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Pinching Pennies, Losing Pounds

Serviced offices get a bad rap. They are perceived as “expensive”. In terms of sticker price, this can certainly appear true, but what does sticker price actually tell us? Oftentimes, something that appears quite cheap is, in fact, cheap. That is to say, it is the dictionary definition of cheap, which means “inexpensive because of inferior quality”.

The truth is, one must consider the “opportunity cost” of an office. Opportunity cost is a powerful economic concept, and it’s particularly useful when considering the headaches associated with searching for an office in Yangon these days. A multinational company representative in Myanmar should not pinch pennies if it means losing dollars. If your time is valuable (and if you’re a foreign executive officer for a multinational corporation your time is definitely – even quantifiably – valuable) then it does not make sense to spend that valuable time scouring the streets of Yangon for a print shop or trying to evaluate which mediocre internet router is better than the next. It also doesn’t make sense to be working up in Hledan when half your meetings are downtown and you are attending events at the Traders and the Strand Hotel on a weekly basis.

So, do the maths and conservatively estimate your time per day. Even for a professional with a modest salary, wasting five to ten hours a week on common office dilemmas can easily add up to thousands of dollars per month in wasted opportunity costs for you alone and, of course, it’s likely not just you but wasted time for your colleagues and staff, as well.

This wasted time will take many forms, but all forms can be similarly headache inducing: hours searching for a reliable neighbourhood copy shop, calling your landlord to fix a toilet or door or your leaky ceiling, extra time spent in traffic for the “cheaper” uptown location, leaving to go to a hotel when your electricity fails, and any number of other common inconveniences. When you decide to run your office yourself… well, you have to spend a lot of your time concerning yourself with the mundane mélange of additional office stress. (Compounded severely in Yangon by issues related to traffic, electricity and communications).

At a business and serviced office centre, your office is yours to experience, not to manage. Indeed, just as most things in life these days rely on the logic of specialisation, shouldn’t office management be allocated to professional office managers? This can be particularly useful in an environment like Yangon.

I confess. I spent my first 3 months in Myanmar blindly searching for a decent place to make colour photocopies. My embarrassment was only outdone by my frustration. Place after place presented issue after issue. Language, of course, was the biggest problem. After that was quality, followed by problems with consistency. When I finally found a copy shop that I liked, electricity was an issue. I needed 250 colour photocopies for an important event the following day, but the power was out at my preferred copy shop and I had to seek out yet another place.

Business centres are also designed to maximise the value of shared spaces. In a business centre, a client has access to their own office, as well as access to shared spaces, such as a lounge area, kitchen and pantry area, a coffee machine, a reception and conference and meeting rooms. When several businesses share facility space and service costs, they are able to engage in new types of business that would not be possible if they were operating out of different offices. For instance, some business centres offer messenger services. This is something that can be a big time saver, but it is also an activity that would often be uneconomic for a business to engage by itself on a fulltime basis.

In Yangon, the serviced office market has seen a few new entrants over the last year. Responding to complaints about the lack of short term leases for Grade A office space, a few companies piled into this market. Everyone seems to know Sakura – a prominent location and one of Myanmar’s tallest buildings. UBC and Centrepoint are not quite serviced offices, but they offer Grade A accommodations with some services provided.

Hintha Business Centres in the central business district of downtown is an example a fully serviced, professional office facility with options ranging from individual “hot desk” space to a private office suitable for a staff of a dozen. Hintha’s primary approach is to offer comprehensive professional services and short term leasing options. This ability to “plug & play” allows clients the flexibility to start working immediately.