Coworking spaces may have begun years ago as an experimental office-sharing concept, but they’ve evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s disrupting the way people and organizations lease and use office space.
Steve Cochrane is among the forward-thinking entrepreneurs who led the way by founding The Corporate Centre (TCC) Canada, an Ottawa-based company that offers full-service office space solutions in the nation’s capital and in Vancouver.
On Thursday, he and his son, company president Sean Cochrane, celebrated 30 years in business by throwing a party with clients and stakeholders at their headquarters, The Collaboration Centre, located inside the Performance Court office tower at 150 Elgin St.
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TCC Canada obtained almost 60,000 of the original 170,000 square feet formerly occupied by Shopify, before the e-commerce giant switched to a permanent work-from-home arrangement in early 2020. TCC Canada is currently subleasing three floors at 150 Elgin and is looking to expand its presence there by another 30,000 square feet.
Steve, who immigrated here from the UK nearly 50 years ago, reflected on how fortunate he’s been to have made Canada, and more specifically Ottawa, his home.
It was by accident, really, that he started TCC Canada. In 1991, the former construction project management consultant found himself with an entire floor at his disposal at very low rent, at 99 Bank St. He came up with the idea to turn his extra elbow room into shared office space. By 1992, TCC Canada was incorporated.
“The big thing, as I tell young entrepreneurs, is not to just follow a dream but to look at what opportunities show themselves to you,” Steve told the room. “It’s about looking for opportunities and running with them.”
Across its portfolio, TCC Canada has a quarter-million square feet of flex space, with plans to break into the Montreal and Halifax markets in 2023.
“Business is good,” Sean Cochrane told OBJ, while recognizing that they’ve faced their challenges over the years. Currently, there remains uncertainty when it comes to the future of office space, with some workers preferring to do their jobs partially or fully from home.
“The office sector has really been thrown for a loop,” said Sean. “The veterans of the industry just can’t predict the next three years, never mind 10 or 15 like they used to be able to. We’ve been really lucky in being able to fill a void for a lot of organizations that have given up their space, are transitioning to different space, or who are just sort of changing the way they work.”
Cochrane said he was “a little more hopeful” that the downtown sector would bounce back sooner. “It’s been a bit delayed,” he said of the area’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re starting to see it slowly churn.”
One thing’s for sure, flexible work is here to stay, and that bodes well for TCC Canada, which offers coworking and shared workspaces, meeting and conference rooms, virtual office services, and executive office space.
“We’ve noticed a huge influx in meeting and event space bookings,” said Sean. “It’s people trying to bring their teams back together.”
Shared spaces allow professionals from different organizations to work alongside each other in an office-like setting, reaping such benefits as collaboration opportunities, greater flexibility, a sense of belonging, reduced operating costs and an alternative to long-term leases. While TCC Canada doesn’t cater to one industry, said Sean, “The tech sector has really been our specialty over the last five to 10 years.”
Sean, who was recognized last year with a Forty Under 40 Award for young business leaders, sees their 30-year anniversary as a jumping-off point for further growth.
“I think we’ve definitely gotten to an era where the flexible office industry really is going to drive the return to the office in the next wave of what the office is, and I think we’re really well-positioned for that. What amazes me is that people don’t know that we exist, and I don’t mean us as an organization, but the industry as a whole. It has such amazing potential for so many different clients.”
Sean, who worked his way up to become president in April 2021, wasn’t originally looking to work at TCC Canada.
“I swore up and down that I would never join the family business,” said Sean, who started his own thing, doing computer repairs, after graduating from university in 2004 with a business degree.
His computer and IT skills came in handy at TCC Canada, however. “I helped a little bit more and a little bit more until, all of a sudden, I couldn’t do my own thing anymore,” said Cochrane, while adding light heartedly: “I got sucked right in and I haven’t left.”