There are many places in the Route 1 Corridor where you can rent office space, but not too many where you can rent the staff that goes along with it. But this fall, the idea of shared office space is coming to Carnegie Center.
“If you’re a small business, you can’t afford a full-time administrator,” says Tom Smith, who plans to have his Intelligent Office location opened at 300 Carnegie Center next month. In addition to 12 private offices and a large shared office space to lease, Smith says Intelligent Office offers administrative services for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and professionals working from homes. “If they need somebody to not only answer phones, but to keep calendars, set up appointments, answer customer questions, and even cold-calling and helping with social media, we can provide that,” Smith says.
Although that administrator will be shared between several clients, the person can be trained to respond to the specific administrative needs of businesses. Smith imagines this service will be very useful for service industry entrepreneurs who need to be in the field rather than deskbound: plumbers, electricians, salespeople, and other roving professions.
Intelligent Office also offers amenities that can help a home-based business keep up a professional image for clients, including conference rooms and a mailing address. Smith says this is crucial for small businesses. “If you’re working from home, having a business address is going to help you keep a more professional image than if you had a meeting at your home, for example,” Smith says.
Having an administrative assistant is also useful for people who cannot spare the time to answer their own phones, but who also can’t afford to hire a receptionist, he says.
Another way Smith says his company will stay “intelligent” is by being a business connector. “Let’s say you have an accounting business,” Smith says. “We would help refer you to other people who may need accounting services. We help clients by helping other clients that we have.”
Another unique feature of the Intelligent Office is the conference room. The area is full of corporate centers that have conference rooms that are busy all day, but go unused at night. At Intelligent Office, this rooms will not be wasted assets for the evening hours: Smith plans to donate time to community groups and nonprofits that need a place to meet at night.
Smith grew up in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where his father was a chemical engineer and his mother was a homemaker. He graduated from Lehigh University in 1978 with a degree in business, and two years later earned a master’s in marketing and logistics from Penn State.
After that Smith was off to a sales career that saw him work for some of the largest chemical companies, and saw him travel all over the country. After starting with Arco in Philadelphia, he joined Allied Signal, which later became Honeywell, for eight years, before moving on to Congoleum.
“I’ve worked with a wide array of businesses,” Smith says. “I’ve seen how people work in medical professions, pharmaceutical, automotive, and fibers industries. I think that has helped me to a better understanding of what different types of businesses might need.”
At Congoleum, Smith became involved with launching new product lines, which became Smith’s specialty. After working for Congoleum for seven years, he took a job with the American Chemical Society, where he helped launch an expert-matching service for people in the scientific community.
“That gave me a taste for the idea that I really like starting something new and bringing that to the marketplace,” he says. “Starting up a business is kind of an extension of that.”
The idea of shared office space is not exactly a new invention, though it is still relatively uncommon. Intelligent Office already has about 38 franchise locations throughout the country. There are local competitors too, with Ibis Plaza on Quakerbridge Road in Hamilton and Regus with five corporate facilities in the Route 1 corridor offering similar services.
Smith says he decided to open his Intelligent Office location in Princeton because he is familiar with the area, having grown up across the river. He currently lives in Washington Crossing. After researching the office space market, Smith says he didn’t find anyone really trying what he is doing with his business. He chose the newly-opened and 60 percent occupied building at 300 Carnegie Center for his home base.
“The model that Intelligent Office offers is really unique,” he says. “A lot of competitors have office space as their primary focus, but our primary focus is really on services.”