The day Giles Fuchs failed his A-level results, his family gathered around the dining table for dinner as normal.
His father didn’t say a word during the meal, waiting until the plates had been cleared to turn to his son and say: “Giles, I hope you’re good with your hands.”
Hoping to prove his dad wrong despite the dismal results, the next day Mr Fuchs knocked on the door of the biggest estate agent chain in Northamptonshire to ask for a job.
“I’ll be the best negotiator you’ve ever had,” the teenager told the manager. “Can you start on Monday,” was his response.
Today a multi-millionaire 52-year-old, and co-founder and boss of UK serviced office business Office Space In Town (OSIT), Mr Fuchs says that the three years he spent working for that estate agency in the East Midlands gave him an invaluable grounding.
“It taught me how to interact with people – and how to sell,” he says.
Ambitious to be his own boss, at the age of 21 Mr Fuchs opened his own firm of estate agents with a friend in 1987.
The business was a success, and numerous other profitable ventures followed, including a disaster recovery company, until in 2010 he decided to join forces with his sister Niki and launch OSIT.
Just seven years later OSIT enjoys annual revenues of more than £20m.
Now valued at £200m, it has six buildings in London, and a further four in other parts of the UK.
Serviced offices provide everything an entrepreneur or company needs to go into business. In addition to office space, they have internet access, desks, chairs, meeting rooms and even reception staff they can rely on.
The decision of Mr Fuchs and his sister to start OSIT was very much them following in the family tradition, as back in 1979 their mother had set up the first such businesses in the UK.
Niki had taken over the running of her mother’s business, City Executive Centres, and Mr Fuchs joined her in the early 2000s, before the business was ultimately sold in 2005.
OSIT’s first office opened in January 2011 in the Euston Tower in central London, using leased space.
However, a year later OSIT was able to start buying its own buildings, after joining forces with a property fund.
Mr Fuchs says this development was pivotal. “That turned us from being a serviced office manager, into a property company – and a successful one.”
As the owner of its own buildings, OSIT has more freedom to design and fit them out to its own specifications.
To stand out from the crowd, its interiors are all designed to a different, and some might say – outlandish – theme, from board game Monopoly, to Alice in Wonderful and the interior of a luxury yacht.
Mr Fuchs says this gives each building a unique “character and personality”.
Owning its buildings, rather than leasing them, has also made it easier for OSIT to add extra facilities, such as hair salons, gyms, cafes, bars, and hotel rooms.
It also means that OSIT can lower its fees in the event of an economic downturn, as well as reap the gains as the value of commercial property rises.
That’s not to say that Mr Fuchs is expecting to cut charges anytime soon. A firm advocate of Brexit, he believes the pain of leaving the European Union will prove to be “a storm in a tea cup … the truth is, Britain is doing really well”.
He adds that while the fall in the value of the pound has helped exporters, it has also made investing in the UK more attractive to foreign entities.
“There is a wall of money arriving in London at the moment,” he says.
Last year a Chinese real estate asset manager called Kailong took a stake in OSIT for an undisclosed sum, and Mr Fuchs argues that the serviced office sector will continue to grow more appealing to investors.
Currently the serviced office sector accounts for 7% of the UK office market.
This is worth £16bn, according to a report last year by research group Capital Economics, which predicts that the UK industry will rise to just over £60bn by 2025.
Andrew Shepherd-Barron, a serviced office sector analyst at Peel Hunt, agrees that the sector is ripe for further expansion.
He says that this growth is led by companies – both big and small – increasingly wanting the flexibility that serviced offices can offer, rather than being tied into long traditional office hire leases.
At OSIT while Mr Fuchs has the chief executive title, his sister is managing director.
He explains how they divide up the workload: “Niki looks into the business, running the business operationally, day-to-day.
“I look out, raising finance, finding buildings, and creating strategy.”
He adds that working with his sister is a “fabulous experience”. “I absolutely know she’s got my back covered.”
While Mr Fuchs may not have done well in his A-levels, he says that his dad is very pleased – not unsurprisingly – with what he has gone on to achieve.
“Both our parents are very proud [of both Niki and me],” he says.
“My mother started the [serviced offices] industry in the UK in 1979, in a tiny building in Northampton, and they are exceptionally pleased that we have picked up the baton and run with it.”
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