Matchmakers

Can Digital Marketplaces Make Offices Run Better?

The good thing about absentee landlords, or oft-maligned open-space offices? They provide an opening for businesses that can use digital technology to match office managers with the suppliers and service providers who keep workplaces clean and properly maintained.

That opportunity was the topic of this week’s edition of the PYMNTS Matchmakers series. Dan Teran, co-founder and CEO at Managed by Q, an office services marketplace, talked with Karen Webster about the appeal of such a business, and where his activities might lead.

 

Managed by Q is anchored around an operating system that serves to match tenants of office buildings with service providers, generally in such core areas as cleaning, maintenance, IT, security and staffing.

“The amount of time people were spending running an office as opposed to running a business seemed like a distraction,” Teran told Webster when discussing the concept of his company. Additionally, office managers had scant access to a wide-ranging operating system that could function as a marketplace while also handling the payments involved with those services.

At first, Teran focused on cleaning supplies and other basic services, figuring that if “we earned their trust on their biggest pain points, they would trust us to take on more with them.” Downtown New York City, where landlords essentially let tenants handle their own offices, proved to be early fertile ground for Managed by Q, given that relative level of freedom.

Much of the work revolves around vetting. “We have a team that focuses on sourcing partners and managing the quality of the partner base,” he said. “It’s largely a referral-driven business,” with referrals coming from existing service partners, or even office managers who hire the company.

Managed by Q keeps track of service partners’ insurance, workers’ compensation practices, business history and other factors. Tenants hire the service providers through the company’s website, with Managed by Q offering the payment platform and then taking a cut of the transaction from the service partners, not from the tenants. The money for the services flows from tenant to service provider. “We are not holding cash for partners,” Teran said.

In exchange for that cut of what the service provider charges, Managed by Q handles its customer acquisition, payments and other such tasks. The company also offers a standardized contract that users can employ.

The platform offers users what Teran called a “pretty high degree of visibility,” providing access to such data as pricing and service provider response time. All that data, which, of course, accumulates over time, can itself influence the prices charged by service providers to tenants. “We can tell a supplier where it lost on price, and offer feedback and help it become more competitive,” he said.

The aggregation of such data, and the access to it, stands as a significant incentive against service providers and tenants abandoning such a marketplace and working directly with each other, he said.

The company operates not only in New York City, but also “with clients who have needs across multiple geographies,” he said. For instance, a client on the tenant side with 10 offices in multiple locations might grow frustrated with the task of finding cleaning services, instead turning to the single online marketplace offered by Managed by Q.

So what does the future hold for this company, and even other firms that might want to compete? Building owners represent a potential new market for these types of service, Teran said. “We are starting to work with some landlords who might want to provide (us) as an amenity to tenants,” he said, without offering more details.

The rise of open-space offices also serves as a juicy opportunity for these types of services. That’s because workers and office managers increasing “expect a hospitality-level of service around those workplaces,” he said, “and there is a higher need of upkeep of those spaces.”

No matter how common remote work becomes, it seems likely that people will also gather in common spaces for the purposes of work. Digital technology and marketplaces might play an increasing role in keeping those places clean and operational.

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