Though it boasts numerous locations across 14 countries, premium flexible workspace company The Executive Centre (TEC) is more focused on maintaining a high service standard than mass expansion. It’s not trying to be like other businesses in this realm that offer bright, funky workspaces and hip amenities. Instead, it provides a sophisticated experience to its professional clients.
“We are clear in our direction,” says TEC South-East Asia’s Managing Director Yvonne Lim. “We don’t do three-star service. Everything is five-star, from our office space to our customer service. We are one of the top three largest providers in Asia–Pacific with each office in the city’s CBD. We carefully plan each expansion, and we’ve achieved a growth rate of 20% per annum.”
The majority of TEC’s members work in professional services like finance, law firms or technology. “Different regions have unique prevalent industries, but we aren’t targeting the startup,” Yvonne explains.
“Most of our clients are from multinational companies, but there is a huge demand from the technology industry in South-East Asia.”
In October 2008, the year of the global financial crisis, Yvonne had just started working at the company. Many businesses scaled down during this time and were looking for ways to save on occupancy costs.
“I realised that flexible working spaces were becoming increasingly popular as an option during this time since so many companies were downsizing and looking for flexible options,” she recalls.
“We weren’t at the success level we wanted to be, but there was still a demand. This taught me that there are many strategic possibilities in this industry; it’s important how you differentiate yourself from the others, and how you provide the service standard that the client wants.”
“It’s important how you differentiate yourself from the others.”
Five years into Yvonne’s employment at TEC and after several years looking after the Singapore office, she was offered a change in direction to expand her leadership to the Australian team. Then, in January 2018, she stepped up to the Managing Director role, taking over the entire South-East Asia portfolio.
Yvonne admits that the requirements of clients are varied, and they have evolved. When she entered the flexible workspace industry 11 years ago, she became aware that some businesses liked their privacy and wanted to be in a dedicated area.
As office spaces continue to evolve today, people like the option to work in a private office with the ability to spend time in common areas and have the opportunity to network.
TEC is the premium flexible workspace provider with a global community of like-minded professionals. It has created an environment that continues to evolve alongside its members and anticipates new ways to facilitate their growth and empower their success.
“As our global network continues to expand, we are always asking, ‘What more can we offer; what else can we do?’ Our member-centric approach foregrounds, above all else, our community. We want to foster connections between our growing membership, giving them opportunities to connect, share information and benefit from a robust event series across all of our locations.”
“Many of our clients like our large break area where they can approach each other and enjoy the coffee our barista has made for them,” Yvonne explains. “But our private offices are good for those who still want that option.”
In an interview with LadyBoss Asia, Yvonne notes that the global movement toward shared working spaces is something the company is adapting in its centres. “The rise in demand for shared space, driven in part by the rise of millennials into key management positions, means that we have to remain on board with changing dynamics,” she explains.
“This keeps us fresh and current and ensures that we’re adapting and matching the office space demands of our client bases. It will be really interesting to see how this trend continues to develop and mature over the coming years.”
TEC tends to keep a similar style throughout different regions while incorporating unique elements to the space that reflect the city it’s in. “For example, Singapore is known to be a green city, so our designer has added many green features throughout the office,” Yvonne explains.
“In Vietnam, we put in a sculpture with local paintings that show the flavour of Ho Chi Minh. So while each office has unique features, they do have the same Executive Centre feel.”
The company’s investment in its offices runs much deeper than its looks, including the latest generation of CISCO phones, ergonomic Herman Miller furniture for its members, and professionally trained client service teams that go the extra mile.
“We measure our client satisfaction … and consistently we achieve outstanding survey responses,” Yvonne says in her interview with LadyBoss Asia.
“The standard global benchmark for measuring customer satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score and TEC’s rating has been above 60 every time we’ve measured it. That puts us on par with some of the very best service brands globally and far exceeds that of any competitor in our industry. Couple that with the fact that our clients, on average, will stay with TEC for 36 months, and you can see we hold a significant competitive advantage over other providers.”
TEC states that its approach to building and managing teams “has always been one that seeks to nurture and uplift talent from within”. While 29% of senior management roles are held by women globally, each of TEC’s key regions has female Managing Directors.
At an International Women’s Day conference for the company in 2019, Yvonne discussed what it takes to be a successful businesswoman. “I have never stopped learning,” she said.
“I continue to be given invaluable opportunities and however simple or challenging they are, each experience teaches me something new. Our CEO gave the team and myself the care we needed to develop us in our roles, and I am deeply appreciative of my role with this company.”
What’s your best habit?
I enjoy working out. My usual routine on weekdays starts at 5.30am with a run, followed by reading the news before heading into the office. If my schedule permits, I will do high-intensity interval training two to three times a week in the evening after work.
What’s one thing you would like to change about your profession?
Communication. Be it technology, public speaking, in a meeting, during a conversation or written messages. Clear and sincere communication builds healthy relationships between teammates and our TEC members.
Who inspires you and why?
My mum. Despite her humble background and the fact that she was a single mum, she never complained about how tough life was. Instead, she taught me to be strong, independent and work hard to compensate for what I am lacking.
What’s your favourite quote?
“Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.” (Teacher and author David McCullough Jr).
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Be responsible for each of your actions.
What’s your most productive space?
My travelling time to and from work. This is my only time alone, where I can plan what I need to do for the day and reflect on what I have not done for the day.
How do you measure success?
To balance work and family and not neglect one over the other.
She also noted that, as a leader, managing individual expectations and talent retention were her greatest challenges. “I need to be constantly engaging with the various teams from across the regions I manage,” she says.
“Showing appreciation, acknowledging their work and trusting them with new projects has been, for me, the most effective way to motivate them.”
When Yvonne first joined the company, there were not a lot of members. Today, there are more than 27,000 members across the group in 14 different countries. “We are entering new markets,” Yvonne says.
“So I get to experience different cultures and how different bureaucracies run. It’s especially exciting in the Philippines and Vietnam, where there’s another point of investment when the GDP keeps growing. Each country requires different standards, so it’s a continuous learning in this industry.”
To keep the momentum going, she is focused on expanding TEC by entering different emerging markets in South-East Asia. “Over the next 12 months, I’m looking to establish another five centres across the region,” she says.
“Over the next 12 months, I’m looking to establish another five centres across the region.”
“We must navigate how different bureaucracies run in different countries, and it’s particularly challenging in South-East Asia. Places like Manila and Vietnam, where the GDP is growing, are strategic places for our investment.
“We are a sustainable business and we believe in growing people and growing our portfolio. Our approach differentiates us from our competitors.”
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