New ways to work

Features Posted 08/05/19
Property specialist Peter Boam spotted a niche in the business rental market and now supplies 700 companies with space to grow at their own rate.

The man intent on overturning centuries of tradition in the business property rental sector passed the 20th anniversary of his innovative company quietly, focused on improving the service he provides for users of business space.

Chartered surveyor Peter Boam first spotted an opportunity in the rental market in 1987. Why not supply business operators with the basic premises they require, offer to maintain the property, provide insurance, security, waste management, telecommunications and cleaning, in return for a fixed price? He began a trial scheme and let it run for a few years, to assess how it had gone and think how to take it further.

The original scheme was the prototype for Capital Space, a business Peter has grown since he opened the first tailormade unit at Colchester in January, 1999. Twenty years on, he has developed and now oversees nine centres across Kent, Essex, Surrey and Buckinghamshire, providing accommodation for about 700 companies. The largest business centre at Churchill Square, Kings Hill, near Maidstone provides more than 190 offices. It includes a £3.6 million architect-designed building completed last year to meet the needs of companies of 10+ employees.

Peter delves into history to explain the principle behind his business model: “For centuries, there was a feudal tradition in land or property rental, where owners collected rent and occupiers basically were expected to look after everything else, often with increasing costs. Historically, this arrangement had a duration of 10, 20, 99 or 999 years and such leases were prevalent until as recently as the end of the last century, with rent payable on quarter days – Lady Day, Midsummer, Michaelmas and Christmas.

“The paperwork would take the form of a lengthy legal document prepared by solicitors, containing many onerous covenants that often enabled the landlord to take financial advantage when circumstances changed for the tenant – as they frequently did.”

Peter is clear in his dislike of the old ways, referring to a lease for a fixed term of years as “nothing more than a straitjacket” so far as the occupier is concerned.

Capital Space breaks that tradition, doing away with the restrictions of a traditional commercial lease. Peter explains that the system works like a hotel, with the property owners undertaking all aspects of management, in return for a flat-rate fee.

“When you take a hotel room, you don’t expect to pay for overnight accommodation and then be charged for additions, like a bed,” he explains. “Capital Space works on that principle. We supply customers with a work space, containing the basics to run a business. They are free to customise it, provided it is returned in its original condition once they leave.”

The monthly licence fee, is consistent and covers all normal costs, says Peter. The system suits new businesses, who can know their outgoings from the start and not get caught by unexpected bills. It’s also flexible, with businesses able to scale up and down with only a month’s notice, meaning they’re not stuck with overheads they can’t afford, or trapped in a unit that is stifling their growth.

Apart from the original centre in Colchester, Capital Space has developed business centres in Sittingbourne, Kings Hill, Croydon, Chelmsford, Southend, Harlow and Milton Keynes. It also manages a centre in Loughton, Essex.

Peter has a team of about 50 and describes his management style as “very consensual”.

“I hold meetings with all centre managers every six weeks, so that we can talk about issues which have arisen,” he says. “Above all, I encourage my team to talk to their customers, to ensure everyone is happy.”

Pictured: Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat (left) who unveiled Capital Space’s Kings Hill HQ in May, 2018. With him are Peter Boam (centre) and the company accountant Terry Baldwin

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