Mee Kim, President and owner of CEO SUITE Group, told Chris Hanrahan how renting a serviced office can help a company move smoothly into Jakarta and hit the ground running from day one.
Opening a new office can be a nightmare for any company, whether it’s a one-person start-up or a multinational moving into a new market. But much of the aggravation can be avoided if the company moves into a serviced office. Such an “instant” office comes with full secretarial staff support and complete IT infrastructure and meeting facilities.
“A serviced office suite provides a very convenient and cost¬ effective option for new market entrants who are unlikely to know the property market or are uncertain about their future manpower needs,” says Mee Kim. “And the greatest advantage of the serviced office option is its flexibility for companies to base their longer¬ term manpower and space requirements on the growth rate of the business.”
Mee is the attractive, dynamic and hardworking South Korean founder, President and owner of CEO SUITE Group. Her company’s mission is to provide one-stop business solutions for companies requiring operational support and technology solutions without incurring major capital investment and lease commitments. Its client list includes Exxon Mobil, Freeport Indonesia and Etihad Airways.
After marrying Indonesian businessman Joseph Siswanto, Mee founded her company in Jakarta in 1997 and has since expanded into Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Beijing. “I am so lucky with my husband,” she smiles. “He sets me free to follow my dreams.”
In Jakarta, CEO SUITE has a total of about 300 clients (70 per cent of which are foreign companies) at two locations on Sudirman : the 39th floor of Wisma GKBI, from where “on a clear day you can see the sea”, says Mee, and the 17th floor of Tower 2 at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building. Both office locations are of world class standards – immaculate and tastefully appointed with brand new designer furniture – and rents range from US$700 for a small one-person space to $4,000 per month for a space big enough for 20 people.
Services provided include personalised bi-lingual telephonists, call forwarding, copywriting and editing, executive secretarial services and translation. Equipment provided include standard audio-¬visual and presentation facilities to laser color printers, scanners, digital copiers, desktop publishing facilities.
At the Wisma GKBI center, Mee’s assistants proudly showcased to PRESTIGE a luxurious boardroom clients use for business meetings, video-conferencing and three- and five-way teleconferencing. Also available: an elegant lounge with panoramic city views, a Zen lounge and stylish cyber cafe, a fitness centre, and even a helipad.
“We set out to provide our foreign clients with an environment where culture shock is non-existent the minute they step into CEO SUITE,” says Mee. “We help them set up their business here instantly and without trouble, ensuring an uncomplicated assimilation into the city. Within minutes of walking in, they can organise an office just the way the want it. Why spend days or weeks looking for an office or for efficient staff support?”
Mee admits that serviced offices are expensive in terms of cost per square meter. “But considering that the rent includes management fees, utilities, general office maintenance, full secretarial staff support, complete business and IT infrastructure and meeting facilities, it provides a very convenient and cost-effective option for new market entrants,” she points out.
She says it is crucial for companies to be clear about their longer-term strategic goals and business plans, as excessive space commitment or shortage of space in a conventional fixed¬-term commitment can be a limiting factor for future business considerations.
“Among other office planning factors, the strategic ability to identify the right office building, test-fit potential office space, engage a specific design theme for the right corporate identity and space configuration will ensure higher chances of creating a high¬ performance workplace environment,” Mee goes on.
“We are the ideal choice for businesses that are looking for flexible lease terms, and our facilities are perfect for representative offices and operations with small staff counts. In mature markets characterised by tight office supply and rising rents, serviced offices provide a realistic option for all considerations in an office move. As a lower-risk, shorter-term commitment, the serviced office suite option enables a firm to hit the ground running from day one.”
What should a company be looking for in a serviced office? Mee says location is the most important consideration. “Identifying a serviced office in a Grade A building in a central location in the city’s central business district will ensure overall accessibility, convenience and prestige for your company,” she adds.
It is also important to assess the quality and commitment of the management and support team. “From the receptionists to the secretaries, they will be your extended support team to work with on a daily basis,” notes Mee. “Presentation, qualifications, efficiency: those will be the first impressions your company makes on clients.”
Mee has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yonsei University, one of the best universities in South Korea, and a Master of Commerce degree from the University of New South Wales in Australia. “My dad is my driving force,” says Mee.
“He wanted me to go to the best university and then marry a rich man. But I had my own ideas, and chose to pursue further education in Australia.” She worked for Servcorp, which operates a global network of serviced offices, for six years. She was based first in Thailand, then in Indonesia and Australia before breaking away to start her own company.
Mee describes herself as a hands-on manager who takes special care when choosing her staff. “None of our people is a fresh university graduate,” she says. “Each one is unique in terms of their experience in this industry. Even the receptionist has at least 10 years’ of working experience.” She observes that the serviced office business requires a huge capital investment and is an extremely competitive industry. “I must say, we have worked hard every day for the past nine years to be where we are now.”
In the end, she says, it’s the quality of her management team that counts. “They should have the survivor quality – not forgetting, of course, the tried and tested attributes of hard work, optimism and being an opportunity catcher,” she adds. “But above all, the most important factor is their high level of education, which, combined with their rich experience in dealing with multinational companies from different countries that will make them highly resilient.”
Aside from business, Mee is investing much of her company’s resources to social causes. In association with the World Education organization, CEO SUITE has launched the Learning Farm, an innovative programme specially tailored to provide education and learning opportunities for children and vulnerable youth on the streets. Implemented by the Karang Widya foundation, the programme encourages self-sustenance in an organic farm environment in Puncak. “I am very proud of this programme because it has taken 40 kids off the streets,” says Mee.
Mee plans to add two more centers to CEO SUITE next year, one in Bangkok and the other in Vietnam. “I am confident that we can manage this expansion,” she says. “It’s too much for one person to handle, but I have three good directors to assist me now.”
Concludes Mee: “I can claim two achievements in my life. One is my-eight-year-old boy, Eugene; and the other is CEO SUITE, which to me is like a child I have brought up and nurtured through thick and thin.”