October 2009

Carolina Rendeiro
OBCAI President

Carolina Rendeiro – Interview

Congratulations on your election as President of OBCAI. What are OBCAI’s greatest challenges over the next year?
I think one, the economy is a big challenge for us. We still have a lot of independent centers who have one or two centers in one market. And they are asking themselves ‘are they going to stick with it or sell it?’ And that consolidation in our industry is a big challenge.

The other one to me and as a whole is ‘what is the perception of the landlords?’ When we have a downturn, you have landlords who have lost major law firms or other tenants, for example anyone who had the auto industry gave up their space. Certain markets landlords get it; especially in new buildings we serve a purpose of traffic to their building and as an incubator for their future tenants. What we as Center Owners need to realize that we at times need to make tough decisions in our businesses and close a center because it makes no economic sense to maintain it open, this should be viewed no differently by us or the landlord, then a Starbucks closing or an investment firm.

What is OBCAI’s role in that process?
I think it comes now under where the Association needs to start itself on governance and education as to who we are. We have educated industries that we want in our centers – telecommunications for example – but have not with other industries. I’m involved in my local community with the Chamber of Commerce and it’s amazing to me the impact we [OBCs] have on our local communities. Our tenants have to get a business license when they’re in our center. Those are taxes that go into the local economy and are involved with expansion. We’re important to the growth of local communities. We have to sell that to our local governments, to the public. We must get our voice out there and educate and explain the impact we have economically in any major city or secondary cities. If I go to London, I’m not going to sign a 4 year lease when I can test a market in 6 months.

It seems that in order to publicize our industry, we have to have economic impact data on our industry and in order to do that, data from the industry’s largest player, Regus/HQ with 700 plus locations would have to be an integral part of that data. How can OBCAI ensure that Regus’ data is part of the industry Association’s economic data?
It’s not for lack of trying. Regus has been a member in the past. Every new President reaches out to Regus to rejoin their locations into the Association. I feel that every industry has a trade association and everyone should participate to enable us to work the economic development arms of certain markets to allow us to get things like reductions in construction costs. Regus has been very good to our industry in the public eye because through their public branding, Regus has enabled people to know what business centers are. Now people have to understand that office business centers are more than that – not just as “Regus” They’ve put us on the market – and we should be grateful to them for that. But they’ve also hurt independent centers in local markets through consolidation. I have reached out to Mark Dixon and I hope he will rejoin the Association. There are discussions to be had and some concessions that need to be discussed but I’m a firm believer that everyone should be a part of it [OBCAI]. For industry data, Regus is a public company and we can always get their information as reported and use it, noting that the information was taken from the public record. We had a very successful Survey done to our members for the first time we had 525 centers represented both members and non members and the results are very informative and the complete survey will be available on line for sale at in November, 2009.

We also need to reach out to corporate sponsors. We all need to. How many Canon copiers do we have in our centers? How many Toshiba copiers? How many Dell Computers? These companies should be sponsoring us at our annual conference.

What is your vision for OBCAI, in a general sense?
I would like to see us all work together. When we do these surveys everyone must participate. People can’t worry that we will know their financial information and view them in a negative light. It’s important that we do not lose independents. The Association is the platform for the industry.

What three specific programs or services would you like to see implemented, expanded, or improved?
Number one, our webinar series will now be done in a foreign language this year, most likely Spanish. Number two, we’ll do our webinars in a time zone convenient for our members – we are an international association – which is what the ‘I’ stands for in our name. And we have to accommodate our international members. Third I want to get back the members we lost. I want to know why we lost them. I want to work with our associate members in Spain, London and France – these people are excellent, they have so much to offer. We need to share best practices among our associate groups it helps all members of all organizations. We need to review our Associate member membership. Some exchanges that offsets the cost. That’s a strong component that’s missing in our industry where all the associations worldwide work together on best practices. Our respective associations, can help our respective members, for example, a US operator looking to open a center in Spain, should have the first point of contact with the Spanish Association, who will be able to guide them through the detailed process of setting up the company, in essence getting their feet on the ground with little hassle as possible and of course vice versa.

