Central, Hong Kong

One-man bands are calling the tune

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 October, 2010, 12:00am

They are known in the serviced office sector as 'one-man bands' - but pity them not. Far from the image of a soloist weighed down by a drum on the back as they strum to the corporate world, it's likely that they have already made their millions.

Instead of waiting for passers-by to drop a coin in the street entertainer's hat, these players have strong commercial connections after a lucrative career at the director level or more senior. They may be seen bunkered down for much of the day in a serviced office unit with a phone to their ear or busy at a computer, but they are calling the tunes.

'We're seeing quite a lot of these people in the market and a huge amount who are consultants,' says Soho Workstation senior manager Sunny Sidhu. 'Usually, they are veterans of a large company and among them are newer guys who are high-net worth [individuals].'

Sidhu says such clients still have strong connections with their former companies who trust them to operate as middlemen, or are former executives who want to operate independently with the contacts and experience they have built up.

What attracts them to serviced offices are the address, dedicated phone lines, computer access and what Sidhu says is the motivation that can often be found lacking when working from home. After all, office rents have to be paid - however competitive - and in the case of Soho Workstation there is what staff call the 'pub' that forms the food and beverage area of its premises in Caine Road. The company also operates offices in Queen's Road Central and Tsim Sha Tsui.

Sophisticated design with variable lighting also appeals to these independent operators. Joe Lee, who manages Maui Business Center, a serviced office brand owned by Eton Properties, says: 'We have a range of small companies and the one-man bands as clients, and more want very stylish and cosy offices.'

Lee says it's important for clients to sense they are working in a modern office with top of the range furniture in addition to attractive rental deals. 'If you have a good relationship with the clients, they will always do an extension of lease with us.'

Maui's two premises in Causeway Bay - at Radio City in Hennessy Road and Eton Tower, Hysan Avenue - may have the chic interiors of an ad agency, but Lee says the atmosphere is 'family like' and friendly which the one-man bands can avail of in between consulting or striking deals.

One-person operators also want to be assured that they are in an office setting where meetings can be held.

But there are businesses that can resemble a real one-man band and create quite a din when they work. These range from make-up artists and busy traders, to photographers and fung shui experts. To ensure the show stays on the road, Maui provides access to solo office facilities at Eton premises in Tsim Sha Tsui.

'These solo businesses rely on appointments with customers walking in,' Lee says. Or to paraphrase John Donne: No businessman is an island.