The Flexible Space Association's Executive Director, Jane Sartin, reflects on her first year in the job.
Today marks one year since I joined the Flexible Space Association, then the Business Centre Association. The change in name itself forms a big part of the story of my first year at the trade association for the flexible workspace industry, and there is much to reflect on.
I came to the organisation new to the sector, and with a diverse career history in terms of both roles and organisations, spanning the public, private and charity sectors. Running a trade association is not a position for which there is a defined career path though, a point worth reflecting on for anyone in the earlier stages of their career concerned that their job does not offer the prospect of continued development and promotion. There were times in my past that I regretted not having gone into a profession with a clear route map, but in fact my varied career and experience proved perfect for a role that requires me to undertake all manner of activities.
Much has happened over the past year, and there are many more things that remain on the to-do list, victims of the impossibility of doing everything at once.
In the first few months of my time with the Association, I met with many senior and long-standing figures in the industry. Time and again I was told that whilst the Business Centre Association had served the organisation well for many years, the name no longer felt representative of the range of what is now offered in the flexible space sector.
A name change began to feel increasingly critical to the success of the trade association, if it was to retain and attract members. I thought the idea might receive some resistance, but it turned out I was pushing at a very open door with our Board. Having taken over full control of the Association on 1 January following my predecessor’s retirement, by our annual conference on 14 May I was able to announce the new name and logo to delegates. I wouldn’t necessarily advocate always trying to make such a radical change so quickly, but if something significant feels to be essential then it is as well to just get on with it.
With colleagues, I undertook another major task with an office move in August, which was a timely moment in terms of the huge undertaking of going through nearly 20 years of the BCA’s life as we sorted through the many cupboards and boxes. The story of the industry unfolded through past events, reports and the many people who have driven the success of the industry.
The continued growth of the flexible space industry has of course been the primary thread that has run through my first year. I have been fortunate to visit many of our members running a variety of types of workspace, and what has particularly struck me is how each one is offering something slightly different; or even on occasions completely different to anything I have seen before. The increased competition is undoubtedly encouraging many people to seek to do something that will stand out, meeting the needs of a certain type of individual or business needing workspace. This might include the interior décor of space, the technology that’s available within it, the creation of more co-working space in a building, or ensuring private space for quieter working conditions.
So now I move into my second year with the Flexible Space Association, and there are many opportunities to be realised. In 2020 we intend to provide more opportunities for our members to come together at different events, to have greater opportunities for training and access to information. We will be improving our communications, and increasing promotion of the Code of Conduct our members sign up to so that existing and potential customers realise the benefits of using the services of members of the Flexible Space Association.
I hope that the Association can be further developed as one which all those working in the industry want to be a part of. As with any sector there is of course competition between businesses, but there are also many opportunities to come together. To present a united front when seeking changes in regulations impacting on the sector, to make connections with people which might be mutually beneficial to business, and to learn from what others have done in a way which will ultimately contribute to the ongoing success of the industry as a whole.
I have greatly appreciated the welcome and the support offered by the many people I have met over the past year. I’m now looking forward to Year Two, and the opportunities I hope that can bring to both the Flexible Space Association as an organisation, and more importantly to the industry it seeks to support, promote and represent across the UK.