We interviewed GWA Member Donna Haskins of Palace Business Centers. Donna has been an Association member since 1995. In the past few years she has closed and opened a new center – and closed another one. We learned how she has handled the challenge.
How long have you been with Palace Business Centres? We are in our seventeenth year of business.
When and why did you join GWA? I joined GWA in 1995, a few months before I opened my first center when it was known as ESA. I attended a Saturday IPS training in Dayton and learned so much and met helpful, encouraging people. I decided to join that day.
How have you benefited from your membership so far? I’ve attended educational meetings and conferences whenever possible–there is always something new to learn and someone new to meet. I enjoy visiting our vendors, learning about new products and services, meeting industry consultants and touring centers in other cities with different cultures. It’s motivating! The best part is the relationships I’ve made. I find people in our industry are nurturing; we share ideas, visit each other’s centers and, in many cases, become friends.
How many centers and clients do you have? How are the markets different? I have two centers, one in Erie, Pennsyvlania and one in Westlake, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. We serve hundreds of clients in many ways, on-site, virtual, touch-down, meeting room usage, paralegal/staff support, and more. Erie is a smaller market and more of a blue collar area with a declining population. Westlake is an affluent community enjoying considerable growth right now.
What makes Palace Business Centres stand out from other work spaces? In Erie, we are located on the top floor of the tallest building in town and the views of Lake Erie are amazing. We operate full-service centers in both markets and are fortunate to be able to provide phone service and bandwidth to traditional tenants in the buildings we are located in. Our niche is great customer service and, in Erie, we still have several clients that are supported by our staff.
The past three years have been really tough. How have you coped? In Erie we had two centers a block apart, which we consolidated to one larger center. It was expensive to do, but it helped immensely in the long run. We added a Conference Center and a few multi-office suites; started offering video conferencing and IT services and the combination of everything is working.
We launched our Center in Westlake in 2011 and it has been challenging. We’ve had tremendous support from our landlord and our Center Manager serves as building site manager reducing payroll expenses. We’ve put together some creative offerings to local organizations for meeting room usage that are paying off. Being able to provide bandwidth and phone service to traditional tenants in the building is a plus. We’ve seen the momentum building in recent months and office rental and virtual clients are picking up.
What service or product has the most potential for growth? Virtual Office revenue has shown a steady increase each year. We are having success selling VoIP phone service to off-site workers. They like being an extension away and having their private DID as their outbound caller ID instead of their home or cell number. Meeting Room rentals and related services have increased significantly as well.
What do you enjoy most about your job? I love the sense of community I feel in my Centers. Our clients and staff mesh very well. I feel lucky to have met so many wonderful, interesting people over the years and learning about their businesses.
What is your proudest accomplishment in the industry? I would have to say that it is deciding to open a business center in Erie when I didn’t know much about the industry, was new to an area that was far from what you’d call metropolitan, and I made it work! Along with tenacity, I have to give credit to a good business partner and a very loyal staff.
What is your greatest challenge over the next year or two? It is getting more difficult to meet the needs of all the different types of workers there are today. I have to make smart decisions regarding technology, space design, staffing and how we best spend our capital dollars.
How do you spend time outside of work? I volunteer for The Kanzius Cancer Research Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting ongoing research for noninvasive radiowave cancer treatment. I also enjoy spending time with friends and family doing all sorts of fun things.
What are your hobbies? I love the beach, boating, and non-serious golf. Last year I started snow-shoeing–it’s work, but really fun. I routinely visit a gym and read for escape and relaxation.
What was the last movie you saw in a theater and loved? I have seen several, but haven’t loved all of them. I guess I’d have to go back to the ‘The King’s Speech’ – I loved it and thought Colin Firth was outstanding.
Who’s your favorite singer or band? Michael Buble
What’s your favorite guilty pleasure? Dirty martinis!
What’s your favorite quote? It’s by John Lennon…“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”