Executive business suites are popular
09/27/2007

Executive business suites are popular with business owners offering them all the amenities they need without any of the hassles
After his stint as a sales manager for WBAL Radio and Comcast, Severna Park resident John Kaulius decided to quit last year and start his own advertising company.
Working from home was going well until school let out and his sixth-grade daughter Maggie and sons Jeff and Luke returned for the summer, he said.

"They are great kids, I love them to death, but when I'm trying to run a business and they're off for the summer - not a good combination," he said.

So Mr. Kaulius signed a three-month lease in June with the Millersville Office Center, which provided his firm, Wagner Kaulius Communications, with a furnished "executive office suite," complete with high-speed Internet, access to a conference room, mail pickup and maintenance services.

And Mr. Kaulius isn't a one-man operation there. His company is provided a full-time receptionist who tracks faxes and makes color copies when he runs out to an appointment.

Companies offering "executive office suites" say they've seen a growing demand from business owners who want to take the headache out of issues often associated with leasing office space: Small startups don't have to worry about capital investments for furnishings and aren't locked into a long-term leases.

"The idea with an office suite is they're a turnkey business," said Denis Brennan, owner of Bayside Office Support Services, a 21-executive-office complex at 1419 Forest Drive. "When you come in, the desk is there. Really, all you need to do is sit down with a laptop and start working."

Demand for these offices is so high that the 26-suite Millersville Office Center in the Interstate 97 Business Park is full, said Bill Harris, owner of Word Movers, the company that runs the office center.

"We make it nice and easy," Mr. Harris said. "Part of what we're doing is giving them a fixed cost so they can budget more easily."

Mr. Harris said the bulk of his clients are generally bigger companies that need local space. Others have "outgrown the house" but aren't quite ready to move into their own office, he said.

His company also offers tenants a number of services including typing and data entry for about $45 a hour, although price varies depending on the job, he said. Tenants also receive 100 free copies a month.

Executive office suites have been around for more than 30 years, but the concept has grown so popular that the suites operate in every major city, said Bill Grodnik, founder of Davinci, a Salt Lake City operator of executive office suites.

"It's more and more common," Mr. Grodnik said. "Working at home is great for a lot of people, but for some people it just doesn't work … I think the word has gotten out. When (business owners) think about what it costs to buy a phone system and a copier, and all the other (furnishings), it's very expensive."

At Bayside, demand has been strong with a mix of professional services firms, attorneys and financial planners, said Mr. Brennan. Sixty percent of his clients stay for five or more years, while 40 percent stay anywhere from three months to a couple of years, he said.

The standard six-month lease ranges from $600 and $1,300 a month, depending on the size of offices and configuration, he said. Office space ranges from 100 square feet to 230 square feet, he said.

Annapolis resident John Gideon, said he operates out of a 184-square-foot office space at Bayside for Gideon Financial, an investment-planning and wealth-management firm whose broker dealer is Wachovia. Mr. Gideon said he started the firm last year to take better care of his clients.

He said the executive office suite was exactly what he was looking for.

"It gave me an office with a phone, a fax, a phone number, a receptionist," said Mr. Gideon, who pays $1,100 per month and can leave with 60 days notice. "I was able to take care of the business of getting my business started."

Mr. Kaulius, who pays $750 per month at the Millersville Office Center, said things are going so well that he's leaning toward a one-year lease to better concentrate on his business, which manages clients' media budgets, increases company exposure through sponsorships for sports teams, and negotiates tome slots for broadcast advertisements.

"You're in a regular office, you just happen to share the help," he said.