In order for a startup to expand, it needs to raise funds and secure the right people, but more importantly, it needs to broaden its customer base. Start-ups often attempt to establish satellite offices in regional cities in order to understand local markets.
Servcorp speaks to Mr. Taguchi, the Fukuoka Branch Manager of freee, about how the company uses Servcorp in Fukuoka to house their local branch.
Tell us about freee. What kind of business is it?
We’re headquartered in Shinagawa, Tokyo, and develop cloud accounting software that streamlines back office accounting. This software works in conjunction with online bank and credit card accounts, making it easy to create financial statements and declare tax returns. It is used by individual proprietors, start-ups, and small and medium-sized enterprises, and it holds the No. 1 share in cloud accounting software in Japan. In addition, we are developing “Company Founder - freee” and “Starting a Business - freee”, services that support the startup and establishment of a company. To grow regionally, we set up a Kyushu branch in Fukuoka where the startup ecosystem has been prosperous since around 2016.
What made you decide to open a branch in Kyushu, and in particular in the area of Tenjin in Fukuoka?
It was because the potential for growth was so high. Fukuoka City launched the ‘Startup City Initiation’ in 2012 and was declared a ‘National Strategy Zone’ in 2014, attracting entrepreneurship from around the country ever since. There are many events to support startups in the city and with all this momentum, we thought it was the perfect environment for the services freee provides. Among other reasons, we chose Servcorp’s Tenjin location to house our Kyushu regional office, because the area is full of new accounting firms and startup companies which makes it a prime location for our company.
Please tell us more about what it is you personally do at the Kyushu branch?
I’m in charge of this region of our company, I train our members here and collaborate with other teams, however, my main responsibility is to build and manage relationships with accounting firms across Fukuoka, Kyushu, and eventually China. In addition, my team and I have daily meetings and negotiations with local Kyushu accounting offices in order to set up partnerships. Currently, there are three people on my team including myself, but with the addition of a new member joining in December, I will have four.
How do you use the office?
In the morning, we start work at around 8.30 am and usually enjoy Servcorp’s drink service of coffee, tea, etc. while working from our desk. Since we travel to 2 or 3 locations a day on business, it’s not uncommon for all of the members to be out of the office at the same time. During such times we ask the staff at Servcorp to handle all calls and reception for us. In addition, we use basic office services such as receipt of mail items, room cleaning, and enjoy the drinks.
Why did you choose a Serviced Office instead of renting your own space?
Our company is a start-up that opened in 2012, and we are still reviewing our business plan every three months. As a startup that is constantly changing, signing a 1 or 2 year contract could lead to difficulties in future. However, signing with a serviced office that is flexible and can change as our company changes is perfect for a startup like us.
What are the advantages of using Servcorp's Serviced Offices?
There are two major advantages. Firstly, it takes little time and effort to get an office. When renting a normal office it takes a lot of time and money to find the right location and get everything set up. This is especially difficult since most startups start as just 1 or 2 people. With Servcorp, all of the utilities and setup are managed by Servcorp, so we didn’t need to get involved with that. Also, setting up the internet was very easy. We could start working the same day we moved in.
In addition, you get support with all the time-consuming day-to-day office related work. Small tasks such as answering the phone, greeting visitors, cleaning, taking out the garbage, receiving packages, etc. - normally someone has to handle that and it slows down progress, however, in the Kyushu Branch, we do not have to allocate freee personnel to do such work. We simply ask Servcorp staff to order office supplies, arrange cleaning, telephone correspondence, and to take calls when we are out of the office
What kind of businesses do you think a Servcorp Serviced Office would suit?
Of course any startup would benefit from a Servcorp serviced office, but in particular internet-related businesses. Being able to start working from a secure internet line the same day I moved in made such a big difference. It’s a great value and provides a lot of advantages for fast-paced companies which want to concentrate on their core business. With all that considered, I can confidently say we made the right choice with Servcorp.
Are you planning to continue using Servcorp in the long term?
Yes. Actually we started to outgrow our office recently so we upgraded to a larger Servcorp office. We are planning to continue increasing the number of staff, so being able to change our plan and office size as we grow makes a huge difference. If we were in a normal yearly contract rental office, it would not have been so easy. Servcorp is also flexible when it comes to changing the services we use, supporting and changing with us as our business grows, and of course being able to move offices in a day and continue working immediately is a big plus.
What are your objectives for this branch going forward?
I would really like to grow the Fukuoka branch. We are currently bringing in some members from Tokyo, but I am hoping to start hiring more locals. Also recently we partnered with the Bank of Okinawa, so I want to start growing our business in Okinawa as well.
Servcorp <> freee DEAL
Since freee and Servcorp are both businesses which support startups, we have created a collaborative relationship. Starting from September 2017 freee and Servcorp are working together to provide special offers for freee products to members of Servcorp’s Community. We hope to continue this relationship with Servcorp that not only benefits freee and Servcorp, but also benefits other Servcorp clients by providing special deals they can’t get anywhere else. You can get access to the Servcorp Community on a pay-as-you go basis for 5000 yen per month. Click here for more information.