose the shared office space at Executive Suite Professionals in Downtown’s EverBank Center.
“For us, it was two fold,” said Brent Shryock, vice president of business development for Trillium. “We liked the more traditional looking office and the all-inclusive nature of their billing.
“We’re not getting nickeled and dimed with a lot of different things. The rate is the rate.”
Shryock estimated that Trillium is saving more than 60 percent over traditional office space. “It’s a significant cost savings,” he said.
Because ESP is an all-inclusive business center, clients can save money by using its furniture and services like voice/data, a fitness center, janitorial staff and a receptionist. “It truly is one number and you know exactly what you’re going to pay every month,” said Lisa Gufford, ESP’s managing member and founder.
As it looked to start up in Jacksonville, Trillium was mindful of the extra fees that other spaces charged, such as for higher Internet speed.
“Your cost of business adds up and all of a sudden $700 a month goes to $900 a month,” Shryock said. “When calculating the cost of launching our business in Jacksonville, the need to keep overhead low is paramount to our business model.”
Shryock is Trillium’s only team member in Jacksonville now, so its 120 square feet at ESP is sufficient for the moment. But the company plans to grow, and he expects that ESP will accommodate its expansion, perhaps by knocking out walls to convert conference rooms to offices, as it has done for other clients at the executive business center.
“The space is great for location and what you get,” Shryock said, noting how Gufford and her team have helped introduce him to prospects and organize events.
“I’m not just a tenant,” he said. “She wants us to succeed, which is a smart business plan. If I succeed, we’ll be here longer.”
Gufford said she is only the landlord on the sixth of the month. Otherwise, she is a member of the service team.
“There are a lot of additional services we offer,” Gufford said. “We’re not just four walls and a desk.There’s so much more that goes into what we do.”
Shryock appreciated that he didn’t have to hire an information technology specialist or other outside help to set up his computer and office, for example.
“Once I signed the agreement, I just showed up,” Shryock said. “I had a desk and was ready to start business. It made it a lot easier.”
ESP’s clients and team members look forward to coming to the office, Gufford said.
“We see happy people on Monday morning” she said. “That’s a great thing.”
As posted on www.advantagebizmag.com