What is your strategy for doing so?
The strategy is to get the Board together. I’m putting together an Advisory Board of Past Presidents – we have past presidents who are independents and Past Presidents who have great connections and maybe this is a task that they take on as to how we do this. We have a wide range of talent from our international past presidents to our presidents from every region in the United States. I think that is invaluable to us. And they are business savvy. We have to be organized and methodical. And we have to have a start and a finish. By the end of my term I want something completed in this area. If we can run a business, we can run a task force and get this accomplished. This will also help us get our members to use us reciprocally.

Tell us about your background and how you got into the industry.
I started in this industry as a bilingual secretary. Today I’d be a CSR. I started with Omni Offices. They initiated the industry in 1968 in New York. I worked my way up the ranks with them. I was in the Houston office and worked with them since 1985. I was fired from them – the only job I’ve been fired from – still a stigma with me. I was fired because of the economy and cutbacks. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Today I run my office like they did. They were great and they ran a great business. It was a family run business, they were the leaders. Today some of the managers in some of the centers are from Omni. We all say we were taught by the best. I remember one time I questioned something the owner did and I was told “when you own your own center you can do what you want.” And I thought “they think I can own my own center!” And I must say I repeat that line now. My first center was in 1986, in a very down economy in Houston, Texas, I had $50,000 given to me by one of the landlords. I filled up the center with 25 offices in six months with oil and gas people. It was Houston, that’s what we had. We have two centers that we own and two centers that we manage for independent building owners and we’re all in the same market. We’re in different areas of the city so that’s how we “compete” with each other. Anyone who knows Miami knows that clients go to what’s convenient to them. So we manage some centers that tie into our centers. In essence, I’m expanding our visibility in the market through management contracts.

What is your business or leadership philosophy?
I love to give my staff autonomy to grow and do what they want to do. I don’t want to be involved in the day-to-day. I used to love that. Now I like to promote the industry. But I still get excited when I get a walk-in and I sign them to a contract. I still get a rush when that happens. If my staff wasn’t so solid and couldn’t hold down the fort, I wouldn’t’ be able to consult in other countries. If we can’t leave our center, then we haven’t trained our staff well.

What do you enjoy most about your position with your company?
My position in my company – the buck stops with me. What woman doesn’t love that? I love to teach. When we open a new center it’s wonderful to see someone be able to manage the center – when they started as a receptionist with me or a customer service representative – that’s great. If they apply themselves, they’ll grow. I believe in growth from within. I am a product of growth from within a company (OMNI). Also important is loyalty.

What do you enjoy most about your work within the Association?
I’ve been involved with the Association since it was a network owned by Alex and Jane Booras. When I was asked if I had an interest in being President, I was thrilled because there is a younger generation in the industry. It’s so powerful when a younger person in the industry asks us if something works. That’s something that as mentors in the industry that’s worth a lot of money, that’s a lot of fun, and I love the friendships I’ve made in this industry. The year goes by fast and at our conference in San Diego you’d think we were at a love fest. Everyone’s hugging – all of a sudden we’re not competitors. All of the grief melts away. When you hear each others’ problems that all melts away. I’ve been a part of other associations and this one is the one that is so great that allows us to connect with each other. Other issues are gone. You go back with a different frame of mind. You say ‘I had a good year compared to so and so’ and how can I help them and now I know who to call if that happens to me. I spoke with Chris Brown who had had to deal with hurricanes so when I had to, he helped me with who to call for insurance issues as an example.

What do you anticipate is your biggest challenge over the coming year with OBCAI?
Membership. People are cutting back and I think it’s our obligation as a Board to give our members a return on their investment. Webinars, good education programs, good site selection for conferences. We need to pick cities that people are excited to go to. It’s our responsibility as a Board to pick cities that are conducive to business and attract people to spend time there.

How do you spend time outside of work?
Is there time outside of work? I have three granddaughters. Two of them are just like I was at that age. I love to travel and spend time with my family. I have my home in Portugal which I haven’t been to in two years. I go to theater. We have a great theatre in Coral Gobles. I’m part of an organization that brings in music from all over the world. Music is a heartbeat that brings people up. You talk about Miami - that’s great music. I love to have fun. I’ve learned the hard way that life’s too short. Being sick made me realize it’s good to take risks. My Dad said to me that we shouldn’t sleep much when we’re alive because when we pass away we’ll be sleeping for a long time. It looses the humor in translation.